The pre-draft hype is only now shifting into high gear, but with the NFL owners and the union stuck in a stalemate there is little other NFL news of note.
That leaves us non-draft nick bloggers (they don’t show college games in Buenos Aires) to strolls down memory lane…. Which is convenient, as the Steelers have a rich history, chalked full of any number of benchmark setting precedents, as well as several of the more infamous non-decisions in NFL history.
Attempting to Undo the 1983 Error of Omission
Six NFL teams took quarterbacks in the first round of the 1983 draft, and as everyone knows one of those was not the Steelers, passing up on a chance to grab Central Catholic and Pitt start Dan Marino.
But just five years later, the team would make an attempt to redress their worst draft mistake of the modern era.
23 years ago today, the Steelers shipped off their fourth round draft pick to Kansas City for the second quarterback taken in the 1983 draft, Penn State’s Todd Blackledge.
Mark Malone’s 46.4 passer rating (yes, that’s forty six) in 1987 convinced Chuck Noll to make a change so thoroughly that he was willing to do something he rarely considered, let alone acted upon: Trade for another team’s player.
Although Blackledge had disappointed in Kansas City, he’d had his moments, including leading the Chiefs to a 37-27 victory over the Steelers to open the 1984 season. Blackledge brought a slightly better than .500 record as a passer to Pittsburgh, and as the Post-Gazette’s Bruce Keidan said, he also brought “Hope.”
Hope, however, counted for little, as Bubby Brister won the starting job that summer in Latrobe. Blackledge would go on to start three games in Brister’s absence, including a mid-season victory over Denver following a week when everyone, Terry Bradshaw included, was calling for Noll’s head.
Blackledge also played in three games during the Steelers 1989 season, including leading to the Steelers to their first win at Cleveland Stadium in eight years. He fared worse the next week against Houston leading the team to its second shut out of the year, and found himself demoted to the third team behind Rick Strom for the remainder of the season.
Alas, the Steelers attempt to exorcise the demon of the 1983 draft was in vain.
The Steelers would suffer a case of intuitional remorse for the next 21 years, until Dan Rooney sat in the draft room and made sure coaches took a second look at a certain signal caller who wore number 7 from Miami of Ohio….