It’s an interesting question which has been answered here at Behind The Steel Curtain when looking solely at the Steelers. The question is this: Who was the best player drafted in each overall slot?
While it’s interesting to think about who was the Steelers best 18th overall pick in franchise history, Pro Football Focus tackled a much easier task of looking at the entire NFL and kept their choices to only the last 15 drafts. Going through the first round, PFF chose the best player taken in each draft slot since 2006.
So were the Pittsburgh Steelers represented? One player who I thought would be there for sure was T.J. Watt as the 30th overall pick. Of course, Watt was the selection and was given the following explanation:
While Watt isn’t quite on his brother’s career path, he’s not too far off. His 163 pressures over the past two seasons are the third-most of any player in the NFL.
While there were some in Steelers Nation who were not happy with the selection of T.J. Watt in 2017, he’s proved to be a fantastic draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Thinking the Steelers needed a tight end, the Cleveland Browns even traded ahead of the Steelers to select David Njoku. Instead, T.J. Watt is the only first-round pick of the 2017 draft to be selected first team All-Pro two times in his first four seasons.
When looking over this list, I instantly searched for several spots where I felt the Steelers had a chance to have a player chosen. As I scrolled past the number 11 draft pick, I knew Ben Roethlisberger fell outside of the timeframe selected by PFF. It would have been interesting to see if Roethlisberger would have been the choice over J.J. Watt who was ultimately selected.
The next position on the list I looked for was 18th overall where I thought recently retired Maurkice Pouncey could possibly crack the list. Pouncey was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, which happened to be every season in which he played more than eight snaps. Adding All-Pro honors in both 2011 and 2014, Pouncey was not the selection as PFF instead went with their darling cornerback Jaire Alexander of the Green Bay Packers. While Alexander is looked at as an up and coming player for the 2021 season, he only has one Pro Bowl selection on his résumé at this time.
Another member of the Pittsburgh Steelers I thought could possibly make this list was the 24th spot in guard David DeCastro. Selected to the Pro Bowl six times as well as first team All-Pro twice, DeCastro has the accolades to make an argument. Instead, PFF chose Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan. Also a six-time Pro Bowler, Jordan has one first team All-Pro selection on his résumé. One thing which could have tipped the scales is the fact Jordan has never missed an NFL game in his 10 year career.
The last player from the Pittsburgh Steelers I looked to see if they made the list was in the 32nd spot with Cameron Heyward. The four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All Pro would be a great selection with the last pick in the first round of the NFL draft, but instead PFF went with the former league MVP Lamar Jackson. It will be interesting to see if Jackson’s career continues to move in the direction where he would hold the spot in another five years. Interesting enough, Jackson was the only other player from the AFC North on the list other than T.J. Watt.
Although the Steelers had the possibility of having more players on this list, having T.J. Watt recognized as the best 30th overall pick in the NFL draft over the last 15 years is still an accomplishment. The fact the Steelers were able to select Watt all the way in the 30th position is ultimately the biggest reward.