Steelers trades: Buddy Dial for Scott Appleton one of the worst trades in franchise history

Buddy Dial for Scott Appleton may be the worst trade in Steelers history.

With the annual NFL Draft on the horizon, it brings to mind some maneuvering that paid huge dividends for all involved, while others just didn't pan out for any teams or the players who were traded.

PITTSBURGH -- There are several different things that can happen during a draft. A team can trade its pick to stockpile more, trade up or down to secure a specific player or trade picks for players.

At the 1964 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers sent star wideout Buddy Dial -- a second-round selection in 1959 -- to the Dallas Cowboys for the rights to defensive tackle Scott Appleton. The Cowboys selected Appleton from Texas with the fourth overall pick in the first round. Dial actually was drafted by the New York Giants, but they cut him before the season. He signed immediately with the Steelers.

Texas Tech end Dave Parks went to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 1 overall in 1964, while future Pro Football Hall-of-Famers Bob Brown and Charley Taylor were picked by the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, respectively, with the No. 2 and No. 3 overall selections. Brown was an offensive tackle from Nebraska, while Taylor was an Arizona State halfback.

The Steelers had the 10th pick and selected Pitt halfback Paul Martha at that spot in the first round. Appleton, who was a highly sought after D-lineman, decided not to play in the NFL and was signed by the American Football League's Houston Oilers instead. Appleton never lived up to his billing during his time with the Oilers, but the Steelers inability to sign him -- especially after losing big-time wideout Dial -- was a huge miscalculation.

Appleton was a three year starter at Texas and an All-Southwest Conference performer in 1962 and '63. As a senior in 1963, Appleton was an All-American and received the school's first Outland Trophy as the nation's top lineman. He also was fifth in the Heinemann Trophy voting and a catalyst for Texas to win its first national title.

Appleton signed with the Houston Oilers in the AFL and played for them from 1964-66. They made him the No. 6 overall pick in the first round. However, off-field, personal issues forced the Oilers to trade Appleton, along with linebacker Johnny Baker, to the San Diego Chargers for cornerback Miller Farr.
He played for the San Diego Chargers in 1967 and 1968 and later for the World Football League's Portland Storm, but Appleton never played in the NFL.

After football, Appleton reportedly became a manager at a Dairy Queen near Houston, Texas. He declined a heart transplant operation and eventually died of heart failure in 1992 at 50 years old.

Dial's career was cut short by injuries, but one never knows what would have happened had he remained with the Steelers. The point is moot, however, as this draft day maneuvering by the team was among its worst. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Dial had 16 receptions with an average of 26.8 yards per catch and six touchdowns for the Steelers as a rookie in 1959, but it didn't take him long to be an integral part of their offense.

Dial tallied 40 catches for 972 yards (24.3) and nine touchdowns in 1960, 53 for 1,047 (19.8) and 12 scores in 1961, 50 for 981 (19.6) and six TDs in 1962 and 60 for 1,295 (21.6) and nine TDs in 1963. Dial spent the 1964-66 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and didn't have as many receptions (42), yards (713) and touchdowns (two) combined as during his top Steelers seasons when he was combined with quarterback Bobby Layne and was a two-time Pro Bowl player in 1961 and '63.

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