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The very best of the undrafted rookies

Posted Apr 22, 2014

In this series, the top picks in Steelers history are listed and debated on a round-by-round basis

The first of a series examining the best of 81 seasons worth of Steelers’ draft picks, designated by round. Today’s installment looks at the history of undrafted rookies:

1951 – JACK BUTLER: Hall of Fame, Class of 2012. With 52 career interceptions, Butler was No. 2 on the NFL’s all-time list when he retired after the 1959 season, and his interception percentage of 50.5 (52 in 103 career games), is the best of any player in the Hall of Fame.

1974 – DONNIE SHELL: A linebacker in college at South Carolina State, Shell made himself into an All-Pro safety whose 51 career interceptions still ranks second on the Steelers’ all-time list. To buy himself time to become a starting safety, Shell was the team’s best special teams player for several seasons. Four Super Bowl rings.

1982 – KEITH WILLIS: A 6-foot-1, 251-pound defensive end when he entered the NFL, Willis led the team in sacks three times over a four-season span of the 1980s. His 59 career sacks still has him sixth on the Steelers’ all-time list.

2001 – CHRIS HOKE: Never a full-time starter at nose tackle because of the presence of Casey Hampton, Hoke still was a valuable member of a defense that finished in the top three in the NFL against the run nine times in his 11 seasons. Two Super Bowl rings.

2002 – JAMES HARRISON: His 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals is one of the defining plays in Super Bowl history. Harrison either led the team or was tied for the team lead in sacks five times over a six-season span. His 64 sacks puts him fourth in franchise history. Two Super Bowl rings.

2004 – WILLIE PARKER: Buried on the depth chart at the University of North Carolina and undrafted as a result, Parker led the team in rushing in 2005-07, and in those three seasons he amassed 4,012 yards. His 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL is the longest in that game’s history. Two Super Bowl rings.

2008 – DOUG LEGURSKY: A versatile offensive linemen who started for the Steelers at both center and guard during his five seasons with the team. He started at center in Super Bowl XLV. One Super Bowl ring.

2009 – RAMON FOSTER: The Steelers have experienced a lot of upheaval along their offensive line in recent times, but one of the constants has been Foster. In his five NFL seasons, Foster has started 57 games.

In the accompanying video, Bob Labriola and Mike Prisuta each make a case for the top player from this particular group. Labriola picks Harrison, while Prisuta gives the nod to Butler.

NEXT: Rounds 8 & later

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