The 1990 NFL draft was the twentieth for Dick Haley as the Steelers director of player personnel. The previous year, the Steelers used their first round pick on running back Tim Worley. “Last year we had a little bit of an idea,” offered Haley when talking about the 1990 one, “but we’re 17 and you don’t know what guys are going to go.”
The Steelers pro personnel director Tom Donahoe was no clearer on who Pittsburgh would pick. “Any time you get below the tenth pick in the first round, there’s lot of guesswork involved, but even more so this year because of all the juniors.”
The Steelers biggest need was for a receiver to complement Louis Lipps so Alexander “Ace” Wright, out of Auburn, was the predicted choice from Ed Bouchette. Steve Hubbard of the Pittsburgh Press talked up West Virginia’s Renaldo Turnbull as the best pass-rushing defensive end in the draft.
Turnbull went to New Orleans at 14 and Wright was the first selection in the second round for Dallas.
The Steelers decided to trade down obtaining an extra pick in the third round from Minnesota. The Steelers went for tight end Eric Green, out of Liberty whose description of huge wasn’t too far wrong.
The Steelers new offensive coordinator, Joe Walton, obviously influenced the selection. He liked to have tight ends involved in his offense and often played with two in the line-up. Selecting a tight end who could catch the ball would also provide help for Lipps.
Haley commented of his new player, “He’s a real quick player with huge hands and long arms and he can make tough catches in traffic. And he can knock people off their feet without even trying.”
Coach Walton acknowledged that in Green, the team had got a rare breed of a catching and blocking ability in a tight end. “Those guys are tough to find,” Walton said. “Guys with that kind of athletic ability and size and grace and agility – usually they’re basketball players. It’s tough to put all that together.”
Green was elated to find himself in Pittsburgh. “The Steelers are my all-time favourite team,” he told reporters and then held out for fifty one day. He didn’t play in the regular season until week five. In the Steelers first four games, the Steelers didn’t scored a touchdown through the air.
The visit of the (1-3) San Diego Chargers to the (1-3) Pittsburgh Steelers would not have been high on the list of games to watch that Sunday. For Steeler fans though, it was the game that saw a new hero emerge.
“Green ends the misery in a moment to behold” read the headline in the Pittsburgh Press. The addition of Green to the Steelers offense saw him score two touchdowns that day. With Green now playing, the team produced a turnaround that saw them finish the season 9-7 and the tight end with seven touchdowns.
Green certainly added sparkle to the offense. Although Walton’s offense struggled to win over the fans, Green was an asset when he was on the field. He played five seasons in Pittsburgh before signing with the Dolphins.
Although he went to the Pro Bowl in 1993 and 1994, he was also suspended in 1992 for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
My own memory of Green is the speed he could play with despite his enormous size. I always thought he would burn himself out. The fact he subjected his body to the enormous stress that his speed and weight produced, it was a wonder he managed ten seasons in the NFL.
SteelerNationUK were lucky to see him play when we made our annual adventures to Pittsburgh. We were also fortunate to see a Steelers practice and I took this photo of Green talking to Pat Summerall and John Madden who were the television commentators for the next day’s game.