The NFL draft is coming up and the Steelers will, once again, rely building heavily through the draft instead of free agency. There are some rounds that the Steelers excel in. Of course, the first round the Steelers have brought in a plethora of Hall of Famers like Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Rod Woodson, Alan Faneca and Troy Polamalu. Teams are expected to find their best talent at the top of the draft. But the other rounds are where it becomes tougher. BTSC will go back to 1969 (when the Chuck Noll era began) and rank the best Round 4 picks in team lore. Rankings were aided somewhat by the Career Average Value stat from Pro Football Reference.
Notable No. Fours: Kevin Dotson (2020), Benny Snell Jr. (2019), Martavis Bryant – Clemson (2014), Joshua Dobbs (2017), Cortez Allen – The Citadel (2011), Daniel Sepulveda – Baylor (2007), Willie Colon – Hofstra (2006), Oliver Gibson – Notre Dame (1995), Kevin Henry – Mississippi State (1993), Adrian Cooper – Oklahoma (1991). Chris Calloway – Michigan (1990), Jerrol Williams – Purdue (1989), Dan Turk – Wisconsin (1985), Weegie Thompson – Florida State (1984), Rick Woods – Boise State (1982), Calvin Sweeney – USC (1979), Larry Anderson – Louisiana Tech (1978), Ted Petersen – Eastern Illinois (1977), Theo Bell – Arizona (1976), Jimmy Allen – UCLA (1974), Ed Bradley – Wake Forest (1972), Ed George – Wake Forest (1970)
10. Deshea Townsend – University of Alabama (1998 – 117th overall)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Deshea Townsend is one of those blue-collar Steelers that will never be recognized as a team legend, but he was a prominent piece of the puzzle for two Pittsburgh Super Bowl winners. Drafted in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL Draft, the Alabama Crimson Tide corner began to make a name for himself as a special teams standout as a rookie. The first player to be issued No. 26 since Rod Woodson’s departure, Townsend was a valuable reserve for the Steelers secondary corps before finally becoming a starter in Year 7 opposite Ike Taylor.
Townsend held down his post as the team’s primary right corner for four straight seasons before accepting the responsibilities as the teams slot corner for his final two seasons. Deshea always had a knack for coming up big when the team needed a big stop on defense. His sack of Matt Hasselbeck (pictured above) helped seal the victory for the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, while his 25-yard pick-six of Tony Romo was the winning score in a key December 2008 game during the Super Bowl XLIII season. After a 12-year career in Pittsburgh, Deshea left the Steelers in 2010 for half of a season with the Colts. His final tallies as a Steeler were 183 games, 15.5 sacks and 21 interceptions. Since retiring, Deshea has been a defensive backs coach for the Arizona Cardinals, Mississippi State, Tennesse Titans, New York Giants and the Chicago Bears.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Townsend in 1998: 1) Alan Faneca – LSU, 2) Jeremy Staat – Arizona State, 3) Chris Conrad – Fresno State, 3) Hines Ward – Georgia
Player drafted one spot ahead of Townsend in 1998: Clarence Love – Philadelphia Eagles (Toledo)
Player drafted one spot behind Townsend in 1998: Harry Deligianis – Jacksonville Jaguars (Youngstown State)
9. Terry Long – University of Florida (1984 – 111th overall)
After playing football at Fort Bragg while in the United States Army, Terry Long ended up at East Carolina after first enrolling at a junior college. As an ECU Pirate, Long was a consensus All-American offensive lineman. Chuck Noll then came calling and drafted Terry in the fourth round of the 1984 Draft. As a rookie, No. 74 started seven games for the team that would end up falling in the AFC Championship Game in Miami. In his eight seasons at Three Rivers, the right guard was a very dependable lineman who started 89 games from 1984 to 1991. A day after his testing positive for steroids in ‘91, Long attempted to take his own life by ingesting rat poisoning. The Steelers lineman endured bouts of depression due to CTE and went through legal troubles as well. Tragically, Terry Long committed suicide by ingesting antifreeze at the age of 45.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Long in 1984: 1) Louis Lipps – Southern Mississippi, 2) Chris Kolodziejski – Wyoming, 4) Weegie Thompson – Florida State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Long in 1984: Steve DeOssie – Dallas Cowboys (Boston College)
Player drafted one spot behind Long in 1984: Ron Heller – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Penn State)
8. Thomas Everett – Baylor University (1987 – 94th overall)
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Thomas Everett arrived in Pittsburgh via the fourth round from Baylor in Donnie Shell’s final season and continued “The Torpedo’s” legacy of hard hitting. The consensus All-American and Jim Thorpe Award winner may have dropped in the draft due to being only 5’9”, but No. 27 played big for the Steelers and was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team in 1987. Everett sat out the first two games of his 1992 campaign and the Steelers dealt the safety to the Dallas Cowboys for a fifth-round pick, where he won two Super Bowls and was elected to his only Pro Bowl. In his five seasons as a Steeler, Everett collected 16 interceptions, forced four fumbles and recovered 7.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Everett in 1987: 1) Rod Woodson – Purdue, 2) Delton Hall – Clemson, 3) Charles Lockett – Long Beach State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Everett in 1987: Byron Evans – Philadelphia Eagles (Arizona)
