The 2020 NFL Draft is coming up for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kevin Colbert is surely busy making lists and checking them twice. Because scouting has been reduced due to Covid-19, Colbert and company may rely on wells that he’s gone to multiple times before.
In 2019, Colbert found comfort in drafting two players that donned the maize and blue of the University of Michigan (Devin Bush Jr. and Zach Gentry). In 2018, two Cowboys from Oklahoma State (Mason Rudolph and James Washington) were selected by the Steelers. Over the past two In both drafts, an Alabama defensive lineman (Josh Frazier and Isaiah Biggs) arrived on Day 3.
When they selected multiple guys from the same school, it made me wonder what schools the Steelers have selected from the most in their history since the first draft in 1936. In the early days of the draft, the Steelers stayed close to home with a lot of their picks. They also had drafts of 30 players a year for most of the 1940s, which they tended towards taking players from the local likes of Duquesne, Carnegie Mellon and Penn. Notre Dame was the dominant school of the time and they supplied many a player too. Some schools had picks in which the majority came from the first three decades of the draft. I will note that when I rank the top ten feeder schools of all time for the Steelers and the team's top 10 of the Kevin Colbert era.
Top 10 Since 2000 (The Kevin Colbert era)
1. The Ohio State University (8)
DE Rodney Bailey (2001), WR Santonio Holmes (2006), DE Thaddeus Gibson (2010), DT Doug Worthington (2010), DE Cameron Heyward (2011), OT Mike Adams (2012), LB Ryan Shazier (2014) and CB Doran Grant (2015)
2. Florida State University (6)
DB Chris Hope (2002), LB Alonzo Jackson (2003), CB Bryant McFadden (2005), WR Willie Reid (2006), LB Lawrence Timmons (2007) and LB Vince Williams (2013)
3t.) University of Tennessee (5)
QB Tee Martin (2000), G Chris Scott (2010), DT Daniel McCullers (2014), CB Cameron Sutton (2017) and QB Joshua Dobbs (2017)
3t.) University of Georgia (5)
LB Kendrell Bell (2001), RB Verron Haynes (2002), FB J.T. Wall (2003), WR Fred Gibson (2005) and LB Jarvis Jones (2013)
3t.) University of Florida (5)
OT Max Starks (2004), WR Dallas Baker (2007), C Maurkice Pouncey (2010), OT Marcus Gilbert (2011) and RB Chris Rainey (2012)
6t.) University of Miami, Florida (4)
DT Orien Harris (2006), LB Sean Spence, LB Anthony Chickillo (2015) and CB Artie Burns (2016)
6t.) University of Texas (4)
NT Casey Hampton (2001), WR Limas Sweed (2008), OT Tony Hills (2008) and DB Curtis Brown (2011)
8t.) Virginia Tech (4)
DE Nathaniel Adibi (2004), RB Cedric Humes (2006), DE/LB Jason Worilds (2010) and Terrell Edmunds (2018)
8t.) Penn State University (4)
TE Matt Kranchick (2004), C A.Q. Shipley (2009), TE Jesse James (2015) and S Marcus Allen (2018)
8t.) University of Michigan (4)
LB Larry Foote (2002), LB La Marr Woodley (2007), LB Devin Bush Jr. (2019) and TE Zach Gentry (2019)
Top 10 since 1936
1.) University of Pittsburgh (46)
Although only Hank Poteat and James Conner were selected in the Kevin Colbert years, the Steelers levied their close proximity to their hometown University over the years to select 46 Panthers. Probably the most accomplished Panther/Steeler selections would be 1964's Paul Martha and 1989's Jerry Olsavsky. Martha and Tom Ricketts were the only Panther #1 picks to the Steelers. Sadly, Dan Marino is not on this list.
2.) University of Notre Dame (38)
Most of the picks from South Bend came early on. Only six picks came between 1979 and 2014. Golden Domers drafted to Steel City include the first overall pick in 1936 and franchise history, Bill Shakespeare. However, the lineman ended up less "to be" and more "not to be". The other first-rounders were LB Myron Pottios in 1966, Frank Varrichione in 1955 and HB Johnny Lattner (current linebacker Robert Spillane‘s grandfather) in 1954. Other notable players from the Irish selected to the Steelers were Stephon Tuitt in 2014, Terry Hanratty in 1969 and Rocky Bleier in 1968.
