With the first four picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted RB Najee Harris, TE Pat Freiermuth, C Kendrick Green, & OT Dan Moore. You may think this is the first time the Steelers drafted all offensive players with their first four picks, but twice in the Super Bowl era the Steelers loaded up on offense at the top of the draft.
In 1984, the Steelers also went offense with their first four picks. WR Louis Lipps, TE Chris Kolodziejski, WR Weegie Thompson, & G Terry Long. Kolodziejski only played 7 games in his rookie season, starting in 3 of them before leaving football for good after a short career. Long enjoyed 8 long seasons as a starting lineman with 89 starts in 105 games played. Thompson had 25 starts over 98 games in 6 seasons. He had a modest career as a role playing wide receiver with 1,377 yards and 11 TDs.
Lipps was the hit of this draft and became an immediate impact, winning the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors his first 2 seasons. When he retired, he was #2 on the team record books for receptions and yards behind Hall of Famer John Stallworth.
The only other time the Steelers went top heavy with offensive players was in 1976, when the first 6 players drafted were on offense: TE Bennie Cunningham, T Ray Pinney, QB Mike Kruczek, C James Files, G Ron Coder, & WR Ernest Pough in the first 3 rounds of the draft. Files never played in the NFL and Coder was released and played 3 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, ending his final year with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pough was largely a kick returner and only spent 2 seasons in Pittsburgh before playing a final year with the New York Giants. Pinney was a diverse lineman starting in his 3rd season as a right tackle, then started as the left guard in 1980 before moving over to his permanent role protecting the blind side as a left tackle for 5 more seasons.
Kruczek was thrust into the starting role when quarterback Terry Bradshaw went down with a neck injury and went on to win his first 6 games as a starter behind one of the best defensive teams ever assembled. His first 6 wins as a rookie QB was an NFL Record until Ben Roethlisberger passed it with 13 straight wins to start his rookie career. Kruczek never started for the Steelers again in his following 3 seasons and only had one more career start with Washington before leaving the league after the 1980 season.
Cunningham went on to become the most prolific tight end in Steelers history, winning 2 Super Bowls and ending his career with 2,879 yards on 202 catches with 20 touchdowns in 10 seasons. He was an excellent blocker and his numbers were not passed until Heath Miller reset the bar for Pittsburgh tight ends.
Will the class of 2021 enjoy more success than the previous offensive draft classes? Time will tell, but hopefully they can repeat the playoff success of the 1976 and 1983 teams by making it back to the AFC Championship game this season.