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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10. DT Gabriel Rivera, 1983 (#21)

There are arguments to be made that Rivera should be higher on this list, and there are arguments for him to be left off entirely. Given the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his career, it would be unfair for him to be any higher on the list. Nevertheless, he still needs to be on it.

The 1983 NFL Draft is considered among the greatest drafts in NFL history. It features eight Hall of Famers and 21 players who were First-Team All-Pro selections. Arguably, the most famous player from this draft and the #1 overall pick, John Elway, was never a First-Team All-Pro selection, even though he won two Super Bowls. 

The other most notable player from this class, Dan Marino, never won a Super Bowl. Marino also gained notoriety for his surprising fall in the 1983 NFL Draft. Many expected Marino to be a top selection, but his less-than-stellar senior season (due to a coaching change and talent drain), along with rumors of drug use, caused him to fall in the draft.

With the Steelers still in quarterback purgatory (more on that later), many expected Pittsburgh to select the hometown kid with the 21st overall pick. But there were concerns that Marino playing in his hometown would exacerbate his rumored drug use.

Therefore, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Gabriel Rivera, a defensive tackle out of Texas Tech. Joe Greene had recently retired, so the front office believed Rivera would be the harbinger of the next Steel Curtain. Unfortunately, Rivera never got the chance to prove himself. Midway through his rookie season, he was in a car accident that left him paralyzed.

It’s obviously impossible to speculate either way about Rivera’s career as a Steeler. But passing on Marino prevented the Steelers from building another dynasty in the 1980s. Former Steelers chairman Dan Rooney frequently remarked that one of his greatest regrets was not fighting harder for the team to draft Marino in 1983.