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STEELERS OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS // THEN & NOW

THEN: JACK HAM

Career: 1971-1982

Size: 6-1, 225

Personal: Born Dec. 23, 1948, Johnstown, Pa., attended Penn State.

Claim to fame: The swift ball-hawker's ascent coincided with that of the Steel Curtain. Ham had seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries as the 1972 Steelers took the ball away 48 tines, 3{ per game and more even than undefeated Miami. In 1975, the first great season for Jack Lambert and the last great season for Andy Russell, Ham was the left cornerstone of a Pittsburgh trio that started the Pro Bowl. He spent 12 seasons around the football, even showing up for the Glen Edwards end-zone interception that sealed Super Bowl X, and made seven Pro Bowls on the way to Canton.

NOW: KEVIN GREENE

Career: 1985-present

Size: 6-3, 249

Personal: Born July 31, 1962, Schenectady, N.Y., attended Auburn.

Claim to fame: If someone cut his hair, would he lose his powers? Blockers would have less to hold, so the Pro Bowler might become even deadlier. Greene and Mike Wilcher gave the Rams a linebacker-driven pass rush when L.A. contended for the NFC title in 1988 and 1989. Now he, Greg Lloyd and Chad Brown do the same for the Steelers. Keyed by Greene's nine sacks, the heavy-metal blitz helped Pittsburgh rank sixth in the league against the pass despite losing both cornerbacks to injury. Unpredictability drives the new Curtain, and Greene also can back out, suddenly appearing along pass routes or at a running play's point of attack.

WHO'S BETTER:

Not applicable. Ham and Greene are listed at the same position, left outside linebacker, but Kevin is easier to judge against Joe Greene. It's no mean comparison; both Greenes have caused carnage across the scrimmage line. That Joe achieved such impact as a double- and triple-teamed tackle testifies to his greatness, but freelancer Kevin's longevity and numbers (33 sacks in 1988-89, 108 overall) might also add up to the Hall. Ham's career is harder to measure by stats, by recordable big plays. His legacy, like that of the '70s Steelers, is simply one of sustained excellence.

Source: MATT LORENZ / Times research

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