The NFL Draft is coming up and the Steelers will, once again, rely building heavily through the draft instead of free agency. There are some rounds that the Steelers excel in. Of course, the first round the Steelers have brought in a plethora of Hall of Famers like Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Rod Woodson, Alan Faneca and Troy Polamalu. Teams are expected to find their best talent at the top of the draft. But the other rounds are where it becomes tougher. BTSC will go back to 1969 (when the Chuck Noll era began) and rank the best Round 5 picks in team lore. Rankings were aided somewhat by the Career Average Value stat from Pro Football Reference. The fifth-round is infamous due to the fact that the Steelers drafted two prominent future 49ers, Brent Jones and Dwaine Board, and did not allow themselves to reap the benefits of those selections.
Other Notable No. Fives: John Staggers (1970), Cliff Stoudt (1977), Dwaine Board (1979), Greg Garrity (1983), Brent Jones (1986), Darin Jordan (1988), Myron Bell (1994), Jerame Tuman (1999), Tee Martin (2000- a round ahead of Tom Brady), Chukky Okobi (2001), Verron Haynes (2002), Brian St. Pierre (2003), Dennis Dixon (2008), Jesse James (2015), Marcus Allen (2018), Jaylen Samuels (2018)
10. Lee Flowers - Georgia Tech (1995 - 151st overall)
A Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, Lethon Flowers was a big-league hitter and an all-league talker for the Steelers from 1995 to 2002. Lee never met a microphone he didn’t like. His ‘Paper Champion” label of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in response to Warren Sapp and Co. disrupting their warmups in 2001 was his most memorable mic drop. A special teams demon early on in his eight-year career, Flowers moved full-time to strong safety in 1998 and had four picks, 432 tackles and 12 sacks. Lee appeared in three AFC title bouts and Super Bowl XXX for the Men of Steel.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Flowers in 1995: 1) Mark Bruener - Washington, 2) Kordell Stewart - Colorado, 3) Brendan Stai - Nebraska, 4) Oliver Gibson - Notre Dame, 4) Donta Jones - Nebraska
Player drafted one spot ahead of Flowers in 1995: Cedric Davis - Arizona Cardinals (Tennessee State)
Player drafted one spot behind Flowers in 1995: Rich Owens - Washington Redskins (Lehigh)
9. Steve Courson - University of South Carolina (1977 - 125th overall)
Steve Courson came to the Steelers in Round 5 of the 1977 NFL Draft out of South Carolina. He played in Super Bowl XIII and XIV and was a starter in 1981 and 1982. After six seasons in Pittsburgh, the Gettysburg HS star played two more years in Tampa after a trade. As a Gamecock, Courson started using steroids and his weight went from 225 to 260 in 45 days. In the pros, Steve could bench press 605 pounds and became ashamed that he wasn’t achieving on his own. The drugs also caused him to need heart surgery and other problems. The offensive lineman became one of the first players to speak out about the drug in Sports Illustrated in 1985. Conducting 100 speeches a year to high school students, Courson allegedly fell out of favor with the league because of his outspokenness of the problem. The former Steeler died at age 50 when a tree he was cutting changed directions from the wind and struck Courson as he was attempting to save his labrador.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Courson in 1977: 1) Robin Cole - New Mexico, 2) Sidney Thornton - Northwestern State (LA), 3) Tom Beasley - Virginia Tech, 3) Jim Smith - Michigan, 4) Ted Petersen - Eastern Illinois, 4) Laverne Smith - Kansas, 4) Dan Audick - Hawaii, 5) Cliff Stoudt - Youngstown State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Courson in 1977: Clarence Williams - San Diego Chargers (South Carolina)
Player drafted one spot behind Courson in 1977: Lester Hayes - Oakland Raiders (Texas A&M)
8. Steve Furness - University of Rhode Island (1972 - 113th overall)
The replacement for Ernie Homes on the Steel Curtain defense, Furness was a very effective pass rusher for the Steelers. Accumulating 32 sacks in his time in Pittsburgh and a career high 8 1⁄2 in 1977, Furness ranks 13th all-time on the Steelers’ sack list. The alum of the Rhode Island Rams ended his career as a Detroit Lion for one season in 1981. Furness returned to the Steelers in 1992/1993 as a defensive line coach. Sadly, the four-time Super Bowl Champ passed of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 49.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Furness in 1972: 1) Franco Harris - Penn State, 2) Gordon Gravelle - BYU, 3) John McMakin - Clemson, 4) Lorenzo Brinkley - Missouri, 4) Ed Bradley - Wake Forest
Player drafted one spot ahead of Furness in 1972: Carl Johnson - New Orleans Saints (Nebraska)
Player drafted one spot behind Furness in 1972: Dick Harris - New York Jets (South Carolina)
7. William Gay - University of Louisville (2007- 170th overall)
“Big Play” Willie Gay knew how to justify his nickname with the Steelers. The fifth round pick out of Louisville in 1997, Mike Tomlin’s first draft, spent 10 of his 11 seasons as a Steeler. Of his 11 career interceptions in black-and-gold, five were of the pick-six variety. That is a team record Gay shares with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.
Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Gay in 2007: 1) Lawrence Timmons - Florida State, 2) LaMarr Woodley - Michigan 3) Matt Spaeth - Minnesota, 4) Daniel Sepulveda - Baylor. 4) Ryan McBean - Oklahoma, 5) Cameron Stephenson - Rutgers
Player drafted one spot ahead of Gay in 2007: Roy Hall - Indianapolis Colts (Ohio STate)
Player drafted one spot behind Gay in 2007: Clint Oldenburg - New Orleans Saints (Colorado State)
6. Clark Haggans - Colorado State University (2000 - 128th overall)
Clark Haggans is most certainly an underrated player in Steelers history. But a team can’t win without pieces of the puzzle and the all-time sack leader in Colorado State history was a major one in the 2000s. After drafting Joey Porter in the third round of the 1999 draft, the Steelers went back to the Ram well in the fifth round of the 2000 draft and selected his college teammate. Porter helped acclimate Haggans to life in Pittsburgh and welcomed him to a tight-knit linebacking corps. Ultimately spending 13 years in the professional ranks, Clark had his most success in his eight Steelers seasons ranking 12th on the all-time team list with 32.5 sacks. An unrestricted free agent after 2007, Haggans joined the Arizona Cardinals, but he went on IR in December and was not on the field for the Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. However, he was on the field three years earlier and earned a ring in the Super Bowl XL win over Seattle.
Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Haggans in 2000: 1) Plaxico Burress - Michigan State, 2) Marvel Smith - Arizona State, 3) Kendrick Clancy - Mississippi, 3) Hank Poteat - Pittsburgh, 4) Danny Farmer - UCLA
Player drafted one spot ahead of Haggans in 2000: Mao Tosi - Arizona Cardinals (Idaho)
Player drafted one spot behind Haggans in 2000: Matt Johnson - Indianapolis Colts (BYU)
5. Barry Foster - Arkansas (1990 - 128th overall)
The talented ball-carrier from Arkansas served five enigmatic seasons for the Steelers after being drafted in 1990. Foster enjoyed the finest single-season ever in club history in 1992, rushing for a team mark of 1,690 yards and earning the team’s MVP honor. Barry ran and received for nearly 5,000 yards and scored 28 times in Pittsburgh and ranks as the eighth all-time leading rusher in team history on the ground with 3,943. The emergence of Bam Morris plus some nagging injuries hastened his departure in 1995. Foster joined Carolina and Cincinnati in 1995, but he never played a game for either club.
Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Foster in 1990: 1) Eric Green - Liberty, 2) Kenny Davidson - LSU, 3) Neil O’Donnell - Maryland, 3) Craig Veasey - Houston, 4) Chris Calloway - Michigan
Player drafted one spot ahead of Foster in 1990: Ken Hackemack - Kansas City Chiefs (Texas)
Player drafted one spot behind Foster in 1990: Rob Burnett - Cleveland Browns (Syracuse)
4. Craig Wolfley - Syracuse University (1980 - 138th overall)
Craig Wolfley is a well-known familiar face and voice for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but ”Wolf” played ten years in Pittsburgh mostly at left guard. Arriving after the Super Bowl years of the 1970s as a fifth-rounder out of Syracuse, Craig was a key factor on a team that went to the playoffs four times during the 1980s. In 1981, Wolfley placed fifth in the World’s Strongest Man competition for the United States. He has also competed in sumo wrestling, martial arts, boxing, and weightlifting as well. A member of Syracuse University’s All-Century Team, Wolf is currently a sideline reporter for Steelers broadcasts.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Wolfley in 1980: 1) Mark Malone - Arizona State, 2) Bob Kohrs - Arizona State, 2) John Goodman - Oklahoma, 3) Ray Sydnor - Wisconsin, 4) Bill Hurley - Syracuse
Player drafted one spot ahead of Wolfley in 1980: Kenny Johnson - Atlanta Falcons (Mississippi State)
Player drafted one spot behind Wolfley in 1980: Herb Williams - San Francisco 49ers (Southern)
3. Hardy Nickerson - University of California (1987 - 122nd overall)
Hardy Nickerson spent six productive years in Pittsburgh before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his Steeltown days, Nickerson recorded 9.5 quarterback sacks, more than he did as a Buc. After leaving the Steelers, Nickerson was a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro in Tampa. He is also a member of the NFL’s All-90s team. Drafted in the great 1987 draft alongside Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Merrill Hoge, Thomas Everett, Delton Hall and Tim Johnson... Nickerson didn’t stay too long in Pittsburgh, but made his mark before leaving via free agency in 1993.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Nickerson in 1987: 1) Rod Woodson - Purdue, 2) Delton Hall - Clemson, 3) Charles Lockett - Long Beach State, 4) Thomas Everett - Baylor University
Player drafted one spot ahead of Nickerson in 1987: David Alexander - Philadelphia Eagles (Tulsa)
Player drafted one spot behind Nickerson in 1987: Milton Mack - New Orleans Saints (Alcorn State)
2. Larry Brown - University of Kansas (1971 - 106th overall)
After being drafted out of Kansas in 1971 as a part of a loaded Pittsburgh class two picks after Dwight White, Larry Brown started his career with the Steelers wearing No. 87 as a versatile tight end. He caught a touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl IX. In 1977, Brown was approached by Chuck Noll to switch positions to tackle and his number to No. 79. The position change was only to be temporary due to a knee injury Brown suffered that year limiting his cutting ability. But for eight more seasons, Brown remained there and was a more than solid presence on the line, earning a Pro Bowl nod late in his career in 1982. Brown is one of 22 players to play in all four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He spent 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Brown in 1971: 1) Frank Lewis - Grambling, 2) Jack Ham - Penn State, 3) Steve Davis - Delaware State, 4) Gerry Mullins - USC, 4) Dwight White - East Texas State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Brown in 1971: Tim Kelly - Boston Patriots (Notre Dame)
Player drafted one spot behind Brown in 1971: Donnie Green - Buffalo Bills (Purdue)
1. Mike Webster - University of Wisconsin (1974 - 125th overall)
Webster was the iron man of the Steelers for so many years. Playing for 15 years in the black-and-gold, Mike was the longest-tenured Steeler for ages until Ben Roethlisberger recently surpassed his record. A member of the legendary, 1974 class, Webster anchored the line that protected Steelers passers and ball-carriers through four Super Bowl titles. “Iron Mike” was named All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl nine times. He achieved the rare feat of being named to The NFL All-Decade team for both the 70s and the 80s. Along with being enshrined in Canton, both the league and the franchise named him to their 75th Anniversary All-Time teams. Webby had a cameo appearance in Terry Bradshaw’s HOF speech when No. 12 bellowed out, “What I wouldn’t do to put my hands under Mike Webster’s butt just one more time.” Unfortunately, Webster was also the first NFL player diagnosed with CTE, and Steelers Nation mourned his passing in 2002 at age 50.
Steelers Player Drafted ahead of Webster in 1974: 1) Lynn Swann - USC, 2) Jack Lambert - Kent State, 4) John Stallworth - Alabama A&M, 4) Jimmy Allen - UCLA
Player drafted one spot ahead of Webster in 1974: Charles Battle - New England Patriots (Grambling)
Player drafted one spot behind Webster in 1974: John Kelsey - Dallas Cowboys (Missouri)