Earlier this offseason, I outlined in an article how the Steelers turned a 2004 third-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs into the selection of James Conner in 2017 and his subsequent Pro Bowl appearance. Now that the 2019 NFL draft has concluded, the names Diontae Johnson and Zach Gentry will be linked to several Steelers trades, beginning with the 2006 draft. In a weird twist of fate, the story begins with the last time the Steelers traded up in the first round of the draft before 2019, and ends (for now) with the same player announcing one of the picks which he indirectly created.
2006 NFL Draft (Trade #1)
The Steelers entered the 2006 draft on the heels of their fifth Lombardi Trophy. With the 32nd pick in the first round, the Steelers traded up to the 25th selection with the New York Giants, costing them their third and fourth round picks as well. After the Steelers selected wide receiver Santonio Holmes out of Ohio State, the Giants selected Mathias Kiwanuka (32nd), Gerris Wilkinson (96th), and Guy Whimper (129th). If Whimper sounds familiar, it’s because he spent the 2013 season with the Steelers.
2010 Offseason (Trade #2)
After his Super Bowl winning catch in the 2008 season and a 2009 with 1,248 yards (his only season over 1,000 yards), the Steelers decided to trade Holmes as he was facing a four-game drug suspension. Taking what they could get, the Steelers shipped Holmes to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick just ten days before the 2010 draft.
2010 NFL Draft (Trade #3)
When it came time for the third day of the 2010 NFL draft, the Steelers subsequently traded the pick they received from the Jets (155th) to the Arizona Cardinals for Bryant McFadden and Arizona’s sixth-round selection (195th). The Cardinals’ used the selection to draft quarterback John Skelton out of Fordham.
McFadden spent his first four seasons in Pittsburgh before signing with Arizona as an unrestricted free agent. After only one season with the Cardinals, the Steelers acquired McFadden back for two more seasons before cutting him in the offseason of 2012.
As for the sixth round selection the Steelers received in return from the Cardinals, they selected wide receiver Antonio Brown out of Central Michigan.
2019 Offseason (Trade #4)
After seven Pro Bowls and four All Pro seasons in Pittsburgh, things fell apart with Antonio Brown and the Steelers leading into Week 17 of the 2018 season. With no sign of reconciliation, the Steelers tried to get as much as they could for Brown as he was continually tanking his trade value. Ultimately, the Steelers only received a third-round and fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft from the Oakland Raiders.
2019 NFL Draft
With the trade of Antonio Brown, the Steelers received a third-round pick (66th), and a fifth-round pick (141st) from the Oakland Raiders. The selection of wide receiver Diontae Johnson out of the University of Toledo, a player many think has comparable skill sets to Brown, was ironically announced by Santonio Holmes. The Steelers added tight end Zach Gentry out of Michigan as their fifth-round selection.
Time will tell whether or not either selection the Steelers made as a result of the Antonio Brown trade will end up making a splash. It’s fairly certain both Johnson and Gentry will be forever tied to the Brown in the minds of Steeler fans. But the path which led to both players ending up in black and gold actually began 13 years prior when Kevin Colbert moved up in the first round of the NFL draft, much like the Steelers did in 2019.