Who are Greg Cook and Larry Smith? I ask this because they were taken shortly after the Steelers selected Joe Greene with the fourth pick in the 1969 NFL Draft. Cook, a quarterback, was selected by Cincinnati one spot after Greene; Smith, a running back, was taken by the Rams with the eighth pick.
Even back in 1969, I'm sure taking a quarterback or running back in the first round was considered a "sexier" pick than a defensive tackle from little known North Texas. In-fact, in a local Pittsburgh newspaper the day after the draft, a headline read, "Who's Joe Greene?"
Obviously, this was well before the Mel Kiper era of 24/7/365 draftnik analysis, and if Greene was a draft prospect just 15 or 20 years later, many more people would have known who he was, and, depending on his Pro Day workouts (or whatever they called that stuff back then), he may even have been the consensus choice for top selection in the draft.
But in '69, Greene probably didn't generate enough excitement for the long-suffering fans of a franchise that hadn't achieved anything of note in its entire history.
Today, however, if fans were to conduct an all-time Steelers draft, Mean Joe would probably be the run-away selection as top choice, because that's how important he was to changing the attitude and culture of the locker room, and eventually, how the organization was viewed.
Heading into last year's draft, the Jaguars, a team notorious for having a fairly apathetic fan base, was all but set to select offensive tackle Luke Joeckel second, overall(which they did). Regarding this, a radio head (I can't remember if he was local or national) said, "If I'm a season ticket holder of a 2-14 team, I'm not going to be too excited about an offensive lineman taken with such a lofty selection."
My thought was, "Who cares what the fans think about the selection?" If a gm or coach starts making hot-shot selections as a way to spark ticket sales and create excitement (and not because that player is what's best for his franchise), he's going to be in-trouble and have many more opportunities to spark ticket sales and create excitement since his team will no doubt be drafting in the top five on a regular basis.
If I didn't know any better, I'd say that talk show host was my brother, who has never met a receiver/running back/quarterback he didn't want the Steelers to select with a first round pick.
When Pittsburgh selected Alan Faneca with its top pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, my brother said, "Who is Alan Faneca? Why take an offensive lineman? That's boring." Yeah, for a "boring" pick, Faneca sure seemed to generate excitement the way he steadily played his position for 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, protecting his quarterbacks and showing his athletic prowess by leading his running backs on huge gains down-field.
If the Steelers would have made a hot-shot move in '98 and selected a skill-position player just to excite the fans--receiver Marcus Nash was still available (whoever that is)--they may not have had a solid enough offensive foundation to build their Super Bowl XL team on.
Far too many fans look for instant gratification on Draft Day, but that's not what the event is about; it's about finding players who will make their favorite team better in the long-run.
Here is a short list of Steelers draft picks I honestly never knew existed when they played in college: Alan Faneca, Casey Hampton, Maurkice Pouncey, Cameron Heyward, and David DeCastro.
While none of those selections were even remotely sexy, they were solid, sound picks, and the first two had borderline Hall of Fame careers, the third is currently having a Pro Bowl career, and Heyward and DeCastro are both well on their way to becoming top players at their respective positions.
With the 2014 NFL Draft fast-approaching, I'm not as worried about being satisfied and excited on May 8 as I am about the potential championship culture the Steelers first round pick can help to establish once he arrives in Latrobe in late July.
If you visit the '69 draft wikipedia page, you'll see that, of all the first round picks, only three names are highlighted in the color green, which denotes a Hall of Fame career, and Joe Greene is one of those names.
That's who Joe Greene is.