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Where Are They Now? - Gerry Mullins

A USC guy, you made the move from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh after being drafted by the Steelers in 1971. Was it a bit of a culture shock?

“It was a major change coming to the east coast from the west coast. The combination initially didn’t really stand out too well with me. But after the first year we started winning some games and I got to know the lifestyle here. And over time, the city grew on me and I ended up staying here.”

A guard, you practiced every day against a defense that would become known as the “Steel Curtain.”

“We practiced full speed in pads three days a week. Fortunately for me, I played across from Joe Greene. We did a lot of trapping and pulling back in those days, and I had to trap and pull against Ernie Holmes and Steve Furness. Those guys were crazy. Joe took a little bit better care of me because I was only about 235 pounds and didn’t take well to the beating five days a week.”

Did practicing against them help make you better?

“I’m not saying the games were easier, but when you’re playing against talented people every day in practice, maybe not at 100 percent, but 80 percent is probably as good as a lot of talent that you were up against on game days. So yes, it definitely did help us.”

Did practicing against you and the other offensive linemen make the defense better?

“They were pretty good by themselves, but I’d like to think so.” [Laughs]

With four Super Bowl championships in six seasons, the Steelers dominated the NFL during the 1970s. What was the key?

“It all started out with (head coach) Chuck Noll. He had a philosophy of letting the players play and preparing you to play at the best of your ability. And I think that people bought into what he had to say. You could see that we had success doing things the way that he wanted them done.

“We had a lot of talented people, but I think the key back in that decade was the fact that there wasn’t any free agency. He put the nucleus together over a relatively short period of time and we were able to stay together as a unit for five, six, seven years without a lot of turnover. With all that talent staying together, we were real close like a family unit, basically. And it paid benefits in the long run.”

After your playing days, you began working for a company near Pittsburgh – Industrial Metals & Minerals. And now 34 years later, you own it. What type of a business is it?

“We’re a sales office, basically. We represent some mining companies and sell raw materials to make glass. That’s the main focus of what we do.”

Which raw materials are you talking about?

“We sell three different products – iron oxide, carbon and boron sulfate. They’re batch ingredients for glass making. We have customers all over the country and a couple foreign companies, as well. It’s sort of just nuts and bolts kind of work. People make glass every day and they need raw materials to make it. We take care of people’s needs.”

You mentioned nuts and bolts. In some way, is what you’re doing now similar to what you experienced while playing for the Steelers?

“Well, an offensive lineman is kind of a position where you don’t get a lot of glory. The only time people hear about you is when you have a penalty or you let somebody beat you and get the quarterback killed. We’re sort of low maintenance guys that just do the basic nuts and bolts work.

“Industrial Metals is a small company. I didn’t really feel like the big corporate life was for me. I signed on with my old boss because he wanted somebody to groom to take over after he was ready to retire.

“We don’t do any advertising because there’s a finite group of customers we’re allowed to deal with. Some of the corporations that we work with have their own sales people. We’re just assigned certain accounts to take care of. So we just try to take care of the customers that we have. That’s our goal. Customer service is No. 1 for us. 

“I turned 65 this year, but I’m still having fun doing what I’m doing. So I’ll try to stick it out as long as I can.”

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