Pittsburgh Steelers: Linebacker Drafting History


Aug 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) and outside linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) in pass coverage against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Panthers won 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Alvin “Bud” Dupree with their first pick in the 2015 draft at number 22, it marked the third straight year Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have selected a linebacker as their first choice in the draft.

More from Pittsburgh Steelers

For the record, Dupree becomes the 91st linebacker in Steelers history to be picked in the draft since the process began in 1936. Since 2000, Pittsburgh has drafted 17 linebackers and six in the last five years. As for those who were the first pick overall by the Steelers, Dupree is just the fifth.

Ryan Shazier was number one last year; Jarvis Jones in 2013; Lawrence Timmons came in 2007; Huey Richardson was perhaps Pittsburgh’s biggest bust ever as 1991’s top pick; and Robin Cole was drafted 21st overall in 1977 with Pittsburgh’s first choice. The earliest any of that group had their name called was Shazier, Timmons, and Richardson, all coming at the 15th pick in the draft.

As for levels of success, Timmons has become one of the finest linebackers in the NFL. Shazier is only entering his sophomore season and needs to stay healthy in 2015 and avoid the injury bug that plagued him last season. He did show promise on the field last year but he still has much to prove.

Jarvis Jones had trouble getting into the starting lineup in his rookie campaign, and has been slow to progress to the point where the Steelers believe he can perform.

As indicated, Richardson failed miserably and was and is considered a bust. Robin Cole is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers a part of the winning team in Super Bowl XIII and XIV. In the 1980 Super Bowl against the Los Angeles Rams, Cole had an interception. He would play 11 years in the league all with Pittsburgh except in 1988 when he moved to the Jets and then retired following the season.

For Dupree, he can only hope that in time he falls in line with the great Steelers linebackers in history. Those have been many. Penn State University alumni are well familiar with a nickname they’ve adopted, “Linebacker U.”

That may be so for college teams but in the pros, the Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their great linebacking units over the years. Prior to becoming a dynasty in the 1970s, Andy Russell was already known as one of the league’s best at his position.

Russell is a University of Missouri product, and the Steelers have drafted just three from Penn State. One of them is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame…Jack Ham. The other two were Eric Ravotti, and Ralph Baker.

The list of great linebackers is nearly endless. Names like Earl Holmes, Jason Gildon, Chad Brown, Levon Kirkland, Hardy Nickerson, Greg Lloyd, Mike Merriweather, Bryan Hinkle, David Little, Cole, Dennis “Dirt” Winston, Jack Lambert, Ham, and Russell provided the reputation at the position the Steelers still hold today.

Perhaps Greg Lloyd set the example for Steelers mentality for a Black and Gold linebacker with several quotes during his playing days, including “I wasn’t hired for my disposition.”

“I wasn’t hired for my disposition.” Greg Lloyd

That one line he wore the back of a tee shirt. Even more dramatic was Lloyd’s response to commentary from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath who accused the Steelers linebacker of playing dirty. Lloyd fired back with this zinger, “Who is Joe Namath? This is a guy who, if he played in the league today, I’d probably just go hit him late and see what he did, just for the (insert curse word) of it!”

As for those who preceded Dupree of being drafted by the Steelers after playing at Kentucky, there have been 11 such players and two linebackers.

The two ‘backers were Jeff Brady picked in the 12th round of the 1991 draft, and Cam Jacobs who arrived in Pittsburgh as the 136th player taken overall in the fifth round.

Can Dupree become as great as Hall-of-Famer Dermontti Dawson another Kentucky product? Only the next few years will determine the path the newest top rookie will take.

Next: Who will Steelers choose in second and third rounds?

More from City of Champions