Though the 1990's Steelers are correctly remembered as having a suffocating defense and bruising run game, wide receiver Yancey Thigpen was the focus of the team's ariel attack (such as it was), notching a pair of 1,300+ yard seasons.
In 1995 he was Neil O' Donnell's go-to guy during the Steelers run to Super Bowl XXX, and caught O' Donnell's only touchdown pass in the Steelers 27-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. After an injury plagued 1996, he returned in 1997 to become Kordell Stewart's primary target (sometimes Stewart's only target, it seemed) as the Steelers advanced to, and lost the AFC Championship game to the Denver Broncos.
Thigpen signed a huge, multi-year contract with Tennessee for the 1998 season, at the time one of the highest ever given to a wide reciever, but he retired after three injury-riddled seasons for the Titans.
He made an appearance Sunday, at the Meadows Casino's weekly Steelers gameday "tailgate" party in the Silks lounge.
Q: When you watch these games, do you think 'I wish I was still out there' or 'no thanks, I've had enough'?
THIGPEN: I wish I could've played the game until I was 60. But I still love to watch the game. I still love my Steelers. I was in attendance last year at the Super Bowl. But its always good to get back amongst the fans [in Pittsburgh].
Q: What do you think of the Steelers' young receivers like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders?
THIGPEN: They look great. They look very good. I'm very excited about the young receiving corps we have. They're a young group of guys, they seem to play well together, they seem to be a close-knit group of guys, kind of like when [I was playing]. And that's what you have to do, you have to stay together as a unit. These guys have a leader in Hines Ward and I think they can follow his lead very well.
Q: Are you envious that you played in such a run-heavy offense, and today the game league-wide is so pass oriented?
THIGPEN: The way the guys play the game now, I wish I'd gotten 10 more years in. Receivers don't take hits anymore, which is a great thing. I wish I was as smart as they are now. But there are some great [quarterbacks] out there. These guys are getting better and better. [It used to be] there were only 1 or 2 really elite guys, now it seems like out of nowhere are guys that play extremely good football. But yeah, I would've loved to have played with some of these quarterbacks today.
Q: Anyone in particular?
THIGPEN: I really think Ben could be it. He's a big physical guy, makes a lot of plays downfield, because he can extend plays -- although sometimes it puts us in a bad position, but for the most part you have to commend the guy for being able to stand in that pocket, regardless of the people around him. But yeah, I would've loved to have played with Big Ben and in this type of offense.
Q: What are you up to these days?
THIGPEN: I live in Charlotte -- I'm a professional dad. I have two little girls, and another on the way. I was trying to get a junior, but it didn't happen. I think we're gonna go around one more time … but I can't have another woman lving in the house [laughs]. My wife says I have like seven wives, that's including her, her sisters, her mothert, my mother, my sisters … I gotta get a Steeler in there [laughs] a son to grown up & wear that black & gold.