Terry Long, a short but sturdy Steeler guard whose eight-year NFL career ultimately was beclouded by a positive test for steroids and subsequent suicide attempt in 1991, died yesterday at UPMC Passavant Hospital.
No cause of death was reported last night by the Allegheny County coroner's office, where officials released only the scant details that Mr. Long, 45, of Sewickley, died at Passavant.
An autopsy was scheduled for this morning.
"I had just talked to him Thursday ... he was joking, catching up," former line mate Tunch Ilkin said. "I said, 'Let's talk early in the week and get together.' We were going to get together for lunch. Unbelievable. I'm shocked."
"I'm stunned and sick," said former teammate and line mate Craig Wolfley. "Lots of great memories of him. He was just a great guy. A very hard worker.
"He was just a guy ... always had a heart of gold. Could be testy, a little tempestuous, but who wasn't that played that game?"
Mr. Long was a 5-foot-11 hulking specimen when he came to the Steelers in 1984, a fourth-round draft selection and 111th choice overall from East Carolina University, where he grew to fame as a powerlifter who could hoist a North Carolina-best 2,203 pounds in a squat, bench press and deadlift. The college All-America guard, with a listed Steelers weight of 284 pounds, started the team's 1984 season opener at left guard for an injured Wolfley and remained a fixture in the lineup, moving to starting right guard. The Steelers' offense routinely ranked among the NFL's best at preventing sacks in the mid-1980s with Mr. Long on the line.
He was a respected fellow, becoming in 1989 the first East Carolina player to donate a football scholarship -- worth $20,000 -- to his alma mater and one of a dozen Steelers profiled on a youth trading card sponsored in part by local police departments.
"The kind of guy who could talk a lot of trash one minute and be quiet the next," Ilkin said. "We'd be up at the line arguing before the snap about what the [blocking] call should be. He was a lot of fun."
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