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Former FB Player Steve Furness Dies

February 10, 2000

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Steve Furness, who became a starter on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain defensive line in the mid-1970s, has died of a heart attack. He was 49.

Furness was stricken at his suburban Pittsburgh home Wednesday evening and was pronounced dead at St. Clair Hospital in Mount Lebanon.

One of 22 Steelers to get four Super Bowl rings, Furness replaced Joe Greene after Greene was injured in a 21-17 win over Dallas in Super Bowl X.

Greene, now defensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals, recalled that Furness ``played extremely well that day and the team went on without me and sacked the quarterback seven times.

``Any time we called upon Steve, he delivered,″ Greene said.

``People don’t realize how important he was to this team,″ said Jack Ham, a Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker and now a radio broadcaster for Westwood One. ``Steve was right there for us and we didn’t miss a beat with him against the Cowboys.″

Furness played with the Steelers from 1972 to 1980 and replaced Ernie Holmes on what is considered the best defensive line in NFL history: Holmes, Greene, L.C. Greenwood and Dwight White. He was a member of Super Bowl championship teams in 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980.

``He worked so hard to be a football player. Some guys are just great athletes, but he just had to work hard,″ Ham said.

Steelers president Dan Rooney remembered Furness as having a strong work ethic that impressed coaches.

Furness, who played at Rhode Island, was drafted in the fifth round in 1972 by Steelers coach Chuck Noll. He played nine seasons and started in 49 games, recording 32 career sacks, including a career-high 8 1/2 sacks in 1977.

``Coming from a small college, he was a very, very consistent player who did a heck of a job,″ Noll said.

After retiring, Furness was an assistant coach at Michigan State from 1983 to 1990 and a line coach for the Indianapolis Colts in 1991.

Furness returned to the Steelers in 1992, replacing Greene as a defensive line coach on Bill Cowher’s first staff. Cowher fired Furness following the 1993 season that ended with a playoff loss to Kansas City.

He became a salesman for Turf USA and had recently sold turf to Washington and Jefferson College in southwestern Pennsylvania, according to former Steelers defensive lineman John Banaszak.

``This is a tremendous loss,″ Banaszak said. ``He enjoyed life and was a kind of easy-going guy who was quick with a practical joke.″

Furness was engaged to be married to Peggy Bombich of Pittsburgh. He is survived by his mother, Elsie Furness; two children, Zachary and Zaban; and a brother, Peter J. Furness.

Visitation will be from 2-9 p.m. Friday at Beinhauer Funeral Home in Bridgeville near Pittsburgh. The funeral will be at the same location at noon on Saturday and burial will be private.

Memorial contributions can be given to the Mel Blount Youth Home, RD 1, Box 91, Claysville, PA 15323.

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