Player drafted one spot behind Everett in 1987: Kelvin Martin – Dallas Cowboys (Boston College)
7. Earl Holmes – Florida A&M University (1996 – 126th overall)
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When Earl Holmes was selected in the fourth round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Florida A&M, the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year reportedly congratulated Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher for selecting “the best linebacker in the draft”. Holmes mouth didn’t write checks his talent couldn’t cash. He was a leader on defense for six seasons in a Steelers uniform. The inside linebacker had 546 tackles (35 for loss), nine sacks and four fumble recoveries for the Steelers before moving onto Cleveland via free agency. After one remarkable season as a Brown, Holmes spent three seasons as a Lion before retiring. After serving on his alma mater’s coaching staff, Holmes became the head coach for the Rattlers in 2012, but was fired after a 6-16 record. A lawsuit for not honoring the contract was filed by Holmes and is still pending. Known as “Hitman” in Pittsburgh, Holmes allegedly voiced regret for leaving Pittsburgh via free agency all those years ago.
Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Holmes in 1996: 1) Jamain Stephens – North Carolina A&T, 3) Steve Conley – Arkansas, 3) Jon Witman – Penn State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Holmes in 1996: LaCurtis Jones – Miami Dolphins (Baylor)
Player drafted one spot behind Holmes in 1996: Juran Bolden – Atlanta Falcons (Mississippi Delta Community College)
6. Ike Taylor – Louisiana-Lafayette University (2003 – 125th overall)
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At Louisiana-Lafayette, Ike Taylor was a running back that asked to switch to corner before his senior season and the move payed off. The man from ‘Swaggin’ was drafted as an athlete and a project in the fourth round of a draft in which the Steelers only made five picks in 2003. In fact he was a tremendous athletic specimen at 6’1’ with blazing speed. But still the pick was deemed to be the worst in team history by critic Mark Madden. By his third season, Ike was named a starter by defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau. From 2003 to 2014, the shutdown corner had 134 pass defenses, but only 14 interceptions. Had Taylor possessed better hands, he would have been a perennial Pro Bowler. However, No. 24 came up huge in Super Bowl XL with a key pick late. Nonetheless, Ike was the best corner on his two Lombardi-winning clubs and a major team force. He was also a locker room leader on a dominating defense during his twelve seasons at Heinz Field and was a pall bearer for beloved Steelers chairman Dan Rooney in 2017.
Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Taylor in 2003: 1) Troy Polamalu – USC, 2) Alonzo Jackson – Florida State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Taylor in 2003: Brandon Lloyd – San Francisco 49ers (Illinois)
Player drafted one spot behind Taylor in 2003: Rien Long – Tennessee Titans (Washington State)
5. Gerry Mullins – University of Southern California (1971 – 86th overall)
The man that they called ”Moon” because of a comic strip called Moon Mullins spent his entire NFL career in Pittsburgh. A fourth-round pick in 1971 out of USC where he blocked for O.J. Simpson, Mullins helped protect Terry Bradshaw and open holes for Franco Harris in all four Super Bowls of the 1970s. Mullins’ pull on a sweep helped Harris score in Super Bowl IX and the versatile lineman also recovered an onside kick in Super Bowl X. The first veteran with four rings to get his release, Mullins was offered opportunities with Cleveland and Washington, but opted to retire and stay in Pittsburgh. Gerry Mullins was named to theSteelers 50th Anniversary team in 1982.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Mullins in 1971: 1) Frank Lewis – Grambling, 2) Jack Ham – Penn State, 3) Steve Davis – Delaware State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Mullins in 1971: Mike Potchad – Atlanta Falcons (Pittsburg-KS)
Player drafted one spot behind Mullins in 1971: Cleo Johnson – Denver Broncos (Alcorn A&M)
4. Larry Foote – University of Michigan (2002 – 128th overall)
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Larry Foote, a fourth-round selection out of Michigan in 2002, was a solid performer for the Steelers in two stints with the team, three Super Bowl appearances, and two championship rings. Foote’s breakout year came in his fourth season, the one that culminated in Super Bowl XL and the hoisting of the Lombardi. His interception in the AFC Championship in Denver thwarted a tide-turning drive and helped get the Steelers and Foote back home to Detroit for the big one. After a second championship in 2008 but a reduced role behind Lawrence Timmons, the Michigan native was released and signed on for one season with his hometown Lions. Returning after a year away, Foote resigned with the Steelers for four more years and was released in 2013. He then spent a season with the Cardinals before a transition into coaching. After a four-year stint as the linebackers coach in Arizona, Foote performs that same role currently in Tampa Bay. All in all, Larry Foote was a productive player for eleven total seasons in Pittsburgh.
Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Foote in 2002: 1) Kendall Simmons – Auburn, 2) Antwaan Randle El – Indiana, 3) Chris Hope – Florida State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Foote in 2002: Kevin Curtis – San Francisco 49ers (Texas Tech)
Player drafted one spot behind Foote in 2002: Jamar Martin – Dallas Cowboys (Ohio State)
3. Aaron Smith – Northern Colorado University (1999 – 109th overall)
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Aaron Smith, named to the Sports Illustrated 2000s All-Decade Team, spent 13 seasons in the trenches for the Steelers. The Pro Bowler had 453 tackles and 44 quarterback sacks during his career, ranking him 11th on the all-time ledger. Drafted out of Northern Colorado in the fourth round of the 1999 draft, the blue-collar Smith is remembered by Steelers fans as a tough defensive end who personified the true grit of playing in the Steel City. Smith did suffer three major injuries in Pittsburgh, and the neck injury which sidelined Aaron in 2011 after four games led to his retirement in 2012. Aaron Smith is a two-time Super Bowl Champion and had appeared in five AFC Title Games.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of Smith in 1999: 1) Troy Edwards – Louisiana Tech, 2) Scott Shields – Weber State, 2) Warren Bankston – Tulane, 3) Joey Porter – Colorado State, 3) Kris Farris – UCLA, 3) Amos Zeroue – West Virginia
Player drafted one spot ahead of Smith in 1999: Larry Parker – Kansas City Chiefs (USC)
Player drafted one spot behind Smith in 1999: Pierson Prioleau – San Francisco 49ers (Virginia Tech)
2. Dwight White – East Texas State University (1971 – 104th overall)
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A member of the fabled Steel Curtain, the intense “Mad Dog” was a four-time Super Bowl champ and is the first player to score points for the Steelers in a Super Bowl. Even though he was projected not to play in the game due to being hooked up to an IV in the hospital and losing 20 pounds because of suffering from pneumonia, White recorded a safety by sacking Fran Tarkenton in the end zone in Super Bowl IX. White was also known as the trash talker among the group. L.C. Greenwood once stated that it was hard to hear on the line with Dwight constantly talking. The two-time Pro Bowler spent all of his 10 years in Pittsburgh and recorded 46 sacks. Remembered by Dan Rooney as “one of the greatest players to ever wear a Steelers uniform”, White was named to the Steelers All Time Team in 1982 and again in 2007. He retired after ten seasons after the 1980 season. Dwight White passed away after complications from surgery in 2010.
Steelers Players drafted ahead of White in 1971: 1) Frank Lewis – Grambling, 2) Jack Ham – Penn State, 3) Steve Davis – Delaware State, 4) Gerry Mullins – USC
Player drafted one spot ahead of White in 1971: Adam Mitchell – Dallas Cowboys (Mississippi)
Player drafted one spot behind White in 1971: Tim Kelly – Boston Patriots (Notre Dame)
1. John Stallworth – Alabama A&M University (1974 – 82nd overall)
From the epic Steelers draft class of 1974, John Stallworth was drafted in the fourth round out of Alabama A&M after the Steelers drafted USC’s Lynn Swann in the first round. “Johnny Lee” became Terry Bradshaw’s most reliable go-to-guy in later years. The Hall of Famer was productive later in his career, having his best season with career highs of 80 catches, 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1984. He ended with 537 receptions, 8,723 yards and 63 scores. Stallworth was also the guy that came up big in the postseason with 57 catches and 12 TDs in 18 career games. His Super Bowl performances were the stuff of legends, but he never won the MVP in four tries. Stallworth was selected to three Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro in 1979 and is a member of the Steelers’ All-Time team.
Steelers Player Drafted ahead of Stallworth in 1974: 1) Lynn Swann – USC, 2) Jack Lambert – Kent State
Player drafted one spot ahead of Stallworth in 1974: Harrison Davis – San Diego Chargers (Virginia)
Player drafted one spot behind Stallworth in 1974: Clint Haselrig – San Francisco 49ers (Michigan)
This is a really solid list of players that the Steelers found in the fourth round. A lot of them weren’t familiar names to Steeler Nation before they were selected.