The greatest draft class in NFL history

The most remarkable aspect of the draft class the Steelers amassed in 1974 might not be that four players destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame were taken in the first five rounds.

The most remarkable aspect of the draft class the Steelers amassed in 1974 might be that only five players taken in the entire 26-team, 17-round process wound up enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

Dave Casper, a tight end from Notre Dame, went to Oakland on the 45th overall pick. The other four from 1974 who earned professional football immortality did so in Pittsburgh.

*Lynn Swann, wide receiver, USC, first round, 21st overall.

*Jack Lambert, linebacker, Kent State, second round, 46th overall.

*John Stallworth, wide receiver, Alabama A&M, fourth round, 82nd overall.

*Mike Webster, center, Wisconsin, fifth round, 125th overall.

The rest is literally history.

Swann (HOF, 2001) played with the Steelers through the 1982 season and earned All-Pro honors three times. He was also named MVP of Super Bowl X, the first wide receiver to be so anointed.

Lambert (HOF, 1990) played through 1984. He was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1974, a two-time NFL defensive Player of the Year, and an eight-time All-Pro.

Stallworth (HOF, 2002) played through 1987 and retired as the Steelers' all-time leader in touchdown receptions (63) and receiving yards (8,723).

Webster (HOF, 1997) played through 1988. He was a seven-time All-Pro and started 150 consecutive games from 1976-86.

All four players earned four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers.

No official designation has been bestowed upon the Steelers' 1974 draft class as the greatest in NFL history. Then again, no such official designation seems necessary.

"To me there's no question about that," said Bill Nunn, the Steelers' assistant director of player personnel in 1974 and a senior assistant in player personnel with the Steelers today. "I think it has to be considered that."

Happy 40th anniversary.

To celebrate this anniversary, will, on subsequent Mondays, look back to that 1974 draft. To what happened and why, and to what it meant as the Steelers put the finishing touches on a team that would go on to win four Super Bowls in six seasons.

Coming next Monday: How it was done, the draft process in 1974.

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