Another in a series examining the best of 81 seasons worth of Steelers’ draft picks, designated by round. Today’s installment looks at the history of Round 2:
1950 – ERNIE STAUTNER: The franchise’s most significant player during its first quarter-century of existence, Stautner is the only player to have his jersey number officially retired by the Steelers. Defensive statistics for his era are sketchy, but in only one of his 14 NFL seasons did Stautner miss a game – one in 1953 – and he finished with 23 fumble recoveries. A nine-time Pro Bowl selection, Stautner was named first-team All-Pro once and second-team All-Pro four times. Hall of Fame, Class of 1969.
1953 – JOHN HENRY JOHNSON: His route to the Steelers was circuitous, but ultimately he was worth the wait. After being drafted, Johnson played in Calgary for a year and then had stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions before finally landing back in Pittsburgh for the 1960 season. In Pittsburgh, Johnson rushed for 4,381 yards and 26 touchdowns while catching 106 passes for another 814 yards and six touchdowns. Hall of Fame, Class of 1987.
1971 – JACK HAM: One of the transcendent players of his era, Ham was a linebacker capable of covering wide receivers. He started 160 of his 162 career regular season games with the Steelers, during which he had 53 takeaways – 32 interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries. Ham also had five postseason interceptions, including two in the 1974 AFC Championship Game vs. Oakland. Voted to eight Pro Bowls and named first-team All-Pro six times, Ham was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988. Four Super Bowl rings.
1974 – JACK LAMBERT: His image is of a mean and nasty middle linebacker, but Lambert was a savvy and intelligent one as well. He was voted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1974 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1976 as part of a career that included 45 takeaways – 28 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries – as well as nine trips to the Pro Bowl and six times being named first-team All-Pro. Hall of Fame Class of 1990. Four Super Bowl rings.
1988 – DERMONTTI DAWSON: With the end of Mike Webster’s career drawing near, the Steelers used two picks in 1988 in an attempt to find a replacement. They hit the jackpot with Dawson, who was voted to seven Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro six times. Dawson started 181 games for the Steelers, 176 of them at center, and he was so athletic that he was used to pull and lead a running back around the end. Hall of Fame, Class of 2012.
1989 – CARNELL LAKE: Today, scouts talk reverentially about safeties who can cover like cornerbacks. In his day, Carnell Lake was a safety who covered well enough to actually play cornerback. In 10 seasons with the Steelers, Lake finished with 21.5 sacks, 16 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, and 16 fumble recoveries. In both 1995 and 1997, Lake moved to cornerback to help stabilize the Steelers’ secondary, and the seasons ended with a trip to the Super Bowl and one to the AFC Championship Game, respectively. He was voted to the Pro Bowl four times, and he was named first-team All-Pro in 1997.
1992 – LEVON KIRKLAND: After becoming a regular in 1993, Kirkland never missed a start in the six seasons from 1995-2000, and when his Steelers’ career was over he had 18.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, and eight fumble recoveries. Kirkland was voted to two Pro Bowls, and he was named first-team All-Pro in 1997.
2000 – MARVEL SMITH: He started nine games as a rookie at right tackle, and when his career with the Steelers ended after the 2008 season, Smith had started 108 games at either right tackle or left tackle. He was voted to one Pro Bowl. Two Super Bowl rings.
2002 – ANTWAAN RANDLE EL: The Steelers seemed set on picking Ryan Denney in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft, but when the Buffalo Bills jumped in front of them to pick the BYU product who would be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, the team “settled” for Randle El. An option quarterback in college, Randle El threw it, caught it, and returned it in the NFL, and he made big plays often. The highlight for him and the Steelers was the touchdown pass he completed to Hines Ward to clinch Super Bowl XL. One Super Bowl ring.
In the accompanying video, Bob Labriola and Mike Prisuta each highlight the career of one of these second-round draft picks. Prisuta chooses Dawson, while Labriola goes old-school once again to tab Stautner.
NEXT: Round 1