The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into a new chapter of the front office as Omar Khan and company prepare for their first NFL draft. With former Steelers GM Kevin Colbert moving into retirement following the 2022 draft, this will mark the first time the new regime has total control over their selections. How will this shape out for the Steelers moving forward? That’s what many fans are both excited and nervous to see.
With the draft nearly 3 months away, let’s take a look at the top draft picks of the Pittsburgh Steelers in each round in the Kevin Colbert era. For those who may not be certain of the dates, these will be the drafts from 2000 through 2022.
For this exercise, we will be looking at players drafted specifically by the Steelers since the year 2000. In determining how well each player performed, we will only look at their time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and not any time spent with a different team. The rankings will come according to the total AV (Approximate Value) for each player determined by Pro Football Reference (PFR) during their time with the Steelers. Exactly how PFR determines AV can be seen HERE. For players with the same AV, other considerations such as games played may be taken into account. Obviously, players who have a longer career with the Steelers have the chance of a higher score. But isn’t longevity a key factor in determining whether it was a good draft pick?
The next step as we count our way down will be players selected by the Steelers in the 5th round of the NFL draft.
5: Chukky Okobi
Draft Year: 2001
When an offensive lineman with only seven career starts lands in the top five, it’s a pretty good indication that the Steelers aren’t setting the world on fire every year with their fifth-round draft picks. Appearing in 77 regular season game with seven starts, Okobi also had six playoff games and a Super Bowl ring from 2005. A center/guard reserve, Okobi played six years in Pittsburgh until he did not make the roster in 2007. Picked up by the Cardinals, Okobi played one game with Arizona but never made another 53-man roster the rest of his career.
4: Verron Haynes
Draft Year: 2002
Another player who spent six years with the Steelers, running back Verron Haynes never had a start in a black and gold uniform. With 738 rushing yards in 174 carries and three rushing touchdowns, Haynes also had 429 receiving yards on 50 receptions and two more touchdowns. In the postseason, Haynes appeared in seven games for the Steelers and had 92 rushing yards, with 56 of them coming in the Steelers postseason run in 2005. Used more as a special teams player, Haynes also has 32 career tackles. In 2007, Haynes did not join the Steelers until Christmas when Willie Parker was placed on IR. After not being signed back to the Steelers in 2008, and spent 2009 with the Atlanta Falcons where he started two games but did not have a rushing attempt.
3: Jesse James
Draft Year: 2015
Spending the first four years of his NFL career in Pittsburgh, Jesse James had more success with Steelers than any of his other landing spots since. In 56 games with 36 starts, James had 120 regular season receptions on 137 targets for 1,189 yards and nine touchdowns for the Steelers. Additionally, James had six playoff games with three starts with 13 receptions for 171 yards. In his four seasons since leaving the Steelers, James spent two years in Detroit, one in Chicago, and one in Cleveland. In all, James had only three touchdowns on 37 receptions with less than 250 receiving yards since leaving the Steelers. But as Steelers fans know, especially based on his picture above, James really had 10 career touchdowns in Pittsburgh as most Steelers fans realize “Jesse James caught that ball.”
2: Clark Haggans
Draft Year: 2000
With a 13-year NFL career, outside linebacker Clark Haggans spent his first eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he appeared in 107 regular season games with 61 starts. In all, Haggans had 332 tackles, 31 of which were for a loss, and 32.5 sacks. Haggans added 12 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as well as 17 passes defensed and an interception. Leaving for Arizona as a free agent in 2008, Haggans played four years with the Cardinals before finishing his NFL career in 2012 with a season in San Francisco. Getting a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers in 2005, Haggans was not around to face the Steelers in the Super Bowl in 2008 when he was with the Cardinals because he had been placed on the Reserve/Injured List in December.
1: William Gay
Draft Year: 2007
Playing 10 years in Pittsburgh, Willie Gay had one season with the Arizona Cardinals sandwiched in between two 5-year stints with the Steelers. Starting 86 of his 160 regular season games played, Gay had 520 tackles with 30 being for loss and 6.0 sacks. Gay added another seven forced fumbles as well as two fumble recoveries and 81 passes defensed. Most notably, William Gay had 11 career interceptions with the Steelers with five of them being returned for touchdowns. This mark is tied with Rod Woodson for the all-time Steelers lead in pick-sixes.
So there are the top five draft picks of the Kevin Colbert era coming from the fifth round. Make sure you check back on Thursday for the next article which will highlight the fourth-round picks.
In case you missed the previous articles, they can be seen below: