His hands were too small, his 40 time was marked by sundial and he liked to party with the boys, but quarterback Dan Marino sure could play and Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula knew it. So after five quarterbacks had been taken in the first round on April 26, 1983, Shula and the Miami Dolphins selected Marino with the 27th pick of the draft. He went on to throw more passes for more completions, more yards and more touchdowns than any player in NFL history.
The team picking 27th on the 20th anniversary is the team that may have received
more criticism than any other for allowing Marino to fall so far, because the
Pittsburgh Steelers watched the native son grow up.
Perhaps all of it adds up to some type of karma that will allow the Steelers to
make up for their past sin. Perhaps, as CNN/Sports Illustrated is predicting,
another tremendous quarterback, who's being nitpicked by scouts, Byron
Leftwich of Marshall, will fall into the Steelers' laps on April 26. Steelers
fans can dream, can't they?
The Steelers have picked 27th in the first round only one other time and the
results weren't bad. Tight end Mark Bruner never became a Pro Bowler, and his
8-year career is presently hanging in the balance as he recovers from radical
microfracture surgery on his knee, but he's had a solid career, one that would
rank among the top tier of those selected in that draft range.
The Steelers have selected in the 25-to-29 range of the first round seven times
and come away with two Pro Bowlers. Actually, cornerback Dave Brown (26th, 1975)
made the Pro Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks, who'd claimed him from the
Steelers in the 1976 expansion draft.
Alan Faneca (26th, 1998) is working on two consecutive Pro Bowls and Bruener and
Bennie Cunningham (28th, 1976) had productive careers as tight ends with the
Steelers. On the down side, running back Greg Hawthorne (28th, 1979) and tackle
Jamain Stephens (29th, 1996) were flat busts, but quarterback Mark Malone (28th,
1980) may have had a more devastating impact on the franchise. His place as
Quarterback of the Future in the spring of 1983 may have had more to do with the
Steelers passing on Marino than any of the scouts' perceived flaws.
As for the pick in general, there have been as many convicted murderers selected
27th as Hall of Famers. Marino, of course, is in the Hall of Fame and wide
receiver Rae Carruth (1997, Carolina) is in jail.
Other notable 27th picks of the modern era (1970) include defensive end Julius
Adams (1971, New England), guard Reggie McKenzie (1972, Buffalo) and quarterback
Tommy Kramer (1977, Minnesota). Those are the best of what appears to be a thin
history, however, the halfbacks have done well. Charles White (1980, Cleveland),
Neal Anderson (1986, Chicago) and Michael Bennett (2001, Minnesota) became
1,000-yard rushers. The only other halfback selected 27th, Lorenzo Hampton
(1985, Miami), peaked at 830 yards rushing in 1986.
For sheer volume, the four halfbacks give the position a slight lead over the
offensive tackles who've been drafted 27th. Seven tackles have been chosen at
the spot, giving the position a 3.5-to-1 ratio. Aaron Gibson (1999, Detroit) is
the most notable of the group, only because he became the league's first
No one drafted 27th in the first round has ever played safety on a regular basis
in the NFL. Aaron Kyle (1976, Dallas) and Jeff Burris (1994, Buffalo) played
free safety at Wyoming and Notre Dame, respectively, but played cornerback in
the NFL, as did the only pure corner drafted 27th, Mike Rumph (2002, San
Knowing that, perhaps the safety-thin Steelers might stick with history's
guide. Only two quarterbacks were chosen 27th, and both Marino and Kramer
enjoyed fine careers.
As for the history of the Steelers' second-round pick, No. 59, it's dubious
at best. Quarterback Jeff Hostetler (1984, New York Giants), cornerback Aeneas
Williams (1991, Phoenix), linebacker Steve Tovar (1993, Cincinnati) and
cornerback Jason Sehorn (1994, Giants) are clearly the best of a motley crew
that includes Scott Shields, for whom the Steelers traded down 15 spots in 1999.
They drafted Shields that year and, later, with the additional third-round pick
gained in the trade, drafted Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter.
By Jim Wexell
Steel City Sports.com
No. 27: Will the football gods forgive Steelers?
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