MOBILE, Ala. — With the Pittsburgh Steelers gathered in Mobile to scout for a potential new center of the future, one of their all-time greats at the position was in attendance. Steelers center Dermontti Dawson was recognized as part of the Senior Bowl’s 75h Anniversary Class at Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of South Alabama on Saturday. Dawson and wide receiver Hines Ward were the two Steelers players that were recognized on the team.
It took Dawson back to the winter of 1988, when he came to Mobile — the game was played downtown at Ladd-Peebles Stadium then — as an unheralded lineman from the University of Kentucky. Dawson arrived at the Senior Bowl with a mid-round grade, and left as a second-round pick when the Steelers snapped him up in the draft. He went on to become one of the most dominant centers in a team history that is chock full of them.
“It’s a great honor,” Dawson said after being recognized at halftime. “This is where I got my start from. Me coming in as a mid-rounder, projected in the draft. I came here, and you play against some of the players in the country. You have a good camp and it can boost your draft status. They say this is where the draft truly starts, and that’s true.”
The Steelers of 2024 don’t really hide their interest in which players they like, but Dawson said he had no clue as a youngster plying his trade in Mobile that Chuck Noll was thinking of calling his name on draft day.
“I had met with [the Steelers], but know, I didn’t know,” Dawson said. “I didn’t know where I was going to go in the draft, because nobody really said anything. … It turned out better than I expected.”
Dawson was happy to return to the field at Mobile to accept his honor and said he appreciated being around the young players going through the crucial transition from college to pro football.
“To be drafted, that’s a dream come true for any college player,” Dawson said. “Out of college, wanting to be a professional player, it far exceeded my expectations. Let’s put it that way.”
Dawson said he still follows the Steelers, but he doesn’t get too excited about who they might pick until draft day. When Dawson checks back in with the team, there might be a new center that will hope to carry on his tradition of excellence at the position.