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A history of Pitt quarterbacks with the Pittsburgh Steelers

The relationship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterbacks from the Univeristy of Pittsburgh is quite extensive.

Houston Oilers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted two quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL draft, something they have not done since 1968. With the selection of Kenny Pickett in the first round and Chris Oladokun in the seventh, and the Steelers have now drafted 50 quarterbacks in their franchise history according to Pro Football Reference.

With the Steelers selecting Kenny Pickett as the 20th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, it is not the first time they have selected a quarterback out of the University of Pittsburgh. While many Steelers fans will always remember when the Steelers did not draft a Pitt quarterback in 1983, the Steelers had previously drafted a quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh five times. With Pickett being the sixth quarterback taken from the same school by the Steelers, it leads the way by far as no other university has had more than two quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers.

The first quarterback the Pittsburgh Steelers ever drafted out of the University of Pittsburgh was Pete Neft in 1956 when they selected him in the 23rd round at the 268th overall pick. Corny Salvaterra was also drafted by the Steelers the following year in 1957 in Round 17 and pick 199. Rounding out the pre-merger era, The Steelers also drafted Ken Lucas as one of four quarterbacks they drafted in 1966 when he was selected at the 263rd pick in Round 18.

With all three of the pre-1970s Pitt quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers, none of them were selected before Round 17 and barely made it before pick 200. The other thing of note about these three quarterbacks is none of them ever appeared in a regular season game in the NFL for any team, let alone the Steelers.

The next two Pitt quarterbacks selected by the Steelers were Rick Trocano in 1981 in Round 11 at pick 292 and Alex Van Pelt in 1993 in Round 8 at pick 216. While both of these players appeared in the NFL, neither one of them appeared in a regular season game with the Steelers. Trocano played eight games with the Cleveland Browns while Van Pelt had a long career as a backup where he appeared in 31 games with 11 starts all with the Buffalo Bills.

So when it comes to comparing Kenny Pickett to the other five University of Pittsburgh quarterbacks drafted by the Steelers, there is a stark difference. For one, Pickett was the only one drafted within the number of rounds which are currently used in the NFL which started in 1994. Also, Pickett was drafted 179 selections before the next closest Pitt quarterback. But keeping all this in mind, if Kenny Pickett simply takes one snap for the Steelers at some point in his career, he will be the first quarterback drafted out of the University of Pittsburgh to appear in a game for the Steelers.

If removing the stipulation of the player had to be drafted by the Steelers, there has been one quarterback for the University of Pittsburgh to appear in a game for the Steelers. Undrafted in 1998, Pete Gonzalez spent two years with the Steelers mostly as the third quarterback on the roster. But in the Steelers opening game of the 1999 season where they faced the Cleveland Browns who were returning to the NFL after their franchise had been relocated to Baltimore, Gonzalez entered the game in the fourth quarter with the Steelers leading 43–0. After a handoff to Amos Zereoue for no gain, the next two plays, both runs, we’re nullified by offensive holding penalties. After another handoff to Zereoue for two yards, Pete Gonzalez became the only Pitt quarterback to throw a regular season pass for the Pittsburgh Steelers when on 3rd & 22 he completed an 8 yard pass to Hines Ward. After the Steelers punted and recovered a fumble forced by Joey Porter on the second play, the Steelers got the ball back just inside of two minutes remaining. After another handoff to Zereoue for seven yards, Pete Gonzalez went into the record books by having two rushing attempts, both of which were kneel downs for a total loss of three yards.

With the given information, Kenny Pickett’s Steelers career can reach all-time marks for quarterbacks out of the University of Pittsburgh very early once he gets an opportunity. Once Pickett starts a game, he would be the only Pitt quarterback to do so for the Steelers. If Pickett completes two passes, he will have more completions than any other Pitt quarterback in Steelers franchise history. Simply by hitting double digit passing yards, Pickett will become the all-time leader for Pitt Panther quarterbacks with the Steelers. Additionally, if Pickett gets into the game at Heinz Field, he would be the first Steelers quarterback out of the University of Pittsburgh to play in their home stadium as Pete Gonzalez only appearance came on the road.

On the negative side, Kenny Pickett‘s first career incompletion will ruin the perfect percentage of University of Pittsburgh quarterbacks with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But if Kenny Pickett becomes any type of long-term solution at quarterback for the Steelers, the occasional incompletion is something Steelers fans should tolerate.

For more information on this topic, as well as the NFL history of teams drafting two quarterbacks in the same draft and having them both make the team, they were outlined on the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast which is available here: