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The best draft picks by selection in Steelers history: 1-10

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the greatest drafting teams in NFL history, but who are the best picks by number selected.

Super Bowl XIII - Pittsburgh Steelers vs Dallas Cowboys - January 21, 1979 Photo by Ross Lewis/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won 6 Super Bowl championship on the backs of superior drafting and developing their talent. In fact, you very rarely see many big-time contributors to those championship teams from players not drafted by the organization.

Over the course of 88 seasons, the organization has made 78 first round picks at almost every possible drafting position in the first round. So let's break down every overall selection of the first round, in three parts. Todays article will highlight selections 1 through 10


1st Overall:
Terry Bradshaw

1970, Quarterback, Louisiana Tech

Pittsburgh Steelers... Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The Steelers haven't drafted 1st overall since taking Bradshaw in 1970, and haven't been near the top overall pick thanks in-part to the culture change implemented once the blonde bomber became a member of the Steelers.

Bradshaw’s achievements are endless, highlighted by 4 Super Bowl championships, 2 Super Bowl MVPs, and being the only player in franchise history to be named league MVP. The choice for number 1 was easy, and it’s quite possible Bradshaw will hold this spot for the rest of our lifetimes.


2nd Overall:
Paul Duhart

1945, Running back, Florida

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Texas Tech at West Virginia Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maybe I failed to mention in some cases the Steelers have only ever drafted one player in a particular slot and are the best — and the worst — by default. This is one of those cases.

But before you scroll to the next player, there is actually an interesting story behind Paul Duhart’s selection.

In 1944, Duhart was discharged by the US Army, and was given special permission to sign with the NFL club of his choosing. This happened because in 1943 the Florida Gators, his college program, had disbanded. Duhart decided to sign on with the Green Bay Packers, which would go on to win the NFL championship that season, a game where Duhart intercepted a pass in the last minute of the game to clinch the championship.

In 1945 the NFL ruled Duhart would have to enter the NFL Draft, and he would go on to be the Steelers second overall selection. Unfortunately, he would only play 2 games in Pittsburgh before being purchased off the Steelers roster by the Boston Yanks. By the end of the season, an injury would end Duhart’s NFL career.


3rd Overall
William Shakespeare

1936, Running back, Notre Dame

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

No, not that William Shakespeare. He was nicknamed ‘The Bard of South Bend’ after his role at Notre Dame and sharing a name with ‘The bard of Avon.’

The Steelers drafted a number of players 3rd overall but none of which never made an impact on the organization. So let’s highlight the first ever draft pick of the then named, Pittsburgh Pirates. Shakespeare never actually played in an NFL game, but will go down as an all-time answer to the trivia question ‘who was the Steelers first draft pick?’


4th Overall
‘Mean’ Joe Greene

1969, Defensive Tackle, North Texas

Pittsburgh Steelers... Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

The greatest defensive tackle in NFL history and the greatest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers of all-time unsurprisingly holds down the 4th slot of the list. Just check out the man’s achievements:

4× Super Bowl champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
10× Pro Bowl (1969–1976, 1978, 1979)
5× First-team All-Pro (1972–1974, 1977, 1979)
3× Second-team All-Pro (1971, 1975, 1976)
NFL Man of the Year (1979)
2× NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1972, 1974)
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1969)

Greene was the anchor of one of the greatest and long lasting defenses in NFL history. If you're going to have a conversation on the greatest players in league history, Mean Joe has to be one of the first names mentioned.


5th Overall
Len Dawson

1957, Quarterback, Purdue

Super Bowl IV - Chiefs v Vikings Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Yes, NFL Hall-of-famer Len Dawson was a first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the team has picked in this slot a few times in history, including fellow quarterback, Ted Marchibroda, none of the made much of an impact on the field.

Dawson played 3 seasons in Pittsburgh, but when the organization brought in Bobby Layne they decided to trade Dawson away. After a short stint with the Browns, Dawson would go on to become the first ‘franchise QB’ in Chiefs history by leading the club to its first Super bowl while picking up MVP honors.


6th Overall
Frank Varrichione

1955, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame

Pro Football Photo by Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

Frank Varrichione may have been the greatest player in franchise history when he left the organization in 1961. The Tackle from Notre Dame made 4 Pro Bowls in 5 seasons with the Steelers. Varrichione was the games premier offensive lineman during his era.


7th Overall
Tim Worley

1989, Running back, Georgia

Steelers Tim Worley Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers whiffed on a number of seventh overall selections, however Worley showed promise in his rookie season. But it was all down hill from there. After putting up 770 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie, Worley would never come close to those numbers again. He would be traded to the Chicago Bears after 4 seasons and only putting up 1,305 career yards with the Steelers.


8th Overall
Plaxico Burress

2000, Wide Receiver, Michigan State

Pittsburgh Steelers’ Plaxico Burress breaks away f Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

‘Plax’ was a gigantic target for his quarterbacks, and he was also a gigantic pain in the arse. Burress put up some big numbers and made some incredible plays in his first stint in Pittsburgh. He would go on to catch the Super Bowl-winning touchdown as a member of the New York Giants. He would also go on to spend time in jail for shooting himself in the leg. Burress would make a return to the NFL, and the Steelers. He would only go on to put up 3 receptions in 2 seasons in his second go-round.

Honorable mentions
Frank Lewis, WR, 1971
Lynn Chandnois, RB, 1950


9th Overall
John Rienstra

1986, Guard, Temple

San Diego Chargers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have made a pair of 9th overall selections. Only Reinstra would play at all for the organization. He would last four seasons in Pittsburgh playing in 65 career games, starting in 48 of them. Rienstra never lived up to being the number 9 overall pick in the NFL Draft.


10th Overall
Rod Woodson

1987, Corner, Purdue

Philadelphia Eagles v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Now things are about to ramp up.

Woodson is one of, if not the best cornerback in team history and that's including the name of Mel Blount. The Hall of Famer was an integral piece of the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense of the 90’s. His achievements are another worth noting:

11× Pro Bowl (1989–1994, 1996, 1999–2002)
6× First-team All-Pro (1989, 1990, 1992–1994, 2002)
2× Second-team All-Pro (1991, 1996)
NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1993)
AFC Player of the Year (1993)

Woodson would play the majority of his 17 year NFL career in Pittsburgh, where he would fail to hoist the Lombardi (which was mostly Neil O’Donnell’s fault) however he would go on to win a championship with the rival Baltimore Ravens.


Congratulations! You’ve made it through part one! As we move through this exercise we will move into winning eras. Stay tuned for that tomorrow!

Trivia time! Only twice have the Pittsburgh Steelers ever made multiple first round picks in the same draft. Can you name the years, which players were selected, and how they acquired the extra picks? Let us know in the comments below!