Just like a Saturday night in the late-70s and early-80s, I will channel my best Ricardo Montalban and fictionally make all your Steeler wishes come true. This time around, BTSC redrafts the top-two choices in each round of the half-decade that granted Steeler Nation arguably the biggest Pittsburgh bust of all drafts, a revolutionary tight end and almost everybody that ever played football at the University of Colorado.
But first the obligatory fine print...
I realize that any changes would possibly alter the Steelers entirely and that the Steelers that we know today could look altogether different. Remember that this is merely an essay on what other possibilities existed. I only chose players drafted within 15 picks of the Steelers actual choice. I only included the first two rounds of each draft from 1975-2015. Remember to have fun as we drift into fantasy and destroy the space-time continuum altogether.
Without further lecture, welcome to Steelers Fantasy Island.
Round 1 Pick 21
Actual Pick: TE Eric Green-Liberty
Re-Pick: RB Emmitt Smith-Florida (Round 1 Pick 17)
Despite a 54-day hold out that cost him his entire rookie training camp, preseason schedule and the first game of 1990, Green had seven touchdowns his rookie year. The athletic TE played five seasons in Pittsburgh that included an alleged suspension for steroids and another holdout. Green had 2,681 yards, 24 touchdowns and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice in Pittsburgh. Despite the Steelers offering him a lucrative deal, No. 86 received big bucks from Miami in 1995. He was an inaugural member of the Ravens in 1996 and ended his career with the Jets in 1999.
The Steelers actually had the 17th pick in the draft but traded down with the Cowboys. Dallas selected Emmitt Smith with that pick. As good as Green was, arguably the greatest rusher ever was available. In fairness, Tim Worley had a pretty good rookie season and the Steelers with Worley and Merril Hoge were seemingly fine at RB. Also, Barry Foster was selected in the fifth round of this draft. It still stings knowing that the Steelers helped Dallas win three rings for a third-rounder that landed Craig Veasey.
Round 2 Pick 43
Actual Pick: DE Kenny Davidson-LSU
Re-Pick: CB Eric Davis-Jacksonville State (Round 2 Pick 43)
Davidson started 22 of 59 games in Pittsburgh. In four, uneventful seasons, the defensive end had eight sacks. He played three more years between Houston and Cincinnati.
Davis had 38 interceptions in 13 seasons (six with San Fran, five with Carolina and one each with Denver and Detroit) and was named to the Pro Bowl twice and an All Pro once.
Round 1 Pick 15
Actual Pick: DE Huey Richardson-Florida
Re-Pick: LB Alfred Williams-Colorado (Round 1 Pick 18)
Huey is regarded as possibly the most ill-advised pick ever in the first round for the Steelers. According to legend, the three players that the Steelers had in their que with three picks to go, all were selected. They didn't have a fourth ready and were forced to scramble and settled on the All-American from Florida. Not familiar with the 3-4 defense, Richardson struggled and only had three tackles in five games for Pittsburgh. Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe arranged a trade before the next season to Washington for a seventh-rounder or he would have been waived. Richardson didn't last that season with the Skins and the Jets and was out of the league in just two seasons.
Too bad that the Steelers didn't scout Alfred Williams out of Colorado. The 1996 All Pro and selection to the Pro Bowl for the Broncos had 59.5 sacks in nine seasons with Cincy, San Fran and Denver.
Round 2 Pick 46
Actual Pick: WR Jeff Graham-Ohio State
Re-Pick: CB Aeneas Williams-Southern (Round 3 Pick 59)
Graham was merely a decent receiver for the Steelers, but ended up having a very good NFL career of 11 seasons with 542 catches, 8,172 yards and 31 TDs. In three Steeler seasons, No. 81 started 23 games, had 89 catches for 1,311 yards and scored one receiving TD for Pittsburgh.
Round 1 Pick 11
Actual Pick: OT Leon Searcy-Miami (FLA)
Re-Pick: No Change
The 11th-overall pick in Bill Cowher's first draft started 48 of 63 games for the Steelers including Super Bowl XXX. The big RT then left for Jacksonville and played another four years. He was named to the Pro Bowl his final season in 1999.
Round 2 Pick 38
Actual Pick: LB Levon Kirkland-Clemson
Re-Pick: No change
The All-American linebacker from Clemson was a key leader of the defense for the majority of the mid and late 1990s. Kirkland was team MVP in 1998 and 1999, a 2X Pro Bowler/All Pro in 1996 and 1997 and was a member of the 1990s All-Decade team.
Round 1 Pick 23
Actual Pick: CB Deon Figures-Colorado
Re-Pick: CB Ryan McNeil-Miami (Round 2 Pick 33)
Figures spent four seasons with the Steelers and started 23 of 61 games. Figures recorded four fumble recoveries, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and one sack in his Steel City career. He was thought to be emerging as a dominant corner in 1994, but the Compton native was the victim of a drive-by shooting that went through his car door in South Central L.A. The bullet penetrated the Steeler player's left knee and hampered him enough to cost Figures his starting job. He left for Jacksonville in 1996 and doubled his interception totals in two seasons to finish with nine in his career. The 6' All-American from Colorado recovered the memorable surprise-onside in Super Bowl XXX.
Dana Stubblefield would have been a productive on-field addition here, but Stubblefield was charged with sexually assaulting a disabled woman in May of 2016 and it's my column, so regardless of 53.5 sacks...he's out. So we'll stick with the Steelers need at corner and select the 1997 interceptions leader and 2001 Pro Bowler, Ryan McNeil. McNeil played in 136 games for six teams and had 31 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries in his 11 NFL seasons.
Round 2 Pick 44
Actual Pick: LB Chad Brown-Colorado
Re-Pick: No change
The Steelers went back to the Colorado well in the second round and found a linebacker that represented them as a1996 AllPro and selection to the Pro Bowl. With two tours of football for the Steelers from 1993-1996 and 2006, Brown was the top rookie in 1993 by winning the Joe Greene Great Performance Award. No. 94 had 31 sacks (13 in '96) and 306 tackles for Pittsburgh. He departed for eight excellent seasons in Seattle and two seperate seasons in New England. His 15-year career totals included 1,088 tackles, 79 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries, six interceptions and three touchdowns.
Round 1 Pick 17
Actual Pick: WR Charles Johnson-Colorado
Re-Pick: No Change
Did the Steelers only send scouts to Colorado in the early 1990s? From 1993-1995, the team selected two of three #1s and two of three #2s. Charles Johnson quietly had a better NFL career than I originally thought. In five seasons with Pittsburgh, Johnson had 247 catches for 3,400 receiving yards and 15 TDs. In four more seasons with three different teams (Phily, Buffalo and New England), CJ had 107 more catches for 1,606 yards and nine TDs and ranks 10th in Steeler history in receptions.
Isaac Bruce was a top receiver in the league for 16 seasons. You can't argue with 1,024 catches for 15,208 yards and 91 touchdowns. The Los Angeles/St. Louis Ram/49er is the fourth-leading receiver in NFL history. However, he went 16 picks after Johnson. Therefore, I can't redraft him. I was going to cheat here, but decided not to.
Round 2 Pick 50
Actual Pick: DT Brentson Buckner-Clemson
Re-Pick: No Change
One wonders how solid of a pick Buckner would have been if he had stayed more than three years. The big DE/DT/NT started 35 games for the Steelers and had eight sacks. He had 21 more in his remaining nine seasons with Cincy, the 49ers and Carolina.
DB Jason Sehorn from USC was available here too, but I'm sticking with Buckner.
Coming soon, Part Five: 1995-1999