Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman and Pittsburgh native Jim Sweeney has died at the age of 60, the New York Jets announced on Sunday before the two teams play at Acrisure Stadium.
Sweeney played three seasons for the Steelers from 1996-99 at the end of his career. He started his NFL tenure as a third-round draft pick out of Pitt in 1984 and played 11 seasons in the green and white. Sweeney also played one season with the Seattle Seahawks.
During his playing career, Sweeney played tackle, center and guard and was noted for his versatility. At one point, he started 158 straight games for the Jets.
“Jim was a typical Pittsburgh guy. He was tough,” Jets radio analyst and former teammate Marty Lyons told NewYorkJets.com. “He was tough to practice against every day. You could count on him every single Sunday. He had a different personality as soon as he crossed over the lines, though. Hard-nosed, tough-football player, a loving caring friend off the field.”
Born in Pittsburgh in 1962, Sweeney attended Seton-La Salle in the South Hills before moving on to Pitt, where he played all along the offensive line and also at tight end as a two-year starter. He earned second-team All-American honors as senior in 1983.
Sweeney was a member of the 1984 NFL All-Rookie team. He played a total of 228 games in his 16-year career, 46 with the Steelers. He spent three seasons with the Steelers, mostly as a backup towards the end of his career.
“Jim was just a great guy, man,” former Steelers linebacker Levon Kirkland said during alumni weekend. “I love that he was big, and I mean strong. He had hands and I was like ‘wow’! I was always fascinated by Jim. I remember him at Pitt and all of that. And to have him on the team, we would talk a lot. He was one of my favorite people.”
After his retirement, Sweeney got into coaching, working as offensive line coach under Greg Gattuso at Duquesne from 2000-02. He coached at Peters Township and South Fayette at the high school level and worked with the Pittsburgh Power in 2013 before he re-joined Gattuso at Albany in 2014, where he coached served as offensive line coach and in 2020 added assistant head coach to his duties in 2021, before his contract was not renewed.