THIS DAY IN SPORTS: The draft that set the Steelers’ foundation


This Day In Sports…January 29, 1974, 50 years ago today:

History would prove the Pittsburgh Steelers to be brilliant with their picks in the NFL Draft, and there was none quite like 1974. This was back when the draft was held about two weeks after the Super Bowl, and the Steelers’ first four choices were wide receiver Lynn Swann, linebacker Jack Lambert, wide receiver John Stallworth, and center Mike Webster. They also signed safety Donnie Shell as an undrafted free agent. The quintet became key components of the Pittsburgh dynasty that would win four of the next six Super Bowls. All five were eventually voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Going into the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the Steelers were the oldest franchise to have never won a league championship (having been founded in 1933). As part of the merger, the Steelers were one of three existing NFL franchises that moved to the AFC in 1970, along with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts. That was also the year that Pittsburgh, coming off a 1-13 season in 1969, Chuck Noll’s first as head coach, earned the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Noll and the Steelers had chosen defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene in the 1969 draft. Then they used the top pick in 1970 to take quarterback Terry Bradshaw of Louisiana Tech, and they added cornerback Mel Blount in the third round. And that’s where it all began. In 1971 Pittsburgh got linebacker Jack Ham in the draft, and the following year it selected running back Franco Harris 13th overall. But it was the 1974 draft that will forever stand out. No other team has ever come close to picking four future Hall of Famers in the same year.

The payoff began that fall, when Pittsburgh went 10-3-1 and followed with a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. MVP: Harris. The Steelers would then go back-to-back by beating the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X. MVP: Swann. They’d get another over the Cowboys after the 1978 season, winning 35-31. MVP: Bradshaw. And the fourth Super Bowl title would come the following year with a 31-19 triumph over the L.A. Rams. MVP: Bradshaw again.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


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