"He had no teeth and he was slobbering all over himself. I'm thinking, you can have your money back, just get me out of here. Let me go be an accountant. I can’t tell you how badly I wanted out of here." – John Elway’s quote after looking at Jack Lambert during his first play from scrimmage in the NFL
Simply put, Jack Lambert was one of the meanest mothers ever to play the game. From his shadowy, piercing, steely-blue eyes, to his broad-ranging shoulders and elongated arms, to his mutantesque mouth half-filled with teeth; Lambert was monstrosity personified—the epitome of football’s ever-feared middle linebacker. The boogeyman of the NFL.
Pittsburgh selected Lambert in the second round of the 1974 NFL Draft out of Kent State and he immediately won the starting middle linebacker job (slightly aided by an injury to current starter, Henry Davis) on one of the top defenses in the league. He wasn’t big—as for as linebackers go, and especially for a defensive end, which is what he played in college—at just 6’4”, 220 pounds (though he was only 204 pounds as a rookie), but he had pretty much every other intangible you could ever want in a player in spades.
His speed and quickness helped make his overall range one of the best in the league. His intelligence and instincts were off-the-charts, which in turn led him to be named the defensive captain for eight years of his eleven-year career. His intensity was unmatched and likely unseen since Butkus and Nitschke roamed the field, while his durability despite his hard-hitting style was beyond human. Pound-for-pound, Jack Lambert was probably the most intimidating player the NFL has ever witnessed.
"If I was ever in a bar-room brawl and I needed one man to go back-to-back with me, I'd want Jack Lambert to be the man.” – Steelers Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle, “Mean” Joe Greene
"Jack was the most complete middle linebacker ever to play the game - no question. Watching game films of him every week was a privilege." – Steelers fellow Hall of Fame Linebacker, Jack Ham
Jack Lambert was the missing piece Pittsburgh’s defense was looking for when they drafted him. The franchise had not won a championship in its 40+ year history without Lambert, but ended up winning four Super Bowls in six years the second he put on his #58 Steelers jersey. The list of accolades he accrued over his 11-year career reads like a guidebook for conquering heroes: 1974 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year; 1976 NFL Defensive Player of the Year; 8-time All-Pro selection; 9 straight Pro Bowl selections; 4-time Super Bowl Champion; 1970’s All-Decade Team selection; 1980’s All-Decade Team selection; 1990 Hall of Fame Inductee.
Some still say that Lambert was the best middle linebacker of all-time, even over guys like Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. True or not, Jack Lambert is certainly in the conversation and there’s no doubt he was one of the best and meanest roughnecks to ever prowl the gridiron.
"Yes, I get satisfaction out of hitting a guy and seeing him lay there a while." – Jack Lambert