When the Steelers organization hired Chuck Noll to be their head coach in 1969, a tradition was started. Noll, along with the Rooney’s had chosen to build the team up in the draft instead of focusing on acquisitions through free agency. The new head coach for the Steelers would use his very first draft pick in the NFL to acquire defensive tackle, Joe Greene. In the years to follow, he’d use his first round draft picks for quarterback Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris.
Through his tenure as coach, Chuck Noll would continue to pull in high caliber talent utilizing the draft. His most memorable draft, considered the best draft not only in franchise history, but also in the history of the NFL would be in 1974, when four of his picks that year would go on to be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. In that draft class, were the likes of Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. No other team in the history of the NFL had a draft that netted four HOF players before or after that 74 draft.
The Steelers would go on to win four Superbowls with this philosophy with Noll, becoming the first dynasty in a Superbowl era NFL. After Noll retired, the Steelers organization would continue on with the mindset of build their team through the draft. The teams under Bill Cowher would go on to win 8 division titles, two AFC Championship titles and one Superbowl ring.
Once Bill Cowher retired, enter former Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator, Mike Tomlin. Tomlin would take over the slot of Steelers, after an .500 season. His position would be any head coaches dream. An organization that provided stability for it’s head coaches, and a team that was not hanging together by chicken wire and glue, but that had a solid veteran leadership and lots of young talent in the wings waiting to step in, thanks to the draft.
Tomlin, in his first year as the Steelers head coach would advance into the first round of the playoffs, in his second year, have a Superbowl ring and going into his third year, poised to do a repeat, due to the low number of turnover through free agency, and the backfill available through previous drafts.
Come this weekend, eyes will be on New York City and the NFL draft. Most fans will be hoping for this person or that to drop to their team to fill immediate needs. If you’ve been a long time Steelers fan, like many of us, you know that you’re not going to end up with what you believe the Steelers should pick, and we may end up cursing Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert as to why he felt he had to pickup ANOTHER tight end in the draft, or why go so high for a punter, or why not use the first round to shore up the offensive line. Somehow though the picks seem to work out for the best.
Don’t expect an exciting draft for the Black and Gold. Steelers will more then likely draft for the future and not “immediate” needs. But then, that’s how the Steelers have had such success since bringing in Chuck Noll, by building a team to be winners, not bringing in winners to build a team.