New series we’re kicking off on Steelers Depot. Recently, we relayed Sports Illustrated’s list of the all-time undrafted team, one that included James Harrison. And it got me to thinking — what would the all-Steelers’ list look like? A franchise that’s been around since 1933 and littered with household names who began their career undrafted.
Also, I really wanted to put Donnie Shell on this list after SI snubbed him. So spoiler alert, he’s going to be on here.
As criteria for this article, I only considered players who signed with Pittsburgh as UDFAs. Meaning, a first-year UDFA who spent time with another club and then came over to Pittsburgh wouldn’t qualify. These will be players from 1936, year of the first NFL draft, to present day.
We’ll take this position-by-position. We move along with the greatest UDFA FB in team history.
Dan Kreider (2000-2007)
Fullbacks are people too. And they deserve to make this list. Especially Kreider, undrafted out of New Hampshire in the 2000. He quickly made an impression and was added to the active roster midway through his rookie year. Playing in 10 games and touching the ball just seven times, he beat out Plaxico Burress and the rest of his draft class for team rookie of the year.
Jerome Bettis sung his praises as a lead blocker, becoming the team’s new Bus Driver. Kreider rarely touched the ball but paved the way for the Steelers’ ground attack. In 2001, Pittsburgh led the league in rushing yards while finishing second in touchdowns and yards per carry. In 2005, Kreider played in all 16 games, starting eight, and was in the starting lineup for each of their playoff games, including Super Bowl 40. Pittsburgh rushed for 166 yards in their win over Seattle.
One of his most memorable blocks came on one of Jerome Bettis’ most famous runs. In 2005, when Bettis truck-sticked Brian Urlacher, Kreider made a key block on CB Charles “Peanut” Tillman, one of the game’s most physical DBs, pushing him into Urlacher initially to allow Bettis the momentum to plow him over.
Kreider would go on to play eight years for the Steelers. He appeared in 113 games and found the end zone a total of four times, two rushing and two receiving. He spent his final years with the Rams and Cardinals before retiring. If you’re looking for more footage of his career, check out the video I did on Kreider last summer.
Honorable Mention: R.J. Bowers (2001)
Signed from local Grove City College in 2001, he carried the ball 18 times as a rookie. His lone NFL touchdown came in the ’01 finale after Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala left the game with a groin injury. Bowers cut back to score from 21 yards out. He spent the next two years as a reserve for the Browns. A perfect candidate for our “Let’s Remember Some Steelers” list later this offseason.