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
1970, Quarterback, Louisiana Tech
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.
1945, Running back, Florida
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.
1936, Running back, Notre Dame
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?’
‘Mean’ Joe Greene
1969, Defensive Tackle, North Texas
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.
1957, Quarterback, Purdue
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.
1955, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
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.
1989, Running back, Georgia
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.
2000, Wide Receiver, Michigan State
‘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.
Frank Lewis, WR, 1971
Lynn Chandnois, RB, 1950
1986, Guard, Temple
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.
1987, Corner, Purdue
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!