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 1980 to 1999. 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 can be seen here:
5. Barry Foster (1990, Round 5, pick 128)
Despite only playing five seasons in the NFL, what fifth-round draft pick Barry Foster was able to do with the Pittsburgh Steelers was impressive. A two-time Pro Bowler and a one-time First Team All-Pro running back, Foster’s 1992 season saw 1,690 rushing yards on a league-high 390 attempts and 11 touchdowns. Even though it wasn’t a long career, Foster made a splash with his time with the Steelers.
4. John Jackson (1988, Round 10, pick 252)
As a 10th-round pick, John Jackson became the Steelers starting left tackle in his second season. Playing 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, Jackson was the guy that left tackle for the Steelers for almost the entire 1990s. Starting 130 regular-season games in Pittsburgh, Jackson was the starter for the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. Jackson also played two seasons each with San Diego and Cincinnati to finish his career. Despite never making the Pro Bowl, John Jackson holds the franchise record for the most seasons (nine) as a starter for a player drafted by the Steelers at pick 250 or later.
3. David Little (1981, Round 7, pick 183)
A seventh-round draft pick out of Florida, linebacker David Little played 12 seasons in the NFL, all with the Steelers. Not a full-time starter until his fourth season, Little started 126 games with the Steelers and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1990. In his time in Pittsburgh, Little had 10 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries along with 9.0 sacks.
2. Tunch Ilkin (1980, Round 6, pick 165)
A sixth-round selection in 1980, Tunch Ilkin did not initially make the Pittsburgh Steelers roster. Rejoining the team for 10 games in his rookie season, Ilkin became a regular starter at offensive tackle until during the 1983 season. In 13 years with Pittsburgh, Ilkin started 143 games and was a Pro Bowl selection in both 1988 and 1989. Ilkin did appear in one game with the Green Bay Packers in 1993 to finish his career. Known also as a commentator for games on the Steelers radio broadcasts, Ilkin stepped away following the 2020 season in order to focus on his battle with ALS. Months later, Tunch Ilkin passed away in September 2021 just shy of his 64th birthday.
1. Greg Lloyd (1987, Round 6, pick 150)
A sixth-round draft pick out a Fort Valley State, Greg Lloyd played 10 years at outside linebacker with the Steelers. A four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First Team All-Pro, Lloyd played 125 games with the Steelers and had 10 interceptions, 34 forced fumbles, and 53.5 sacks. Lloyd also came in third place for NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 and second place in 1995. Lloyd did play one final season in Carolina in 1998 to finish his career.