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The historical context of the Steelers opening their 2021 NFL draft with 4 offensive picks

The Steelers had not picked an offensive player in the first round of the NFL draft since 2012.

Purdue v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers broke one of their recent trends in the NFL draft by having a first-round selection go towards the offensive side of the ball. It had been almost a decade since the Steelers drafted an offensive player in the first round. In fact, the last election was in 2012 when offensive guard David DeCastro out of Stanford fell to the Steelers at the 24th overall pick.

But the Steelers weren’t done addressing the offensive side of the ball after Round 1 of the 2021 NFL draft. Both selections in Day 2 of the draft as well as their first selection of Day 3 also came on offense.

With it being such a long time since the Steelers invested so much draft capital at the top of the draft towards the offense, questions arose as to how long has it been since the Steelers drafted so many offensive players to begin the draft.

After selecting running back Najee Harris in Round 1 and starting off Friday night by selecting tight end Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State, the Steelers had drafted back-to-back offensive players to start the draft for the first time in a long time. Exactly how long has it been?

2 straight offensive picks: 2012

Players: G David DeCastro & OT Mike Adams

The last time the Steelers selected an offensive player in the first round of the NFL draft was also the last time they selected two players to start the draft. Unlike 2021 where the Steelers went with a running back and a tight end, the 2012 season saw the Steelers investing their two top picks on the offensive line.

But day two of the 2021 NFL draft also finished up with the Steelers selecting center/guard Kendrick Green. So when was the last time the Steelers selected three players to start the NFL draft?

3 straight offensive picks: 1995

Players: TE Mark Bruner, QB Kordell Stewart, & G Brendan Stai

In order to see the Steelers selecting three straight offensive players, one would have to go back over a quarter of a century. In 1995, the Steelers went tight end, quarterback, and guard in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. The interesting trend so far is that a guard has been included in all of these years.

Then the Steelers did the unthinkable to start off Saturday of the draft. Going with offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr out of Texas A&M, the Steelers made it four straight offensive players. So when was the last time they managed to do this?

4 straight offensive picks: 1984

Players: WR Louis Lipps, TE Chris Kolodziejski, WR Weegie Thompson, & G Terry Long

During the 2020 NFL season, the name Louis Lipps had come up quite often when talking about rookie receiving records for the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Chase Claypool tying the Steelers rookie receiving touchdown records, it caused many to look back at the 1984 draft class. If anyone was paying attention, they would have noticed the Steelers invested heavily in the offense to start off their draft in 1984 in taking two wide receivers, a tight end, and (of course) a guard.

So this had to be a record, right? There’s no way the Steelers drafted more offensive players than four to start off the draft in any one year, especially if we’re talking only since the NFL merger

Believe it or not, the streak wasn’t even close…

6 straight offensive picks: 1976

Players: TE Bennie Cunningham, T Ray Pinney, QB Mike Kruczek, C James Files, G Ron Coder, & WR Ernest Pough

Yes, you read that correctly. The Pittsburgh Steelers and their fantastic Steel Curtain defense of the 70s was not aided at all in the top of the 1976 NFL draft. Perhaps it was because the team was already established on defense, or maybe they just decided to go in a different direction. But the Steelers drafted six different offensive positions in 1976 going with tight end, tackle, quarterback, center, guard, and wide receiver. And for the record, the first defender off the board was a defensive back out of Nebraska by the name of Wonderful Terrific Monds Jr. Unfortunately, Wonder Monds didn’t even make it through training camp with the Steelers.

So there you have it. Even though the Steelers went with fourth straight picks of the offensive side of the ball, it still doesn’t come close to the record of six players in 1976. For the record, when looking at the number of draft picks before a defender was taken, the Steelers only made it to pick 112 in 1976 before taking a defender where it was pick 140 in 2021. Interesting enough, this still wouldn’t be a record as the Steelers did not take a defensive player in the 1962 draft until pick 145 which happened to fall in Round 11. Even with this selection, the Steelers had taken five offensive players before going defense as the Steelers did not have a pick in Rounds 2 through 6 as the franchise philosophy used to be giving away their draft picks like candy on Halloween.

Regardless of the history, the Pittsburgh Steelers saw some of the biggest needs on their team going into 2021 and did their best to address them at the appropriate time. Even with all the hype of adding four offensive players to start their draft, what ultimately will determine if this was successful is when the players take the field this fall.