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THE 1976 DRAFT

As the Steelers entered the 1976 draft, only Mike Collier survived from the previous year when the franchise had the last choice because of their Super Bowl victory. With selections through trades, they expected do better this year, especially with three second round picks.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette forecast the Steelers would be looking for defensive linemen as a hedge against Joe Greene’s injuries and Ernie Holmes off-field troubles and offensive linemen to fill the gaps after the loss of their three players to the earlier expansion draft.

Art Rooney Jr. told the newspaper that it was a good year for centers. “This year, there are three exceptional ones (Boston College’s Don Macek, Washington’s Ray Pinney and Colorado’s Pete Brock),” Rooney offered. “Brock is likely to go very, very quickly. Tight end is another position with unusual strength this year.”

“We like Bennie Cunningham, but he won’t last long,” Rooney predicted.

STEELERS DRAFT TIGHT END BENNIE CUNNINGHAM WITH #1 PICK

Bennie Cunningham media photo“He’s a big strong kid with good speed and good hands,” enthused Chuck Noll.  “We thought he was the best guy available when it came our time to draft.”

“Cincinnati we interested in me, but I never dreamed I’d be playing for Pittsburgh,” said Cunningham. “I wasn’t sure I’d go in the first round because I had an off-season last year.”

David Hill of Texas A&M and Cunningham of Clemson were rated as the top tight ends, but the Steelers preferred Cunningham for his blocking techniques.

In the second round, the Steelers selected offensive linemen Ray Pinney and Jim Files and a quarterback in Mike Kruczek. The latter choice was perceived as preparing the way for the departure of Joe Gilliam.


STEELERS DRAFT RATING

“It’s a real good draft for Pittsburgh,” concluded Ralph Kohl of Blesto. “I’m not saying it’s the best, but it’s one of them. Detroit and Buffalo drafted well, but if you want to see a real draft, look at this one,” pointing to the Seattle one.

Dick Haley commented, “I had a list of nine men and I thought I’d be lucky to get three of them. I got five.” Mike Kruczek was their number one rated quarterback while Blesto rated him third.

  1 Bennie Cunningham TE, Clemson
  2 Ray Pinney OT, Washington
  2 Mike Kruczek QB, Boston College
  2 James Files C,  McNeese State
  3 Ron Coder OG, Penn State
  3 Ernest Pough WR, Texas Southern
  4 Wonder Monds DB, Nebraska
  4 Theo Bell WR, Arizona
  5 Rodney Norton LB, Rice
  6 Gary Dunn DT, Miami
  6 Jack Deloplaine RB, Salem International
  7 Barry Burton TE, Vanderbilt
  8 Ed McAleney DE, Massachusetts
  9 Wentford Gaines DB, Cincinnati
10 Gary Campbell LB, Colorado
11 Rolland Fuchs RB, Arkansas
12 Bill Carroll WR, East Texas State
13 Larry Kain TE, Ohio State
14 Wayne Fields DB, Florida
15 Mel Davis DE, North Texas
16 Randy Butts RB, Nebraska-Kearney
17 Kelvin Kirk

NFL Draft

1) Leroy Selmon to Tampa
2) Steve Niehaus to Seattle
3) Chuck Munchie to New Orleans
4) Joe Washington to San Diego
5) Mike Haynes to New England

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Last updated December 6th 2014.

The Steelers 1975 season in full.
The Steelers 1974 season in full.

Keeping the Faith with Chuck Noll added September 2014.
Chuck Noll tribute added June 2014.
Byron White's 1938 season with the Pirates added July 2014
The Thirties Pirates updated April 2014.
SteelerNationUK on tour 2013 added February 2014.
The story of Steeler Nation's visit to London added October 2013.

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