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Steve Courson, 50; Played for Steelers and Buccaneers, Spoke Out Against Steroids

November 11, 2005|From Associated Press

Steve Courson, a former offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers who developed a heart problem after becoming one of the first National Football League players to acknowledge using steroids, was killed Thursday in Pennsylvania when a tree he was cutting fell on him. He was 50.

Courson was using a chain saw to cut down a dead 44-foot-tall tree with a circumference of 5 feet when it fell on him, according to state police. The accident happened about 1 p.m. at his home in Henry Clay Township in the southwest part of the state.

Roger Victor, an investigator for the Fayette County coroner, said Courson was apparently trying to get his dog out of the tree's way.

"The wind was blowing, the tree snapped and it fell on him and his dog," Victor said. The dog was injured and taken to a vet. Its condition was not immediately known.

Courson made the Steelers in 1978 as a free agent guard from the University of South Carolina. He started more than half of the Steelers' games before he was traded in 1984 to Tampa Bay, having played on the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams in 1978 and 1979.

He played two seasons for the Buccaneers before being waived, ending his career after the 1985 season.

"We are saddened to learn of the sudden and untimely death of Steve Courson," a statement from the Steelers said. "Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time.

"Steve was an integral member of our last two Super Bowl championship teams and ... battled back from health problems in recent years and seemed to have made a full recovery."

Courson was an early, outspoken opponent of steroid use in the NFL, though he had used the substances himself and blamed them for a heart condition he said placed him on a transplant list for four years. He credited diet and exercise with reversing the condition.

He went public with his steroid use in 1985 and was cut by Tampa Bay the next season. He also criticized the NFL's steroid-testing program, which began a year after he retired.

"It's as much drug abuse to take steroids as heroin or cocaine," Courson said in 1990. "When most people imagine drug abusers, their thoughts are of street people living in the gutter. Realistically, these people can't afford drugs, but professional athletes and middle- and upper-class teenagers can."

Courson testified about steroid use before Congress last spring.

He was a native of Gettysburg, Pa., and played from 1973 to 1977 at South Carolina, where he said he first used steroids at age 18.

In recent years, Courson made as many as 100 speeches a year to youth and sports groups urging young athletes to avoid steroids.

Details on survivors were not immediately available.

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