Top 10 worst Pittsburgh Steelers draft picks of all-time

Jarvis Jones New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers
Jarvis Jones New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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QB/HB Johnny Podesto, 1944 (#10), FB Felix “Doc” Blanchard, 1946 (#3), FB/P Butch Avinger, 1951 (#9)

All three players above were drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers/Pirates/Steagles but never played a down for them. Most of them never played professionally in any capacity. Johnny Podesto and Felix “Doc” Blanchard both served with the US Military, which impacted their ability to play professional football. Podesto returned from service and signed with the Steelers but didn’t play.

He later signed with the Chicago Bears but never played there as well. Blanchard won the Heisman while playing for Army, along with three national championships. Even though he was drafted after World War II ended, he elected to remain in the service and joined the Air Force, becoming an accomplished fighter pilot.

Butch Avinger was drafted by the Steelers in 1951 but was only on the roster for an offseason before signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. In 1953, he returned to the NFL with the New York Giants but only played one season in which he primarily served as a punter. 

HB/P Bill Shakespeare, 1936 (#3)

This player deserves special distinction from the previous three due to his historical importance. Even though the Steelers struggled for the next 35 years, it’s hard to imagine any pick going worse than Bill Shakespeare. The NFL Draft was instituted for the league for the first time in 1936, and the Steelers had the third overall pick. With their first draft pick in franchise history, the then-Pittsburgh Pirates selected “The Bard of Staten Island,” coming off an excellent season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 

Unfortunately, Shakespeare never showed up. Given the lack of money in professional football at the time, he instead went into business. He also served during World War II but never played a down of professional football. Overall, it was a pretty poor draft for the Pirates. Of the nine selections in the 1936 draft, only three played in the league, and only two of them actually played for Pittsburgh. 

Over the course of the next 37 seasons, the Steelers/Pirates/Steagles would only finish with a winning record seven times. Now, I’m not saying Shakespeare would have changed that number singlehandedly, especially given the upheaval caused by the war. But it’s hard to get worse than taking a player with the third overall pick and him never playing a single down for the team.