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Old 02-11-2007, 10:37 PM   #1
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Default Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

This is a thread for the older fans - I watched the ESPN special on black QBs this morning and I heard some interesting things...I only remember seeing this guy in one game - it was against the Rams - I think in 76 - Noll benched Bradshaw and brought him in, but he really didn't do much..does anybody here think he was a better option than Bradshaw? - all the players - Franco, Bleier, Swann, Greenwood, etc- all said he would have been a great QB if it weren't for the drugs....almost seems like they're implying he would have taken over permanently for Bradshaw if he didin't have the drug problem...
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Old 02-11-2007, 11:02 PM   #2
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

I remember hearing about him. He actually sold his SB ring for drugs. It was finally bought back by someone else, and kept set.
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Old 02-12-2007, 12:41 AM   #3
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

I don't know if he ever would have taken over for Bradshaw bu the did have one helluva arm...
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Old 02-12-2007, 07:46 AM   #4
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

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I remember hearing about him. He actually sold his SB ring for drugs. It was finally bought back by someone else, and kept set.
Terry bought it back for him
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Old 02-12-2007, 08:07 AM   #5
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

Jefferson Street Joe had a great arm. He strted a game or two in 1973 when Hanratty & Bradshaw were both injured and actually was the starting QB to start the 1974 season, when he made the cover of SI (combination of Bradshaw regressing in the 1973 season and the preseason strike jumbling things up). He put up big numbers early that year, which was Swann & Stallworth's rookie season.

He lost his job after the Steelers were shutout at home by the Raiders in the third or fourth game of the season as Noll concluded the Steelers needed to get back to the running game. It went downhill fast from there - when Noll put him in the Rams game that ended the 1975 regular season Gilliam was fried on drugs during the game (which Noll may have known at the time) and just got pounded.

Gilliam was gone after 1975. I was living in Nashville several years later when Gilliam was arrested for trying to rob someone at an ATM for drug money -he fell fast.
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Old 02-12-2007, 08:45 AM   #6
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

As Bleeder stated above, Gilliam had one helluva arm. I remember him well. I also don't believe he would have taken over for Brad if he hadn't messed up his life so badly, but he may have been giving the opportunity to start for another team if he hadn't allowed himself to get to the low point he obviously was at. I felt sorry for the guy - he had some real talent.
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Old 02-12-2007, 09:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

He was on the streets until 1995...but if I remember right...He had got his act together before he died and had started a football camp for under privilidged kids....he also was counseling drug users and was talking to the NFL and some of the alumni about raising money for a drug treatment center.
The thing I remember about him on the field was the way that he bounced up and down after big plays ..like a big kid!!!

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Old 02-12-2007, 10:01 AM   #8
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

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He was on the streets until 1995...but if I remember right...He had got his act together before he died and had started a football camp for under privilidged kids....he also was counseling drug ******* and was talking to the NFL and some of the alumni about raising money for a drug treatment center.
The thing I remember about him on the field was the way that he bounced up and down after big plays ..like a big kid!!!
Gilliam showed up at the Redskins game that closed down Three Rivers in 2000 and made a big deal about being clean - when he died several weeks later he had drugs in his system, which prompted a rip job (so much for speaking nothing but good of the dead) by one of the Pittsburgh sportswriters on Gilliam claiming to be clean and sober. Not clear if his death was an overdose, but he definitely was using again at the time of his death. An incredibly sad story that illustrates how drugs can ruin a life.

As some other posters have said, IMHO he lost his starting QB job because a pass first offensive strategy was ahead of its time in the pre-rules changes 1974 NFL, but he lost his career because of the drugs. If he had been clean I think another team would have picked him up or, in those pre-FA days, he might have stayed as Bradshaw's back-up.

FYI - a great book on the pre-SB Steelers (or on the early 70s NFL in general, about the end of the era where players were not ultra-rich and still members of the community) is "Three Bricks Shy Of A Load" by then SI-writer Roy Blount, who spent the 1973 season with the team. Great stories on Gilliam and the rest of the '73 team. It may be out of print but you probably cn pick up a copy on Amazon.

Last edited by Atlanta Dan; 02-12-2007 at 07:56 PM. Reason: Typo - "Three Books" Should Have Been "Three Bricks"
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Old 02-12-2007, 10:15 AM   #9
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

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Gilliam showed up at the Redskins game that closed down Three Rivers in 2000 and made a big deal about being clean - when he died several weeks later he had drugs in his system, which prompted a rip job (so much for speaking nothing but good of the dead) by one of the Pittsburgh sportswriters on Gilliam claiming to be clean and sober. Not clear if his death was an overdose, but he definitely was using again at the time of his death. An incredibly sad story that illustrates how drugs can ruin a life.

As some other posters have said, IMHO he lost his starting QB job because a pass first offensive strategy was ahead of its time in the pre-rules changes 1974 NFL, but he lost his career because of the drugs. If he had been clean I think another team would have picked him up or, in those pre-FA days, he might have stayed as Bradshaw's back-up.

FYI - a great book on the pre-SB Steelers (or on the early 70s NFL in general, about the end of the era where players were not ultra-rich and still members of the community) is "Three Books Shy Of A Load" by then SI-writer Roy Blount, who spent the 1973 season with the team. Great stories on Gilliam and the rest of the '73 team. It may be out of print but you probably cn pick up a copy on Amazon.
Wow..I hadnt heard that...its really sad that he wasnt able to beat his demons...looks as if he was giving it an effort but the flesh was weaker thatn the spirit.
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Old 02-12-2007, 10:20 AM   #10
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Default Re: Anybody remember Joe Gilliam?

I think he tried to catch on with the Saints in 1976 but didn't make the team.

As far as Bradshaw vs. Gilliam, four championships in six years proves Noll made the right decision.
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