If you’re a big-time Steelers fan, and also a bigger-time NFL Draft fan, you probably still bristle when reminded of the time head coach Mike Tomlin, in his very first attempt to dilute the potency of Bill Cowher’s players, selected punter Daniel Sepulveda out of Baylor in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft.
I believe it’s still referred to as “The Incident” in many circles (at least on Steelers’ message boards and Facebook pages dedicated to fuming over that infamous draft choice).
I thought Tomlin was the only Steelers coach naive enough to select a punter with such a premium draft choice (at least in the modern era—I believe the organization used 38 number-one picks on punters before 1970), but I was wrong.
I was watching an old Steelers/Jets game online, the other day, and I was surprised to learn that Craig Colquitt, a soon-to-be father and uncle of many future NFL punters, was selected out of Tennessee by Chuck Noll in the third round of the 1978 NFL Draft.
I grew up watching Colquitt, who punted in Pittsburgh from 1978-1984, and I thought he was pretty good. However, being a punter and all, I always just assumed the Steelers called him up one day while he was bagging groceries or whatever and asked him to come in for a tryout.
I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed that Noll, chief scout Art Rooney Jr. and future Hall of Fame scout, the late, great Bill Nunn, would spend such valuable draft capital on a punter—especially in the middle of an historic Super Bowl run.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s why nobody noticed. Or maybe it was because it happened in the 1970s, and stuff just sort of took place back in the old days without many having opinions on it.
For example, the NFL Draft just kind of happened every year. Was it on TV? Did people smash their remotes over who the Steelers selected? Did they have remotes back then, or did grown-ups just use little boys like me to change the channel? If so, I’m sure glad the draft wasn’t on television in the old days.
Speaking of the ‘70s, the fourth seed would often have to play the two seed in the divisional round of the playoffs, while the top seed played the third seed. This was because divisional rivals were prohibited from meeting in the divisional round, sure, but how goofy was that?
The undefeated Miami Dolphins had to travel to Three Rivers Stadium to play the not-undefeated Steelers in the AFC Championship Game in 1972. How old is Stephen A. Smith? If he was around and aware, did he stand up in front of his classmates one afternoon during recess and go on a rant about this?
One day, back in 1978, the NFL went and expanded its regular-season schedule from 14 games to 16. Did the players throw a fit? Did the fans throw a fit. For. Some. Unknown. Reason?
Did you know that Jack Lambert was the first training camp holdout in Steelers history? That’s right, I said it. This happened in 1977, and as far as I can tell, nobody referred to him as a POS (at least nobody did this and lived to tell about it). That same summer, Mel Blount decided not to report to camp because he was upset with Noll as a result of his testimony during a lawsuit filed by Raiders safety George Atkinson over Noll’s infamous “criminal element” comment; Atkinson’s attorney coaxed Noll into including Blount in with the element of players that he thought took things too far on the football field.
Blount also decided to sue Noll and said he wanted out of Pittsburgh.
Blount ultimately dropped the suit against his head coach and, of course, came to his senses and back to the Steelers.
My gosh, though, right?
A player can’t even file a grievance with the union in today’s day and age without fans and the media holding a grudge against him. I can’t imagine what would happen in 2021 if a player decided to sue Tomlin or the Steelers organization.
During the 1980 regular season, safety Mike Wagner stood on the sidelines of Three Rivers Stadium and said, “Hi, Mom!” in the waning seconds of a sure loss to the Raiders on Monday Night Football. Did anyone sue Wagner? What about the obvious deterioration of the locker room culture under Noll? Did the media address that issue?
Anyway, to repeat my initial point, the Steelers once used a third-round pick to select a punter.
I’m retroactively outraged.