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Top 5 Pittsburgh Steelers undrafted players, 1965-1979

Who are some of the Steelers best players who went undrafted during the Steel Curtain era?

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As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the 2022 NFL draft, there is a lot of focus on who they will be selecting throughout the three days. While these players are the ones expected to contribute the most throughout their career, sometimes it’s a player who wasn’t selected in the draft that can really make a difference in pushing a franchise to the next level

Knowing the importance of getting quality backups and special teams players beyond the draft, occasionally a superstar will emerge who didn’t get their name called from the stage to start their career. For this reason, let’s look at the top five players who went undrafted but began their careers with the Pittsburgh Steelers between the years 1965 and 1979. To make the process easier, players are only considered for the list if their first NFL regular season game was for the Steelers, even if they were picked up by another franchise first but never saw game action.

Unlike in the 2000s, the Steelers did not find many quality players who were undrafted. In case you missed the previous installments of 2000-present and 1980-1979, they can be seen here:

5. Jim Clack (1971-1977)

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Undrafted out of Wake Forest, Jim Clack was reserve interior offensive lineman for his first four seasons before starting three years at guard for the Steelers. Winning two Super Bowls, Clack started in both games. After seven seasons with the Steelers, Clack was traded to the New York Giants where he was there starting center through 1981. Clack was the player who started off by snapping the ball in the famous “Miracle at the Meadowlands” before the handoff was fumbled and returned by Herman Edwards.

4. John Banaszak (1975-1981)

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Undrafted out of Eastern Michigan, John Banaszak was active duty with the United States Marine Corps from 1969 to 1971 before going to college. After four more years of reserve status with the Marines while playing collegiately, Banaszak joined the Steelers in 1975 and became a starter on the Steelers defensive line in 1978. Winning three Super Bowls with the Steelers, he played his entire NFL career in Pittsburgh through the 1981 season and had 22.5 sacks. Banaszak finished his playing career with three seasons in the USFL.

3. Glen Edwards (1971-1977)

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Glenn Edwards joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1971 after going undrafted out of Florida A&M. The Steelers starting free safety from 1973 to 1977, Edwards won two Super Bowls with the Steelers, the second of which he had an interception in the end zone as time expired. Edwards had 25 interceptions in the regular season with the Steelers, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl in 1975 and 1976. With a reputation around the NFL as a dirty player, Edwards was traded to the San Diego Chargers in 1978. After four years with the Chargers, he played one season in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits.

2. Sam Davis (1967-1979)

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Undrafted out of Allen University in South Carolina in 1967, Sam Davis took over the starting offensive guard position in 1970. He held the role of starter through 1979 in all but one season due to injury where the aforementioned Jim clack filled in. Davis was a part of all four of the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl teams in the 70s despite missing one of the games due to injury. Davis played a total of 13 seasons of the NFL, all with the Steelers.

1. Donnie Shell (1974-1987)

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The greatest undrafted free agent in Pittsburgh Steelers history, Donnie Shell would have still been on the top of the list for the 1980s, by far, had he not started his career in 1974. Undrafted out of South Carolina State, Shell was a five-time Pro Bowler and three time first-team All-Pro as well as a four-time Super Bowl champion. Shell finished his career with 51 regular season interceptions and was finally inducted into the Pro football Hall of Fame as part of the 2020 class, something that was way past due.