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Bud Carson, 75; NFL Coach Built 'Steel Curtain' Defense for Steelers

December 08, 2005|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Bud Carson, the longtime NFL coach who constructed the "Steel Curtain" defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers and later helped the Los Angeles Rams reach the Super Bowl, has died. He was 75.

Carson, who had emphysema, died Wednesday at his home in Sarasota, Fla., the Steelers announced.

As a key assistant to Steeler Coach Chuck Noll, Carson assembled a defense that included now legendary players Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and L.C. Greenwood. Pittsburgh won two Super Bowls during Carson's stint with the team, from 1972 through '77, and has won two more since he left.

"He was a strategist," Steeler owner Dan Rooney said on the team's website. "He looked at the players, and he knew what kind of players we wanted. At that time, talk was starting about getting the big guys who could just jam things up."

Although the Steelers had big linemen, Carson preferred light, quick linebackers who could chase down the game's faster offensive players. He valued speed as much as strength.

In 1979, Carson brought his expertise to the West Coast and helped turn the Rams into an elite team. But they couldn't get past the monster Carson helped create, losing the Super Bowl to the Steelers in January 1980. Though he never played for him, former Ram Merlin Olsen said he always admired Carson's coaching style.

"He was one of those people who was just gifted at putting together the right pieces and motivating people," Olsen said. "The most critical skill he had was being able to make adjustments within the framework of a game."

The Cleveland Browns hired Carson in 1989, giving him his only opportunity as a National Football League head coach.

In his first season, the Browns won the AFC Central Division title and beat Buffalo in the playoffs before losing to Denver in the conference championship game. Carson was fired midway through the following season when the Browns got off to a 2-7 start.

Art Modell, former owner of the Browns, said that firing Carson was "a mistake by us."

"He was a brilliant football coach, bar none," Modell said Wednesday. "He was one of the early giants of defensive strategy and defensive football.... We let him down more than he let us down."

A former defensive back at North Carolina State who later served in the Marines, Carson was a tough-minded coach who demanded excellence from his players. He also was known to be suspicious of his critics, and he blamed the media after he was fired as head coach of Georgia Tech in 1971.

Ernie Accorsi, the former Brown general manager who hired Carson in Cleveland, called him one of the best assistants in league history.

"Very simply said, he knew how to stop people," said Accorsi, now general manager of the New York Giants. "If they put assistant coaches into the Hall of Fame, he'd be in there."

Carson is survived by his wife, Linda; daughters Dana and Cathi; son Clifford; stepson Gary Ford; three brothers, Guy, Harry and Gib; and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be Monday night at Toale Bros. Funeral Home in Sarasota with services Tuesday at First United Methodist Church.


Associated Press contributed to this report.

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