However, they had no idea which quarterback would be available when they were on the clock.
But as the proceedings unfolded, the Steelers had a chance to select hometown hero Dan Marino.
It’s central casting to see a true Pittsburgh native who played for the Pitt Panthers lead his beloved team.
Not drafting Dan Marino was the single biggest mistake in Steelers history. I will die on that hill.
— Reggie (@reggie_barnes3) October 5, 2021
Unfortunately, the team stuck to their hard-nosed defensive identity and selected Texas Tech defensive tackle Gabriel Rivera.
The Steelers hoped that the 1982 Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year would take over the spot that “Mean” Joe Greene vacated after retiring in 1981.
In a cruel twist of fate, Rivera suffered a car accident that left him paralyzed and unable to play after six career games.
Meanwhile, Marino went on to have a 17-year Hall of Fame career with the Miami Dolphins and held all significant passing records by the time he retired.
He did not win a Super Bowl, but he prevented the Steelers from adding a championship during his heyday as well.
1️⃣3️⃣ Days until Pitt Football
» Dan Marino » QB » 1979-82
» Led Pitt to four Top-10 finishes
» 1981 All-American
» Fourth in Heisman Trophy voting
» Historic 17-Season NFL Career
» College Football Hall of Fame '02
» Pro Football Hall of Fame ‘05#H2P » @DanMarino pic.twitter.com/dzRfB9CwKE
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) August 22, 2021
The two teams met in the 1984 AFC Championship Game, and Mark Malone started for the Steelers.
He did have an impressive game with 312 yards and three touchdowns.
But Marino was in another dimension as he shredded the Pittsburgh defense, 45-28.
The hometown kid finished with 421 yards, and four touchdown passes.
— Dan Marino (@DanMarino) September 18, 2021
From that moment, the Steelers struggled to find a franchise quarterback for a while.
But the carousel ended when the Steelers selected Miami Redhawks’ Ben Roethlisberger with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Steelers Come Full Circle
Maddox started the first two games of the 2004 season before Roethlisberger took over.
The then-rookie led the Steelers to a 13-game win streak which cemented their playoff spot.
However, Roethlisberger missed the final regular season game due to a rib injury.
But he did more than enough to win Offensive Rookie of the Year unanimously.
A year later, he led the Steelers to a Super Bowl title against the Seattle Seahawks.
He won a second championship in the 2008 season via one of the most extraordinary throws in Super Bowl history.
Roethlisberger has been the undisputed cornerstone of the Steelers offense for nearly two decades and made the Pro Bowl seven times.
Unfortunately, the long-time quarterback looks like a shell of his old self four games into the 2021 season.
Patrick Mahomes joined Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady as the only QBs to win a Super Bowl before the age of 25.
Both Roethlisberger and Brady have gone on to win another SB since. pic.twitter.com/kGBfgsKSCw
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 3, 2020
Their defense bailed him out against the Buffalo Bills to score their only win so far.
In their three-game losing streak, it looks like the clock is approaching midnight for Big Ben.
He doesn’t have the same nimble feet that enabled him to extend plays.
Worse, he had several throws that went short in Week 4 against the Green Bay Packers.
Pittsburgh’s offense looks stagnant with him under center, and his lack of mobility is a liability.
Eric Stokes with an interception against Ben Roethlisberger 👌😍pic.twitter.com/tTokN4cNdx
— Packers Nation (@PackersNationCP) October 3, 2021
It is hard to admit, but he is the worst starter in the AFC North as of the present.
Sadly, history repeats itself because the Steelers have no concrete succession at quarterback, even if it is evident that Roethlisberger’s time is up.
It’s like the Marino situation again, and they fell into the same lack of foresight.
No Solution In Sight
They had a chance to avoid the same mistake by drafting Lamar Jackson with the No. 28 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Instead, they chose safety Terrell Edmunds who will become a free agent after the 2021 season, because the Steelers declined his fifth-year option.
Three years ago today: Lamar Jackson is the last QB left in the green room at the NFL draft.
Feb. 1, 2020: Jackson becomes the second player in league history to be unanimously voted league MVP at the NFL Honors awards show. pic.twitter.com/rUOC2sOzf8
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) April 26, 2021
Their rival Ravens found a long-term answer, while the Steelers will find a solution in the 2022 draft.
Rumors of an Aaron Rodgers trade to Pittsburgh are gaining steam as of late.
But until that happens, the Steelers will face uncertainty at quarterback.