October 11, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Jack Lambert, 1974

Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers

Age: 22
College: Kent State
Height: 6’4”   Weight: 215

Lambert was a two-time All-Mid-American Conference linebacker in college and the Steelers chose him in the second round of the 1974 NFL draft. Injuries to MLB Henry Davis opened an opportunity for Lambert to start right away, and his addition was to make an already sound defense more complete.

1974 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 14 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 2
Most interceptions, game – 2 at Kansas City 10/13
Int. return yards – 19
Most int. return yards, game – 19 (on 2 int.) at Kansas City 10/13
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1

Postseason: 3 G
Sacks – N/A
Interceptions – 0
TD – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA

Steelers went 10-3-1 to finish first in the AFC Central while leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed (3074) and fewest passing yards allowed (1466) and the conference in fewest points allowed (189). Won AFC Divisional playoff over Buffalo Bills (32-14), AFC Championship over Oakland Raiders (24-13), and Super Bowl over Minnesota Vikings (16-6).

Lambert followed up his outstanding rookie season by gaining Pro Bowl recognition for the first of nine straight seasons in 1975. A terrific run-stuffer with outstanding range and the ability to drop back effectively into pass coverage, he became a key contributor to the “Steel Curtain” defense that helped make the Steelers a contender for the rest of the decade and included four Super Bowl victories. In addition to his Pro Bowl selections, Lambert was the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1976, received consensus first-team All-NFL honors six times – including five consecutive from 1979 to ’83 – and received at least some first- or second-team recognition in two other years. He missed only six games due to injury in his first ten seasons (three of them in 1977), but a severe toe injury forced Lambert’s retirement following the 1984 season. Overall, he intercepted 28 passes and recovered 17 fumbles, including a league-leading 8 in 1976. Lambert was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1990. Three other players drafted by the Steelers in 1974 – Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster – would also be enshrined in Canton.


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year).