Having lost out on the Eastern Conference Title in 1963, Pittsburgh coach Buddy Parker set out to rebuild the team. These were the following changes:
–traded Buddy Dial to the Dallas Cowboys for the draft right to Texas Longhorn tackle Scott Appleton. Bud Adams, the Oilers owner, gave Appleton a better offer. This was the famous Dial for Nothing trade. Parker’s reasons for the trade proved right. The then greatest receiver in Steeler history suffered from a chronic pinched nerve in his neck. Parker correctly figured Dial had played out his useful life.
–-drafted Paul Martha from Pitt and Jim Kelley from Notre Dame. Buddy Parker expected them to compensate for the loss of Dial. They didn’t.
–traded receiver Red Mack and and defensive back Glenn Glass to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back Clarence Peaks and linebacker Bob Harrison;
–traded kicker and defensive end Lou Micheals and a draft choice to the Baltimore Colts for linebacker Bill Saul and defensive back Marv Woodson;
–picked up place kicker Mike Clark from the Philadelphia Eagles on waivers;
–future Hall of Fame defensive end Ernie Stautner, a player coach in 1963, retired and became a full time coach;
–the Steelers released veterans-defensive tackles Lou Cordileone and Joe Krupa, linebacker John Reger, and wide receiver Preston Carpenter.
Events in Pittsburgh
–moved from Forbes Field to Pitt Stadium full time and remained there until going to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970;
–changed their flagship station from WWSW to KDKA; WWSW did broadcast the games when KDKA covered the Pirates;
–their announcer Joe Tucker, the sportscaster for WWSW, no longer broadcasted the home games. Mr. Tucker, for CBS-KDKA, did sideline reporting for home games and continued telecasting road games;
The Pittsburgh Steelers, in 1964, dropped to 5-9, finishing ahead of only the New York Giants;
The team was next to last in passing obviously missing Buddy Dial and, to a lesser extent, Red Mack. Quarterback Ed Brown took a real dive with only two good games and the rest of the time threw too many interceptions. The only decent receiver, Gary Ballman, was double and often triple teamed. Despite this unwanted attention, Ballman caught 47 passes for 935 yards and seven touchdowns.
To help in the passing game, Parker moved Clendon Thomas from defensive back to split end. Thomas had seven interceptions in 1962 and eight in 1963. Thomas did well but the defense sorely missed him.
The defense had only three good games and the rest of the time played poorly. Rookie defensive lineman Ben McGee and Chuck Hinton played well; but the rest of the defense was well below NFL standards. Ed Brown throwing interceptions made matters worse. The defensive interceptions fell from 25 in 1963 to just 12. Only the Chicago Bears had fewer.
The lone bright spot was the offensive line blocking and the ground game. Green Bay, Cleveland, and Baltimore had better ground games than the fourth place rushing Steelers. As expected, the three leading teams had great passing making keying on the ground game much more difficult. John Henry Johnson finished third in rushing behind only Jimmy Brown from the Browns and Jim Taylor from the Packers. JHJ gained 1,o48 yards for a 4.5 yard average and seven touchdowns. Clarence Peaks was the supporting runner with 503 yards, a 4.3 average and two touchdowns. Peaks made the teams longest run, a 70 yard touchdown effort at Pittsburgh against the Philadelphia Eagles. Two history making games occurred for Pittsburgh in 1964.