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EXCERPT | Aug. 12, 1974

Palm Sundays

In the NFL, said a Steeler, "hands are as important as eyes"

To write the third of a series of behind-the-scenes pieces from the NFL, Roy Blount Jr. visited Pittsburgh's camp and investigated the players' most battered and versatile weapons.

On the backs of their hands and on their knuckles many of the players had wounds of a kind I have never seen on anyone else: fairly deep digs and gouges that were not scabbed over so much as dried. They looked like old sores on horses. The body must have given up trying to refill those gouges and just rinded them over and accepted them. During the year, at coach Chuck Noll's suggestion, the offensive line did the backs of their hands a favor by adopting the thick black leather gloves that fighters use for punching a heavy bag. Before he started wearing these gloves, guard Bruce Van Dyke said, the backs of his hands were so sore all season from banging into defensive linemen's ribs that he hated to shake hands.

Different Steelers taped their hands different ways: the middle two fingers together; the last two together; or just one or more jammed fingers taped singly for support. Craig Hanneman boasted that he and Mean Joe Greene were the only two defensive linemen on the Steelers who didn't tape and pad their hands and forearms heavily. I asked him why he didn't. "Just to be tough," he said in a self-deprecating way. In 1972 defensive end L.C. Greenwood looked down during a play to see the upper two thirds of his middle finger twisted around backward and crossed over the ring finger. "I couldn't figure out what had happened. So I fixed it in the middle of the play and went on." He had it splinted and played with the splint on. Now that finger sticks out at a grotesque angle. He said he would get it straightened after he was out of football; no point doing it until then.

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Photograph by WALTER IOOSS JR.

HANDFUL OF HURT Greenwood said his fingers, wounded inside and out, were especially painful n cold weather.

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MARVIN E. NEWMAN (STARR)

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JAMES DRAKE (ALI)

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TONY TOMSIC (SMITH)

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