AFC North: Cortez Kennedy

Dermontti Dawson and Jack Butler, the two newest Steelers to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, went in with a touch of class Saturday night.

Dawson, a seven-time Pro Bowl center, paid tribute to the player he replaced, the late Mike Webster, who is also a Hall of Fame center.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh's Jack Butler and Dermontti Dawson
Charles LeClaire/US PRESSWIREJack Butler, left, and Dermontti Dawson, right, became the latest Steelers to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"Mike taught me how to be a true professional, whether he knew it or not," Dawson said. "I observed Mike each day and saw how he approached every aspect of the game. Mike used to be the first ones in the weight room in the mornings, first ones in the meetings."

Dawson added, "I tried to emulate everything Mike did. Mike had a profound impact on my life and even today I still try to lead by example and be like Mike. Thank you, my friend, for playing and living with honor. We miss you."

Butler, one of the best cornerbacks in the 1950s, could have stood on stage for as long as he wanted considering he waited 52 years to be enshrined. But his speech was the shortest of the night. It was 337 heartfelt words (as compared to Cortez Kennedy's 2,943-word soliloquy that included a shout-out to his childhood doctor).

"I never envisioned being here in Canton," Butler said. "This induction is the highest honor I have achieved in my professional career."

The 84-year-old Butler wrapped up by saying, "I am grateful and very proud to be part of this great Class of 2012, and I congratulate the five tremendous men who join me here. I am thankful to God for all that I have been given throughout my life. I am thankful for the support of my family and friends. ... Heck, I'm thankful I'm here."

To read the entire speeches, you can click here for Dawson and here for Butler.
CANTON, Ohio -- Dermontti Dawson, the fifth of six Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinees to speak Saturday night, thanked his parents for the guidance they provided over the years.

The other modern-day finalists preceding Dawson at the podium -- Willie Roaf, Chris Doleman and Cortez Kennedy -- made similar comments.

Curtis Martin, the final enshrinee scheduled to speak, will tell a different story. He'll surely pay tribute to his mother, but so many other factors in his life worked against him. His father left the family when Martin was 4. His grandmother was stabbed to death in brutal fashion when Martin was 9.

Martin never dreamed of the Hall of Fame; at one point, his goal while growing up in a rough Pittsburgh neighborhood was simply reaching age 21. The speech he delivers Saturday night has the potential to pack a different type of emotional punch.

Dawson continues to wait for Hall

February, 6, 2010
One of the top centers of all-time will continue to play the waiting game.

Thirteen-year Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Dermontti Dawson, who made seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 1992-98, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame. This was the sixth consecutive time he failed to make it to Canton since becoming eligible in 2005.

Dawson made the cut from 15 to 10 finalists this year. But Dawson wasn't part of the five inductees that included Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Russ Grimm, John Randle and Rickey Jackson. Senior nominees Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little also are part of the 2010 class.

This year was perhaps the closest Dawson came to making the Hall of Fame. He also was a finalist in 2008 and a semifinalist in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.

There is an impressive backlog of players currently not in the Hall of Fame. In addition to Dawson, strong candidates such as Cris Carter, Cortez Kennedy, Richard Dent, Andre Reed, Charles Haley, Tim Brown and Roger Craig were all rejected this year alone.

Several more impressive candidates such as Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Jonathan Ogden and Jerome Bettis also will be eligible very soon. That will further congest the Hall of Fame voting process, which doesn't help Dawson's candidacy.