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Pittsburgh Steelers undrafted free agent success stories

Many players dream of hearing their name called during the draft, and many are disappointed. Going undrafted, however, does not mean a player's career is over before it even started.

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After getting over the frustration of not being drafted, Undrafted Free Agents must regroup and look to past undrafted players for inspiration. Not all starters and strong contributors heard their name called on Draft Day. In fact, some of the Steelers best players started their NFL journey with a disappointing draft day, only to find out they had an NFL home with the Black & Gold.

Recent UDFAs

James Harrison, OLB, Kent State, 2002

2008 defensive player of the year. Five-time Pro-Bowler. Longest defensive play in Super Bowl history. Two Super Bowl rings. Back with the Steelers at the ripe old age of 37 to rehabilitate a flagging defense. His resume speaks for itself, but his career started as a UDFA and multiple cuts. One of the reason Harrison went undrafted? Teams thought he was too short and too light.

Willie Parker, RB, North Carolina, 2004

Willie Parker's career at North Carolina was unremarkable due to inconsistent play. Signed as an UDFA with the Steelers, he was a backup during his first year and then earned a starting position by his second year. Parker was a key contributor in Super Bowl XL with several impressive, high-yardage rushing plays. In subsequent seasons, Parker would break the Steelers existing records for single-game rushing totals, racking up 223 yards in a 2006 game against the Browns.

Nate Washington, WR, Tiffin University, 2005

Tiffin University? Huh? Yeah, I'll save you the trouble of looking it up. It's in Ohio and dragons are their mascot. The Steelers signed Washington as a UDFA in 2005. Though he was only with the Steelers through 2008, that was enough to earn him two Super Bowl rings with the Black & Gold. Now with a career total 6,296 receiving yards, the two-time Pro Bowler has achieved more than many top-round draft picks. The 31-year-old receiver played six seasons with the Titans and signed with the Texas this past April.

Doug Legursky, Guard, Marshall, 2008

Doug Legursky now plays with the Chargers, but his career started as a UDFA for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was cut and signed multiple times until guard Kendall Simmons was placed on IR. As a backup, Legursky's reliable presence on the sidelines put fans at ease since he could fill in at either center or guard.

Ramon Foster, OT, Tennessee, 2009

Ramon Foster spoke about the struggles of going undrafted in a 2014 Post-Gazette article, "You feel like you have something to prove... They already feel like they've been snubbed because they didn't get drafted." Foster feels so snubbed that he avoids watching the draft even six years after he waited and waited only to realize he would end up undrafted.

Throwback UDFAs

Keith Willis, DE, Northeastern University, 1982

In the 80's the draft was 12 rounds instead of seven, and still Keith Willis didn't hear his name called. Signed as an UDFA, Willis played ten seasons with the Steelers before floating around between the Bills Redkins and Jets at the end of his career in 1992 and 1993. Willis ended his career with 59 sacks, 14 of which were in a single season.

Donnie Shell, CB, South Carolina State, 1974

Shell is perhaps the most legendary of all the UDFAs. A five-time Pro-Bowler with four Super Bowl victories over 14 NFL seasons, Shell had a career that many first-round draft picks could only dream of.

Jack Butler, DB, St. Bonaventure, 1951

With 52 career interceptions, including 10 in a single season, Jack Butler played nine seasons with the Black & Gold. Eventually drafted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, Butler spent four decades working as a scout for the Steelers. The man who went undrafted in 1951 had a long career in football and was considered a trailblazer because of the way he revolutionized the position of cornerback.


Read about this year's crop of Pittsburgh Steelers UDFAs here:

2015 UDFAs Part 1

2015 UDFAs Part 2

2015 UDFAs Part 3

2015 UDFAs Part 4