Hall of Fame players Steelers could have drafted but did not

CANTON, OH (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami Dolphins Dan Marino (Photo credit should read MONICA M. DAVEY/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Steelers ‘missed the boat’ on a local product whose career earned him enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

With the twenty-first pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft, the Steelers selected Gabe Rivera, NT out of Texas Tech; the Miami Dolphins selected Dan Marino, QB out of Pitt, with the twenty-seventh pick.  Rivera’s career with the Steelers was tragically cut short as a result of an automobile accident; however, in the six games in which he played, Rivera tallied two sacks.

So when I say the Steelers ‘missed the boat’ on Marino, what I mean by that is this:  In 1982, our QBs on the roster were Terry Bradshaw, who was in the waning years of his career at 34 years of age, Cliff Stodut, who had not seen any meaningful action in a regular or postseason game since having been selected in the fifth round of the 1977 draft, and Mark Malone, the Steelers first-round pick in 1980.

The following season, a now 35-year-old Bradshaw would be our starting QB with question marks as backups.  I can only assume the Steelers were comfortable with our QB situation, thus the drafting of Rivera made sense.  No one could have predicted that Bradshaw would play only one game in 1983 and that the Steelers would not have another franchise QB in the fold until 2004.  As an aside, I do believe Rivera would have had an exceptional Steelers career; however and unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

We all know what type of career Marino enjoyed.  Culminating with his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marino played his entire seventeen-year career with the Dolphins, made nine Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro three times, was named the Offensive Player of the Year in 1984 and was named league MVP once.  Stoudt left the Steelers after the 1983 season for the greener pastures of the USFL and Malone amassed a losing record of 21 and 24 in his seven seasons with us.

Let’s wrap up this particular discussion.