PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Even though the Steelers-Raiders rivalry is nearly 40 years past its prime, “Pittsburgh vs. Oakland” still gets football fans excited. Former Raider George Atkinson joins Troy Clardy on Sportsradio 93.7 The Fan to discuss Steelers-Raiders then and now.
Besides dishing some of the big hits that became the trademark of the Steelers-Raiders games of the 1970s, Atkinson’s role in the rivalry was largely defined by the “Criminal Element” trial, when he sued Steelers coach Chuck Noll for defamation. Years later, Atkinson wishes things had not reached that point.
“When you look at the whole situation, the whole thing wasn’t necessary,” he said. “But it happened. You can’t rewrite history, nor am I trying to. I was aggressive, and I would attack receivers. That was just my style of my play, and I’m not apologizing for the way I played. That whole thing was unfortunate, but what happens happens. You move on. Life has been good since then. I have no regrets. At all.”
When Atkinson looks at how the Steelers and Raiders of that era matched up against each other, he sees mirror images.
“Both aggressive. Both had great defense. Both offenses were potent and could put points on the board,” he said. “You had great players on both sides of the ball. We played them three times for the right to go to the Super Bowl. I had a lot of good friends on that team. It was special during that time.”
The latest chapter of Steelers-Raiders will be written Sunday afternoon, and Oakland will be led by quarterback Terrell Pryor. Atkinson currently co-hosts Raiders pregame and postgame radio shows, and he likes what he has seen from Pryor so far.
“Surprisingly enough, he’s shown me leadership,” Atkinson said. “He can lead a football team. Plus, he brings an energy to this team. He makes things happen, and it seems like the players respond to him. That’s what you need to have as a quarterback.”
To hear more of Atkinson’s stories of facing the Steelers in those 1970s matchups, and how he sees Sunday’s matchup, check out the entire interview. And catch Troy Clardy Sunday mornings on Sportsradio 93.7 The Fan!