Eighteen men who played football for the Pittsburgh Steelers have died since 2000, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The former players have fallen to heart attacks, accidents, disease and suicide over the past six years. The Times said 16 of the 77 NFL players from the 1970s and 1980s who have died since 2000 were Steelers - more than one in five.
Four of the deaths were unusual:Former Steelers lineman Steve Courson, 50, was killed last year when a large tree he was cutting down outside his Pennsylvania home fell on him.Former linebacker David Little, 46, was bench-pressing weights in his Miamia home last year when he suffered a heart attack. The barbell he was lifting rolled across his neck and suffocated him.Former offensive guard Terry Long, 45, committed suicide in Pittsburgh last year by drinking antifreeze.Former offensive tackle Justin Strzelczyk, 36, was killed in a high-speed chase on the New York Thruway in 2004. With police in pursuit, the pickup truck Strzelczyk was driving collided with a tanker truck.
"It's just an anomaly that we can't explain. From an emotional standpoint it just makes you sad and makes you feel like the time we spent together was even more precious," former Steelers star receiver John Stallworth told the Times.
The newspaper said there was speculation that steroid abuse may have played a role in some of the deaths, but no hard evidence to that effect.