Steve Courson, 50, the former offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers who developed a heart problem after becoming one of the first NFL players to acknowledge using steroids, was killed Nov. 10 when a tree he was cutting fell on him.

He was using a chain saw to cut down a dead 44-foot tree with a circumference of five feet when it fell on him, according to state police. The accident happened at his home in Fayette County, near Pittsburgh.

Mr. Courson made the Steelers in 1978 as a free-agent guard from the University of South Carolina. He started more than half of the Steelers' games before he was traded in 1984 to Tampa Bay, where he played another two seasons before being waived. He ended his career after the 1985 season, having played on the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams in 1978 and 1979.

He was an early outspoken opponent of steroid use in the NFL, though he had used them himself and blamed them for a heart condition he said placed him on a transplant list for four years. He credited diet and exercise with reversing the condition.

He went public with his steroid use in 1985 and also criticized the NFL's steroid testing program, which began a year after he retired.

"It's as much drug abuse to take steroids as heroin or cocaine," Mr. Courson said in 1990.

He testified about steroid use before Congress this spring.

This year, Saints Coach Jim Haslett claimed the Steelers' use of the drugs during Super Bowl championship seasons in the 1970s brought steroids into vogue around the NFL.

"To say that anabolic steroids didn't play a role in the Steelers' success would be a falsehood," Mr. Courson said in 1990. "But this isn't a Steelers problem. It's a leaguewide problem."

Mr. Courson, a native of Gettysburg, Pa., played from 1973 to 1977 at South Carolina, where he said he first used steroids at age 18. In recent years, he made as many as 100 speeches a year, urging young athletes to avoid steroids.

Steve Courson testifies before Congress in April about steroids. He said he used them in the 1970s, when he played for Pittsburgh.