As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the 2022 NFL draft, there is a lot of focus on who they will be selecting with their first set of picks. While the Steelers generally look to get their Day 1 and Day 2 selections acclimated and available as quickly as possible, sometimes it is those hidden gems found in later rounds which can really make a difference in building a championship roster.
Knowing the importance of getting quality backups and special teams players late in the draft, occasionally a superstar will emerge. For this reason, let’s look at the top five players drafted in the fifth round or later by the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1965 to 1979. Acknowledging that undrafted free agents can be just as important if not more so, we will be focusing only on players selected in the draft.
If looking for more recent draft choices, the choices for 2000 to 2021 as well at 1980 to 199 can be seen here:
T-5. Rocky Bleier (1968, Round 16, pick 417)
It was impossible to leave one of the final two players off this list, so there was a tie for fifth place. Drafted in the 16th round and the 417th selection in the 1968 draft, Rocky Bleier did not become a fixture with the Pittsburgh Steelers until 1974. Missing two years due to the Vietnam War and only getting four carries in his next three seasons after returning, Rocky Bleier became part of a one-two running back punch for the Pittsburgh Steelers that led them to four Super Bowl victories. In 1976, Bleier added a 1,000 yard rushing season.
T-5. Dwayne Woodruff (1979, Round 6, pick 161)
The other player who could not be left off this list was defensive back Dwayne Woodruff. Drafted in 1979, Woodruff played 11 seasons in Pittsburgh where he started 105 games and had 37 interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. The most recent draft pick on the list in this era, Woodruff was a part of one Super Bowl team in his rookie season where he had two post-season interceptions.
4. Larry Brown (1971, Round 5, pick 106)
As this list moves on, the players needed some individual accolades to creep closer to the top. Drafted as a tight end, Larry Brown switched to offensive tackle after six seasons in the NFL. Playing another eight years in Pittsburgh, Brown was not only a four-time Super Bowl champion but was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1982. Despite being an overall selection that would likely land at the end of the third round in today’s draft, Brown still qualifies for the list based on the era he played.
3. Mike Wagner (1971, Round 11, pick 268)
Selected in the 11th round in 1971, Mike Wagner was the starting safety for the Steelers in almost every game he appeared. With 116 starts in 119 games, Wagner won four Super Bowls and was a two-time Pro Bowler in 1975, as well as 1976 when he was also second-team All-Pro. In his career, Wagner had 36 interceptions and only had one season where he did not have at least two interceptions because he only played three games in 1977.
2. L.C. Greenwood (1969, Round 10, pick 238)
It’s difficult for me to talk about the late L.C. Greenwood because it angers me he is not enshrined in Canton. A 10th-round draft pick in 1969, Greenwood played 13 seasons for the Steelers, won four Super Bowls, was selected to the Pro Bowl in six seasons, and was first-team All-Pro in both 1974 and 1975. Credited with 78 sacks even though they were not an official statistic prior to 1982, L.C. Greenwood deserves to be honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame for more than just the selection of being on their All-1970s Team.
1. Mike Webster (1974, Round 5, pick 125)
It’s difficult to select anyone else at number one other than the Steelers 1974 fifth-round draft pick who is a member of the Pro football Hall of Fame. Playing 15 years for the Steelers and adding two more in Kansas City to finish his career, it’s crazy to think that the late Mike Webster made it all the way to 1990 in the NFL. Winning four Super Bowls with the Steelers, Webster was a nine-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro. Additionally, Webster was also a member of the Hall of Fame‘s All-1970s Team as well as their All-1980s Team.