Donnie Shell

American football player (born 1952)

American football player
Donnie Shell
refer to caption
Shell at training camp in 1984
No. 31
Personal information
Born: (1952-08-26) August 26, 1952 (age 71)
Whitmire, South Carolina, U.S.
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school:Whitmire
College:South Carolina State
Career history
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (1974–1987)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
INT yards:490
Fumble recoveries:19
Defensive touchdowns:4
Player stats at PFR
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame

Donnie Shell (born August 26, 1952) is an American former professional football player who was a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL) between 1974 and 1987. Shell was a member of the Steelers famed Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s.

Shell retired as the NFL strong safety career leader in interceptions with 51. He started 11 consecutive seasons for the Steelers and was selected to the Steelers All-Time Team, the College Football Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2020), and to the NFL Silver Anniversary Super Bowl Team.

Early life

Shell grew up in the town of Whitmire, South Carolina. He played on the Whitmire High School football team, where in his senior season as a linebacker, his team did not allow a single touchdown by opponents. Shell played college football for Willie Jeffries at South Carolina State University, where he was teammates with future New York Giants and Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson and earned All-American and all conference honors. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.[1] Shell was signed undrafted by the Steelers, where he played his entire career, winning four Super Bowls with the Steeler teams of the 1970s.

Shell is a member of Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship Incorporated.

NFL career

Shell was a five-time Pro Bowler between 1978 and 1982, a 4-time All-Pro selection, and was the Steelers team MVP in 1980. He saved several possible touchdowns in Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV. He had been in the top 15 in balloting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame once before, in 2002 but with no success.[2] The Professional Football Researchers Association named Shell to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2013.[3]

In 2019, despite not being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was chosen as a finalist for the NFL’s 100th Anniversary Team[4]

Shell resides in Rock Hill, South Carolina and was the Carolina Panthers Director of Player Development from 1994 to 2009.[5]

He played in 201 games for the Steelers, fourth most in franchise history behind just Ben Roethlisberger (249), Mike Webster (220), and Hines Ward (217).[6]

On January 15, 2020, Shell was announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Centennial Class of 2020. He was inducted by Tony Dungy, one of Shell's teammates on the Steelers and later a Hall of Fame coach.[7]


Shell previously served as Director of Spiritual Life at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He currently lives in South Carolina and has three children and three grandchildren.


  1. ^ Shell inducted into Division II HOF Archived November 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved in 2006-07-25.
  2. ^ Pro Football Hall of Fame yearly finalists Retrieved in 2006-07-25.
  3. ^ "Professional Researchers Association Hall of Very Good Class of 2013". Archived from the original on January 4, 2017. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
  4. ^ "Defensive back finalists announced for NFL All-Time Team".
  5. ^ "Donnie Shell Announces His Retirement". February 18, 2009.
  6. ^ "Ward has milestones within his reach".
  7. ^ "Pro Football Hall of Fame Centennial Class revealed".
  • v
  • t
  • e
Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl IX champions
  • v
  • t
  • e
Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl X champions
  • v
  • t
  • e
Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl XIII champions
  • v
  • t
  • e
Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl XIV champions
  • v
  • t
  • e
Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Founded in 1933
  • Formerly the Pittsburgh Pirates (1933–1939)
  • Based and headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Division championships (24)
Conference championships (8)
League championships (6)
Retired numbers
Hall of Fame members
Current league affiliations
  • v
  • t
  • e
Pittsburgh Steelers 50th season All-Time team
L. C. Greenwood
Dwight White
Joe Greene
Ernie Stautner
Jack Ham
Jack Lambert
Andy Russell
Mel Blount
Jack Butler
Donnie Shell
Mike Wagner
Special Teams
Roy Gerela
Pat Brady
  • v
  • t
  • e
Running backs
Wide receivers /
Tight ends
Pre-modern era
two-way players
Defensive backs
Special teams
Italics denotes members who have been elected, but not yet inducted.