3) Penn State University (26)
Not only did the Steelers get two Hall of Famers from the locker room at Beaver Stadium in their only #1 (Franco Harris in 1972) and Jack Ham (1969), they hit on some pretty solid professionals by drafting the likes of Jon Witman (1996), Darren Perry (1992), Tim Johnson (1987), Matt Bahr (1979), Dick Hoak (1961) and Fran Rogel (1950). A lot of value came from Mount Nittany, but only six selections from State College came in the last 30 years, including the latest two PSU/Steelers, Jesse James (2015) and Marcus Allen (2018).
4.) University of Florida (24)
The college in Gainesville has been a major feeder of Steelers in recent times. Florida is also a #1 pick factory for the Steelers producing Maurkice Pouncey (2010), Huey Richardson (1991) and Paul Duhart (1945), although Pouncey was the only one successful of the three. Other significant Gators/Steelers were Marcus Gilbert (2011), Max Starks (2004), Ernie Mills (1991), David Little (1981) and Larry Gagner (1966).
5.) Purdue University (23)
Three Boilermakers were picked first by the Steelers, QB Len Dawson (mostly successful in Kansas City) and DB Rod Woodson were Hall of Famers. HB Tom Barnett was the other #1 selection in 1959, but did not fare as well. Chukky Okobi (2006), Jeff Zgonina (1993) and Jerrol Williams (1989) were other notable Purdue players that were drafted to Pittsburgh. The last Purdue player to be selected by the Steelers was TE Charles Davis in 2006.
6.) The Ohio State University (22)
The Steelers have drafted Buckeyes well, including four in the first round. They were Pro Bowler Ryan Shazier in 2014, Cameron Heyward, Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes in 2006 and Bob Ferguson in 1962. Six of the eight Buckeyes from the Colbert era arrived between 2010-2015. Three notable picks that played their collegiate home-games at "The Horseshoe", Jeff Graham (1991), Scottie Graham (1992) and Mike Vrabel (1997), had great success for other teams. The last player from TOSU (not a typo) to be drafted by the Steelers was Doran Grant in 2015.
7t.) Michigan State University (21)
The Steelers had success with players that danced with Sparty. Le'Veon Bell, a team MVP, is a bright spot from the dreadful 2013 crop. First-rounders Plaxico Burress (2000) and Lynn Chandnois (1950) were talented and successful receivers that played collegiate ball in East Lansing. Jim Miller (1994), Myron Bell (1994) and Gary Ballman (1962) were other notable MSU Spartans. Last year, CB Justin Layne emerged from East Lansing.
7t.) University of Michigan (21)
The Steelers’ only other first rounder from Ann Arbor besides Devin Bush was Dave Brown in 1975, but they lost him the next year in the expansion draft to the Seahawks, where he is enshrined in their Ring of Honor. LaMarr Woodley in 2007 was a defensive standout until injuries cut his career short with the black and gold. Larry Foote was another prominent Wolverine/Steeler. Other Michigan players to get drafted from the blue and maize to Steel City were Russell Davis (1979), Chris Calloway (1990), Jerame Tuman (1996) and 2019’s duo of Wolverines.
9.) University of Tennessee (20)
Out of the 20 Volunteers to get drafted by the Steelers, not too many had great success. Most notable were Dan McCullers (2014), Chris Scott (2010), Joey Clinkscales (1987) and Johnny Butler (1942). QB Tee Martin was picked in the fifth round in 2000, 36 picks before Tom Brady. Of the latest picks from Rocky Top, only Cam Sutton remains with Josh Dobbs traded away last September.
10.) University of Miami FL (18)
Artie Burns (2016) is the second and latest man from "the U" to be drafted in the first round to the Steelers and unfortunately refunds will not be handed out. 1992 brought Leon Searcy, who was a quite solid pro. Perhaps the greatest player to go from the orange, green and white to the black and gold was DL Gary Dunn in 1976. Anthony Chickillo in 2015, Sean Spence in 2012, Warren Wiliams in 1988 and Mike Haggerty in 1967 were other notable Hurricanes drafted by the Steelers.