5 greatest undrafted free agents in Pittsburgh Steelers history
Most of you already knew he would fall into the number one slot, getting a nod over Davis if only because he eventually made the Hall of Fame in the NFL’s centennial class. However, he deserved the Hall of Fame every bit as much as Sam Davis deserves eventual enshrinement.
He played at South Carolina State University. This begs one to wonder what Chuck Noll saw that all other NFL teams did not see. Considering the draft was 17 rounds at the time, someone could have easily picked him up. His college team had talent, as shown by the fact that the Giants drafted his teammate Harry Carson two years later.
Nonetheless, no one drafted Shell, and then the Steelers signed him after the draft. That was a huge mistake and a failure of other teams to recognize his talent in hindsight. As a rookie, he only had one interception yet helped lead the Steelers to their first championship. He did not become a starter until 1977 when he then had between 3-7 interceptions a season. He finished with 51 interceptions, one short of tying Jack Butler.
Aside from his interceptions and four Superbowl rings, other players regard him as one of the NFL’s hardest hitters. Once in a game in Houston, Donnie Shell walloped Earl Campbell so hard that he broke his ribs.
Even though Shell deserved admission to the Hall of Fame when his career ended, the NFL finally recognized his accomplishments in 2020 on the NFL’s 100th anniversary.