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What: "Jack Lambert, Tough as Steel," by Ron Rotunno

Publisher: Steel Valley Books (150 pages) $9.95

The concept is a noble one.

A biography of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Jack Lambert, one of the most feared football players of the '70s.

Unfortunately, "Jack Lambert, Tough as Steel" does little more than repeat what we already know about middle linebacker Lambert, and spends far too much time on game-by-game recaps.

The major problem, however, is one Rotunno points out in the preface:

"Jack Lambert, though very much alive, is a very 'private' individual, and he has refused to return phone calls or answer letters of inquiry."

Instead, Rotunno relies on old interviews Lambert did with other people and conversations with the few people who know Lambert and were willing to talk about him.

Rotunno warns, "Personal memories of ex-teammates and family may not always be precise." But such memories are nearly all we are given.

When it comes to Lambert himself, not only is Rotunno missing the Hall of Famer's testimony, but he writes in fictional conversations or thoughts Lambert might have had.

After a key tackle in a college game for Kent State against Miami of Ohio, for instance, Rotunno has Lambert thinking, "Ha! [Miami running back Bob] Hitches you'll get it again and I'll stop you in your tracks. You ain't gonna get an inch, Hot Shot!"

It would have been great to know what Lambert was really thinking.

The book never does answer the questions, "Who was the man underneath the No. 58 jersey?" and, "What was he really like?"

Too bad. Those are the things people have wondered for all these years.

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