Welcome to Part Three of our fantasy redraft of the the first two rounds of each Steeler draft from 1975-2015. This time around we go back to the Steelers drafts that netted a rhino, Beltin’ Delton, two first-rounders in one year and a pair of HOFers. But first, a review of a very necessary disclaimer.
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.
So here we go again. Tattoo and I would like to welcome you back to Steelers Fantasy Island.
Round 1 Pick 20
Actual Pick: DE Darryl Sims-Wisconsin
Re-Pick: CB Jerry Gray-Texas (Round 1 Pick 21)
Legend has it that the Steelers were heavily interested in selecting Jerry Rice in 1985, but the 49ers had the same idea and traded up. The Steelers then set their sights on Sims, who didn't have quite the impact on the NFL that Rice did. In zero starts, Sims had three sacks for the Steelers in two seasons. He spent two more seasons with Cleveland before going on with his life's work.
Gray spent nine years in the league as a cornerback with three teams. Mostly a Ram, the 4x Pro Bowler had 28 interceptions in 82 career starts.
Round 2 Pick 47
Actual Pick: OT Mark Behning-Nebraska
Re-Pick: DE/LB Simon Fletcher-Houston (Round 2 Pick 54)
Behning was active only for the 1986 season in the NFL. A broken arm sidelined the Nebraska product his rookie year of '85 and an Achilles injury forced him to retire. Behning started one game for the Steelers.
Simon Fletcher is the all-time sacks leader for the Denver Broncos, where he had 97.5 in 11 seasons and was inducted into their Ring of Fame. His 10 straight-games with a sack has Fletcher tied for the NFL record.
Round 1 Pick 9
Actual Pick: G John Rienstra-Temple
Re-Pick: OT/OG Will Wolford-Vanderbilt (Round 1 Pick 20)
Labeled by Hal Hunter (the Steelers offensive line coach) as the next John Hannah, the weightroom-wonder did not quite accomplish as much as the HOF guard for the Patriots. By holding out 28-days as a rookie, Chuck Noll labeled him as a wasted pick. Rienstra battled numerous injuries and a stress disorder that caused him to walk away from training camp in 1988 to get counseling and paint houses. The man known as "Rhino" started 27 games in five years for the Steelers, but never had the career that was expected of him.
Many years later, Wilford concluded his 13-year career with three quality years at tackle and guard on the left side for Pittsburgh. Wilford went to the Pro Bowl on three occasions for Buffalo and Indianapolis. As the protector of Jim Kelly's blind side, Wolford went to four Super Bowls for the Bills.
Round 2 Pick 36
Actual Pick: DE Gerald Williams-Auburn
Re-Pick: No Change
Gerald Williams was very solid defensively in Pittsburgh for the Steelers for nine of his 13 seasons at nose tackle. While Pepper Johnson was a possibility here, Williams matched Johnson with 25.5 career tackles and represented the Steelers well. Williams is a staple as a color analyst for Steeer preseason action.
Round 1 Pick 10
Actual Pick: CB Rod Woodson-Purdue
Re-Pick: No Change
You really don't get much better than this pick. Legend has it that Chuck Noll told DC Tony Dungy not to even bother scouting Woodson because he wouldn't be available to them at the tenth pick. The clouds aligned and he was, giving the Steelers a Hall of Fame corner.
Round 2 Pick 38:
Actual Pick: CB Delton Hall-Clemson
Re-Pick: CB Eric Thomas-Tulane (Round 2 Pick 49)
Hall won the Joe Greene Great Performance award because of three interceptions and his hard hitting style. However, "Beltin' Delton" never came close to duplicating the production of his rookie year.
Mostly in Cincinnati, Thomas accomplished much more at corner with 17 picks for three teams in nine years. Thomas went to the Pro Bowl with the Bengals in 1988.
Round 1 Pick 18
Actual Pick: DE Aaron Jones-Eastern Kentucky
It's hard to believe that Jones spent nine seasons in the NFL and had 18 sacks for three franchises. For five seasons, the defensive end had 9.5 sacks for the Steelers.
There were numerous players that could have been franchise Steelers among the 15 picks after Jones. Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel was drafted with the very next pick. LB Chris Spielman, RB Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, CB Eric Allen and RB Ickey Woods all were available also.
Round 2 Pick 44
Actual Pick: C/G Dermontti Dawson
Re-Pick: No Change
Dawson was selected and played as a guard in 1988, but moved over to center to replace (the departed-to-Kansas City) Hall of Famer that was Mike Webster the next season. The man known as "Dirt" was First-team All Pro six times and a 7x Pro Bowler. Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012,
Round 1 Pick 7
Actual Pick: RB Tim Worley-Georgia
Re-Pick: S Steve Atwater-Arkansas (Round 1 Pick 20)
Worley gained only 1,338 rushing yards in four seasons for the Steelers, well below the expectations of the seventh choice in the blockbuster draft of 1989. A promising rookie-year saw Worley gain 770 yards and all five of his Steeler TDs, but injuries and a substance-abuse suspension derailed his career permanently. Worley was traded in 1993 to Chicago and out of the league altogether the next year.
Andre Rison was another possibility here too, but Atwater seemed to have been more of a stable player that would have meshed better with Noll. The Bronco and Jet was a 3x All Pro and an 8x Pro Bowler for 10 seasons in Denver. A member of the 1990s All-Decade Team, Atwater had 1,180 tackles and 24 interceptions in his career.
Round 1 Pick 24
Actual Pick: OT Tom Ricketts-Pittsburgh
Re-Pick: G Steve Wisniewski-Penn State (Round 2 Pick 29)
The Steelers ended the 1988 season-long holdout of Mike Merriweather by trading him to Minnesota for another first-round pick. The local kid from Franklin Regional and Pitt was drafted by his hometown team, but it didn't work out as well as all had hoped. Ricketts played three of his five NFL seasons with the Steelers at right guard, but only started 13 games.
Round 2 Pick 34
Actual Pick: S Carnell Lake-UCLA
Re-Pick: No Change
After what was the debacle that was 1989's Round One, Carnell Lake's selection was the saving grace of the draft. The current coach of the Steeler DBs was an unselfish player who was a First-team All Pro in 1997 and went to the Pro Bowl four times as a Steeler and another occasion with the Jags. In 10 years in the Steel City, Lake had all 16 of his career interceptions. Lake's greatest performance may just be his moving to cornerback to replace an injured Rod Woodson in the Super Bowl XXX season.
Join us tomorrow for Part Four of Steelers Fantasy Island and 1990-1994.