Bud Carson traversed the coaching landscape for decades, making his mark on numerous defenses around the league. Although Carson became head coach for the Cleveland Browns in 1989 and led that team to the AFC title game, his most memorable work came with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s.
He served as defensive coordinator for the Steelers from 1973-77 — the peak of the Steel Curtain’s reign as arguably the greatest defense in NFL history — and went on to become the DC for five other teams before retiring from the sideline after the 1997 season.
Carson died in 2005, but the Pro Football Writers of America voted him to be the recipient of the 2017 Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award — a lifetime achievement award for assistant coaching. Carson is the 10th winner. Gunther Cunningham, Bruce DeHaven, Jim Hanifan and Bobb McKittrick were also nominated.
The Steelers finished in the top two in points allowed from 1974-76, peaking with the ’76 unit that pitched five shutouts — including three straight — and ranked first in total and scoring defense. Although the Steelers saw their bid for a three-peat end in Oakland, Carson’s Steel Curtain was in high gear that year.
He coached against the 1979 Steelers in Super Bowl XIV as the Los Angeles Rams’ DC before one-year stints with the Baltimore Colts and Kansas City Chiefs preceded a four-year stay running the New York Jets defense from 1985-88. The Browns then hired Carson to succeed Marty Schottenheimer, and the team qualified for its third AFC title game in four years but again lost to the Broncos. Carson finished his coaching career in 1997 as the St. Louis Rams’ DC under Dick Vermeil.