Now, the voice has drifted through the Alleghenies and has settled here as though it has squatter's rights. It is the same voice that long ago abused Green Bay, Miami and others. After it leaves here, it will wait, then find a new neighbor to deceive.
It is the voice that says the dynasty is over.
Now, it is in the city of iron and steel, pestering the Pittsburgh Steelers, telling the NFL's team of the '70s that this is the '80s. It speaks of such human frailties as age and injury, then it talks of not making the playoffs.
Last year the Pittsburgh Steelers were 9-7 and did not make the playoffs for the first time in nine years. When postseason came, in came Cleveland, Dallas and Philadelphia. The Steelers went with the New York Giants, New Orleans and the rest of them. The team that had won the Super Bowl four of the previous six years didn't even qualify for the final.
"There were so many years when we got the pats on the backs that maybe last year it just settled in on us and caught us," said quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who is 32 and about to begin his 12th NFL season. "Now, I even ask myself, 'Are we getting too old? Can we do what we used to do?' The answer is, 'I don't know.' They are logical questions. We'll have to wait until the end of the year."
Chuck Noll is the coach who made this team, beginning in 1969 with a 1-13 kerplunk. He created a most thorough and efficient dynasty: the Steelers won the Super Bowl in the 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979 seasons. The two in-between years were both playoff years and, thereby, were forgiveable to those who ask the questions.
This team is not finished, says its sculptor. "I think some people are just tired of looking at us," Noll said, moments after directing his team through a practice in this camp 35 miles east of Three Rivers Stadium. "People want something new. They want us beaten. Our football team has become a cliche, a truism. We are always there. We have always won. People are talking now, because they want us out. Things like this happen in every sport."
This is not the first time the voice has infested the lives of the Steelers. It came before the 1977 season, too, months after the Steelers had shortcircuited in the playoffs. Now, however, the voice is louder and nastier. The Steelers are older and didn't make the playoffs. The voice says these two things are related.
"I don't mean to brag," says Joe Greene, the defensive tackle, "but we have been on top for eight or nine years. You can't say that because we had one bad year that we are done. That's crazy.
"Just look at a graph of anything, the weather, our economy, our political power. There is a shifting of balance. It is not constant. Well, we've been on the top of the bell on the graph for a long time. Last year was just our dip in the bell. It happens to everybody.
But the Pittsburgh Steelers are not just anybody, as Minnesota found out in the ninth Super Bowl (16-6), Dallas found out in the 10th (21-17) and 13th (35-31) and Los Angeles found out in No. 14 (31-19). For a long time, these men in black and gold seemed to be of the same unbreakable, unbendablel composition as their city's industry.
"I've learned a lot of things in the short time I've been here," said rookie Anthony Washington, a second-round pick from Fresno State, who has been with the Steelers for three weeks. "One thing I've learned is that you don't mention last year."
Last year was a season of disruption, a break in continuity for the Steelers. There were injuries. Down went Stallworth and Swann and Lambert and Bradshaw. Even Greene missed a game, because of the flu.
The Steelers lost twice to Cincinnati, were beaten in a Monday night game by Oakland (45-34), were beaten up by Buffalo, 28-13. By the time the last game of the year was to be played, the Steelers had already been eliminated. San Diego needed to win and did, 26-17.
"We played bad enough not to win last year," is how defensive end L. C. Greenwood puts it.
The loss to San Diego didn't just end the season. It also ended the careers of running back Rocky Bleier, safety Mike Wagner and defensive lineman Dwight White, all of whom retired.
Despite the losses -- on the field and on the roster -- the Steelers insist that they are still, if not at their prime, than, at least, primed for a rapid reconstruction.
"We're just like the Ringling Brothers Circus," said safety J. T. Thomas. "They lost four elephants, a giraffe and a gorilla, but the show went on. The same thing will happen here. Everyone is replaceable."
Wide receiver John Stallworth said, "We have the people here who have the talent to do again what we did in the past. We realize we went down last year and now we have the incentive to pick it up again."
Lynn Swann, the wide receiver who was the most valuable player of the first Super Bowl victory over Dallas, said, "Right now, we're healing the wounds from last year. The talent is here. There are only 17 players here who are wearing all four (Super Bowl) rings. We have made changes and we are still strong."
Still, there is the question of age. In a month, Greenwood and Greene will turn 35, which is old for football. This is not baseball. These two men play where there is a collision and fury that no plate-blocking catcher would dare step in front of.
The average age of the starters on the Steeler depth chart is nearly 30.
"But what is old?" asked Franco Harris, who is 31 and about to begin his 10th NFL season. "Chronologically, we are old. But physically, we are fine. I wouldn't call this an old team. It is a seasoned team, a vintage team. I don't think we're done yet."
For awhile this past winter, it looked as though Bradshaw might be done. The man who was the first pick in the 1970 draft decided that he would rather see himself in a Hollywood film than a game film. Then, he decided to come back. "I hope to play at least another four or five years," he says now.
"It seems odd, but you can't say the Steelers are the team to beat anymore," Bradsahw says. "Now, in our division, it's Cleveland (11-5) and Houston (11-5), then us. There has been a shifting of power.
"But I'll tell you something," said Bradshaw, leaning forward to further his point, "this is still one good football team we have here."