by David Finoli
Over the past fifty plus years, the Steelers have made many significant draft picks that have helped them capture six Super Bowl titles and put them among the elite of NFL franchises. For the 40 years before that, the picks might not have always been successful. Here are ten Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft picks that may have been good or may not have been in the pre-Super Bowl era, but they are certainly interesting.
Bill Shakespeare (1936, Rd 1)- The Steelers picked a great name to be their first ever draft pick in the NFL. He actually was a great player at Notre Dame, winning All-American honors but in the late 1930’s, players didn’t become rich playing in the NFL. Hell, they probably had difficulty staying above the poverty level, so Shakespeare opted to go into business and never played a down for the Steelers.
Byron “Whizzer” White (1938, Rd 1)- Pittsburgh made him the highest paid player in the league at $15,800 after they drafted him, and he went on to lead the NFL in rushing that year. He ended his career in 1941 after two seasons in Detroit and would eventually become... are you ready?... a Supreme Court Justice, serving 1962-1993. A Supreme Court Justice named Whizzer?
Felix “Doc” Blanchard (1946, Rd 1)- One of the greatest college backs in the history of the game, Pittsburgh took him in the first round of the 1946 draft. Winner of the 1945 Heisman Trophy, Blanchard chose the life of a fighter pilot in the US Air Force, where he eventually became a general instead of playing for the Steelers.
Carl DePasqua (1950, Rd 29)- He came out of Pitt and never actually played for the Steelers but went on to win a NAIA national championship as coach at Waynesburg and eventually took over as head coach at the University of Pittsburgh where he was13-29 over four seasons between 1969-1972. He is also the answer to the trivia question, “Who did Johnny Majors take over for at Pitt?”
Ted Marchibroda (1953, Rd 1)- A quarterback at St Bonaventure and Detroit in college, Marchibroda played over four seasons with Pittsburgh compiling a 16-29 touchdown to interception ratio. He was more successful as a head coach in the NFL with Buffalo and Indianapolis (not so much with the Ravens) with a 87-98-1 mark losing to the Steelers all three times he faced them in the post-season. He was the 1975 NFL Coach of the Year with the Colts.
Gary Glick (1956, Rd 1)- It was said the Steelers scouted Gary Glick out of a Street and Smith’s football preview when they made him the number one pick in the NFL draft in 1956. When you draft out of a magazine, you don’t always get an NFL star. He played four unspectacular seasons with Pittsburgh from 1956-1959.
Len Dawson (1957, Rd 1)- When you pick one of the all-time greats and a Pro Football Hall of Famer in the first round, you’ve made a hell of a pick. The problem was that the Steelers had no concept he was a hall of famer and traded Dawson to the Browns after the 1959 campaign. The Browns also had no concept he was a hall of famer either as he eventually landed in the AFL with the Dallas Texans who became the Kansas City Chiefs. Luckily, they had a concept he was a hall of famer.
Myron Pottios (1962, Rd 2)- A successful middle linebacker out of Notre Dame, Pottios played four seasons in Pittsburgh, being selected to three Pro Bowls for the Steelers. He eventually went to the Rams and played for George Allen. He eventually followed his coach to the Redskins and became one of a group of veteran defensive players that led the Skins to the Super Bowl in 1972.
Andy Russell (1963, Rd 16)- Ok, Ok, Ok. I know that Andy Russell is an important part of the first two Steelers’ Super Bowl championship teams but in 1963, they were bad and had just traded away their first seven picks for the opportunity to remain a bad team. While Russell is the first piece of the Steeler dynasty, I can’t imagine it was anything more than luck that they chose a man who would become a first team All Pro in 1975 and play in seven Pro Bowls in the 16th round.
Paul Martha (1964, Rd 1)- An All-American out of Pitt who led the Panthers to a 9-1 mark in 1963 and a number three ranking, Martha had a fine seven-year career in the NFL with Pittsburgh and Denver as a defensive back/running back/wide receiver/kick returned. The pre-Kordell Stewart if you will. As fine of a player as Martha was, he went on to greater things as the leader of the Pittsburgh version of the DeBartolo Sports Empire as CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Maulers. I’m sure if he were alive today, he’d want us to delete the Maulers from that list.