As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the 2022 NFL draft, there is a lot of focus on who they will be selecting with their first set of picks. While the Steelers generally look to get their Day 1 and Day 2 selections acclimated and available as quickly as possible, sometimes it is those hidden gems found in later rounds which can really make a difference in building a championship roster.
Knowing the importance of getting quality backups and special teams players late in the draft, occasionally a superstar will emerge. For this reason, let’s look at the top five players drafted in the fifth round or later by the Pittsburgh Steelers since the year 2000. Acknowledging that undrafted free agents can be just as important if not more so, we will be focusing only on players selected in the draft at this time.
Being that some of the Steelers’ selections in the last few years still have a lot to prove, they will ultimately not make the list as they still have much of their story to write.
5. Kelvin Beachum (2012, Round 7, pick 248)
Although he only played in Pittsburgh for four seasons, the fact the last of the Steelers four seventh-round draft picks in 2012 turned into a quality starter cannot be overlooked. Starting 39 games in four years, Kelvin Beachum is not the typical seventh-round draft pick. Playing at every position along the offensive line, Beachum eventually became the team's starting left tackle until an injury suffered in 2015. But Beachum’s departure led to such a lucrative contract the Steelers landed a third-round compensatory draft pick. Anytime a player is taken within 10 slots of the end of the draft becomes a starting left tackle in the NFL, and allows the team to gain an additional draft pick four rounds earlier, the selection over-achieved.
4. Vince Williams (2013, Round 6, pick 206)
Playing eight seasons in the NFL all in Pittsburgh, Vince Williams was thrust into the starting role his rookie season due to the injury of Larry Foote. Not finding his way as a regular starter again until 2017, Williams had a total of 69 starts in 121 games in Pittsburgh. Williams also totaled 20.5 sacks and 479 tackles, 50 of which were for loss. One of Williams two career interceptions was returned for a touchdown. Although Williams never came close to sniffing a Pro Bowl selection, his solid play for a number of years is more than expected out of a sixth-round selection.
3. William Gay (2007, Round 5, pick 170)
Although William Gay split his 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers with one season in Arizona right in the middle, the defensive back had a long and successful career in the Steel City. Starting 86 games, Gay had 11 interceptions with a franchise-tying five returned for touchdowns, sharing the record with Rod Woodson. With the Steelers sometimes getting criticized for their ability to draft cornerbacks, finding Gay in the fifth round was a fantastic selection.
2. Brett Keisel (2002, Round 7, pick 242)
Sometimes players drafted late may not get a second chance when things don’t start well with their career. Despite only appearing in five games as a rookie and missing his entire second season due to injury, Brett Keisel still found his way with the Pittsburgh Steelers and eventually became a full-time starter in 2006. Selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010, Keisel is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers with 30.0 career sacks and over 400 tackles. Additionally, Keisel played entire year career in Pittsburgh and is one of the more beloved alumni among the fan base. All of this came from a player who started off at community college and ended up as a seventh-round draft pick.
1. Antonio Brown (2010, Round 6, pick 195)
Not all great stories have a happy ending. Despite how things fell apart with the Steelers and wide receiver Antonio Brown, his case for being arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL during his time in Pittsburgh cannot be forgotten. A seven-time Pro Bowler and four time First-Team All-Pro, Brown was also selected to the Hall of Fame All-2010s Team. In nine seasons in Pittsburgh, Brown started 103 games and had 11,207 receiving yards on 837 receptions and 74 touchdowns in the regular season. Selected in the sixth round, Brown may be one of the Steelers all-time best draft steals throughout franchise history.