PITTSBURGH — Following a disappointing season where they failed to make the playoffs, the Steelers will get a glimpse into their future on Thursday night when the 2023 NFL Draft gets underway at 8 p.m. in Kansas City.
Since the season ended, the Steelers have navigated through free agency and prepared for their future while scouting players at the Senior Bowl, and a long list of college Pro Days. Meanwhile, the fans have feasted on mock drafts and speculation on which position they need to use their top pick.
Now it’s time for this year’s draft class to take center stage. The Steelers have three picks in the top 50 (17th overall, 32nd overall, 49th overall). Barring a trade to move up in the first round, which is a possibility, the Steelers won’t jump into action until later in the night.
A team never knows for sure what the NFL Draft might bring, and as the Steelers prepare for their 91st season, and their 88th draft, they’re hoping to select a star, or a handful of players, that will help solidify the franchise for the next decade, and beyond.
The first draft pick in the history of the franchise was William Shakespeare, the NFL’s third overall pick in 1936. Shakespeare was a halfback and punter from Notre Dame, who would become a decorated World War II hero who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Shakespeare’s family claimed to be direct descendants of the English playwright.
In 1938, the Steelers drafted a future U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Byron “Whizzer” White, as their first-round pick that year. They’ve drafted players with nicknames like “Bullet Bill” (Dudley, 1942), “Mean Joe” (Greene, 1969), and “Big Ben” (Roethlisberger, 2004).
The Steelers have had a long list of prominent draft picks, including 16 future Hall of Famers. Their best draft class was without question, 1974, when their first-round selection (Lynn Swann), second-round selection (Jack Lambert), fourth-round selection (John Stallworth), and fifth-round selection (Mike Webster) all finished their careers with enshrinement in Canton. A fifth player from that year also made it to Canton. Donnie Shell was undrafted but would join his teammates in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The annual draft also comes with the age-old debate, is it best to draft for position or player, for a need or for the best available athlete? There are specific positions of need for the Steelers this year, including offensive tackle, defensive line, and cornerback. The Steelers have traded away their first-round pick eight times but have used their first-round selection to draft nine eventual Hall of Fame players, Bill Dudley, Len Dawson, Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Rod Woodson, Alan Faneca and Troy Polamalu.
Ben Roethlisberger will join that list in the next few years. Four first-round picks of the Steelers went on to win the MVP of a Super Bowl (Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Santonio Holmes). This year, Faneca will announce the Steelers’ 2nd Round pick. The draft concludes on Saturday.
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