Robert Patrick "Rocky" Bleier was born March 5, 1946 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Rocky’s proud father Bob, would walk into his neighborhood bar, and when asked how his new son was doing, Bob would reply, “Aw, you should see him, guys, he looks like a little rock sitting in that crib. He's got all these muscles.” From then on out, friends would constantly say, '”Hey Bob, how's that little rock of yours?' So after that, the nickname stuck, even though Rocky admits that he was a “fat baby”. I guess looks are distorted through a proud father’s eyes.
Speaking of pride, this proud Steelers fan has been racking his brain for close to a year on how he could possibly make a design to celebrate Bob’s kid, Rocky Bleier. Rocky is one of my favorite Steelers ever, for many reasons. He often is overlooked by all types fans that aren’t fanatical Steeler fans, and I felt that this is a travesty. The dilemma I found in designing something for Rocky was the fact that Rocky is not only a 4 time Super Bowl champion with the Black and Gold, but is also a brave, and decorated Viet Nam war veteran. I knew this would be hard to combine such immense worlds, and it would take time and planning, but it was the only way to honor him.
After Rocky’s 1968 rookie season with Steelers, Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army in December 1968. He volunteered for duty in the Vietnam War and shipped out in May 1969, serving with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. On August 20, while on patrol in Heip Duc, Bleier was wounded in the left thigh by a rifle bullet when his platoon was ambushed in a rice paddy. While down, an enemy grenade landed nearby, sending shrapnel into his lower right leg. He was later awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. His rank was Specialist 4.
While he was recovering in a hospital in Tokyo, doctors told him that he would not play football again. Soon after, he received a postcard from Steelers owner Art Rooney which just read "Rock - the team's not doing well. We need you. Art Rooney". Bleier later said "When you have somebody take the time and interest to send you a postcard, something that they didn't have to do, you have a special place for those kind of people".
One year after being wounded, Bleier reported to Steelers training camp. Upon his return, he couldn't walk without being in pain, and weighed only 180 pounds. He spent two full years trying to regain a spot on the active roster, and was even waived on two occasions. But Bleier never gave up. An offseason training regimen brought Bleier back to 212 pounds in the summer of 1974. From that point in time, he would be in the Steelers' starting lineup. At starting fullback, Rocky would prove to be a great lead blocker for Franco, but also a great rushing fullback. In ’76 Franco and Rocky both rushed for over 1,000 yards. At the time, they were only the second duo in NFL history to complete such as feet.
Bleier played in the first four Steeler Super Bowl victories, and caught the touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that gave Pittsburgh a lead it would never surrender in Super Bowl XIII.
Bleier retired after the 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards, and 25 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement, he was the Steelers fourth all-time leading rusher.
Now, after reading that, you can see why I wanted to make something that would explain and honor the many facets of Bleier’s career in the Army and the NFL, and ultimately, what kind of a person he his. Rocky is maid of the true grit and guts. He is a true inspiration, and more should be aware of what he gave to the city of Pittsburgh, and more importantly, to our country.
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