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Top 5 Steelers draft-day trades since 2000: Trading up

The Steelers have moved up almost twice as much as they have traded back in the Kevin Colbert era

NFL: APR 26 2019 NFL Draft Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not the most active NFL franchise when it comes to pulling off trades during the NFL draft, but they certainly haven’t been shy about making a move they feel is best for their franchise. If the Steelers feel like the player they think will make a difference with their team is available, they will do what they can to go get him. Additionally, the Steelers have answered the phone when other teams have come calling in order to move up in the draft.

Let’s take a look at some of the best Steelers trades they have made since the year 2000. Sticking with this date not only because the millennium mark is a good cut off point, it is also what Steelers fans know as the “Kevin Colbert era” in the Steelers front office.

In this installment, after looking at the Steelers top five times they traded back, I’m now going to look at the top five times where the Steelers traded up in the NFL draft since 2000. In this case, there are thankfully more than five to choose from in order to figure our which trades worked out the best.


5. 2018: Trading up in the 3rd Round

Received: Pick 76 (RD 3)- Mason Rudolph
Gave Up: Picks 79 & 220 (RD 3 & 7)- Rasheem Green & Alex McGough

Before the responses of “seriously?” begin pouring in, let me just list of the names of the other players selected from a trade up scenario which this one beat out: Ricardo Colclough, Daniel Sepulveda, Alameda Ta’amu, and Shamarko Thomas. With these four players starting a combined two games for the Steelers, it was obvious that Mason Rudolph should be ahead of them. Seriously, trading up in the fourth round for a punter? One of these picks never appeared in a game for the Steelers, and another was a second-round pick that never started the game.

Getting back to the actual trade the squeaked in to the top five, the Steelers traded up three spots to grab Rudolph in the third round of 2018 and surpassed the back-to-back picks of the Cincinnati Bengals. Since the Bengals were likely going to select Rudolph, the Steelers simply gave up a seventh-round pick in order to grab a quarterback they felt had a lot of potential. Additionally, this draft pick wasn’t even the Steelers as it was when they acquired from the Raiders for Martavis Bryant. With Rudolph acting as the backup in 2020 and starting half the games in 2019 for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, it’s not like it was the best trade the Steelers have ever pulled off, but was definitely better than the other options.


4. 2001: Trading up in the 2nd Round

Received: Pick 39 (RD 2)- Kendrell Bell
Gave Up: Picks 50 & 112 (RD 2 & 4)- Dominic Raiola & Carlos Polk

Even though the player ultimately selected with the Steelers 50th pick ended up starting 203 games over 14 years, it’s hard not to say it was a good trade up when the Steelers selected the defensive rookie of the year for 2001. Although Bell did not have a long-term career with the Steelers due to injury, the Steelers knew there was something special with him and made the move which paid off immediately. Had Bell had a longer career with the Steelers, this trade would have been regarded even higher. What also helps the quality of this trade was the fact the Steelers had just traded back to draft Casey Hampton and added the 111th pick to the arsenal, so giving up the 112 pick was basically a wash.


3. 2019: Trading up in the 1st Round

Received: Pick 10 (RD 1)- Devin Bush
Gave Up: Picks 20, 52 & 2020:83 (RD 1, 2, & 3)- Noah Fant, Drew Sample, & Lloyd Cushenberry

This trade up is so young, the story will still continue to be written. But based on the other trades, I felt it was a good spot to place it. The Steelers had not traded up in the first round for 13 years, but when they saw a player they felt could solidify their defense, they made the move to go get him. There was no chance Devin Bush was going to make it past the 10th pick, so even though it was a steep price, it appears to be worth the investment at this time. Ultimately, the next several seasons will determine how well the Steelers did with this trade.


2. 2006: Trading up in the 1st Round

Received: Pick 25 (RD 1)- Santonio Holmes
Gave Up: Picks 32, 96, & 129 (RD 1, 3, & 4)- Mathias Kiwanuka, Gerris Wilkinson, & Guy Whimper

Coming off of a Super Bowl victory, the Steelers seemed to have felt that gaining a high-caliber player was worth the price in order to add to what was already a championship team. By trading away two additional picks to move up seven spots, the Steelers found the MVP of their next Super Bowl victory. With the Steelers already having two additional fourth-round compensatory draft picks as well as a fifth, it was not that steep of a price in order to go get their guy. And speaking of Guy, Whimper actually ended up spending a season with the Steelers in 2011. The Steelers also ended up trading out of the second round to pick up two third-round picks. Even though Holmes ended up having off-field troubles which ultimately had the Steelers trading him to the New York Jets, at least the pick they received in return gave the Steelers their greatest trade back of the last 20 years, if not ever.


1. 2003: Trading up in the 1st Round

Received: Pick 16 (RD 1)- Troy Polamalu
Gave Up: Picks 27, 92, & 200 (RD 1, 3, & 6)- Larry Johnson, Julian Battle, & Brooks Bollinger

There are any other time the Steelers traded up in the first round in the history of the franchise, and there is this trade up. All of them ever stacked up couldn’t even become a fraction of how huge this was for the Steelers in 2003 to get to Troy Polamalu. One of the top defenders for the Pittsburgh Steelers of all time, Polamalu will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August. What’s amazing is that a player of this caliber was still there at pick 16 in order for the Steelers to go get him. Although Polamalu didn’t start any games as a rookie, the long-term results are inarguable. It doesn’t matter what the Steelers gave in return, Polamalu still would have been worth it.


So there are the top five draft day trades where the Steelers moved up in the Kevin Colbert era. What do you think? Did I get the order correct? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.