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 2 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 last step as we count our way down will be players selected by the Steelers in the 1st round of the NFL draft.
5: Maurkice Pouncey
Draft Year: 2010
Spending 11 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Maurkice Pouncey was a Pro Bowl selection every season in which he played double-digit snaps. Missing all but one drive of the 2013 season and being out for the year due to an injury suffered in the final preseason game in 2015, Pouncey was selected to nine Pro Bowls as well as being All-Pro in 2011 and 2014. One of the biggest disappointments when it came to Pouncey’s career was the fact he was injured in the AFC Championship Game his rookie season and was not able to play in the Super Bowl. Whether or not he could have put the Steelers over the top for the victory is open for debate, but it was unfortunate that he was unavailable in his only opportunity. In all, Pouncey started all 134 regular season games in which he repaired as well as eight postseason games. The ultimate plug-and-play first-round draft picks, Pouncey was the man on the Steelers offensive line from Week 1 of his rookie year.
4: Casey Hampton
Draft Year: 2001
The only first round selection of the Kevin Colbert era where the Steelers traded back, Casey Hampton was still available at the 19th overall selection after the Steelers moved back three spots. Hampton held down the center of the Steelers defensive line at the nose tackle position for 12 seasons where he had 164 starts in 173 regular season games as well as another 15 starts in 16 playoff games. Hampton was a five-time Pro-Bowler and had 398 career regular season tackles with 39 being for loss and 9.0 career sacks. Hampton also had four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and four passes defensed. Hampton was a key part of the Steelers defense that won two Super Bowls and appeared in another.
T-2: Cam Heyward
Draft Year: 2011
With the ability to move into the second position all by himself in 2023, Cam Heyward is the first of two players tied with a 117 AV with the Steelers. Selected as the 31st overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft after the Steelers appeared in the Super Bowl, it took Heyward until his third year before he started an NFL game. The Steelers long time defensive captain, Heyward has six Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro selections all over the last six seasons. Heyward has started 148 of 183 regular season games where he has 614 tackles with 115 being for loss and 176 quarterback hits leading to 78.5 sacks. Heyward has eight forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries as well as two interceptions and 46 passes defensed. Although it may not hold it for long, there is a big question to if Cam Heyward will surpass James Harrison‘s franchise leading 80.5 sacks before T.J. Watt who is only one sack behind him.
T-2: Troy Polamalu
Draft Year: 2003
The only Hall of Fame player at this time who was drafted by the Steelers in the Kevin Colbert era, Troy Polamalu‘s resume speaks for itself. In 12 seasons with 158 regular season games played and 142 starts, it was only in Polamalu‘s rookie season where he appeared as a non-starter. Setting the standard at the safety position, Polamalu had 783 tackles, 12.0 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, seven fumble returns for two touchdowns, 107 passes defensed, and 32 interceptions for three touchdowns in the regular season. Polamalu added another 15 playoff starts with 64 tackles, 0.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, and three interceptions with one returned for a touchdown on his way to two Super Bowl championships. An eight-time Pro Bowl player as well as a four-time First-Team All-Pro, Polamalu was also the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
1: Ben Roethlisberger
Draft Year: 2004
The only reason Troy Polamalu was the only Hall of Famer drafted by the Steelers since 2000 is because Ben Roethlisberger still must wait until he is eligible. Holding the Steelers record of 249 games played and 247 starts in the regular season, I could bore you with all of Ben Roethlisberger stats over his 18-year career but instead will sum it up with two Super Bowl championships, the 2004 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, six-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFL passing leader, and was credited with 53 regular season game-winning drives which led the NFL in three different seasons. For the postseason, Roethlisberger started 23 games where he was 13–10 and was credited with four game-winning drives. As for all the other numbers with Roethlisberger, I’ll save them for when he arrives in Canton.
So there are the top five draft picks of the Kevin Colbert era coming from the first round. Make sure you check back on Thursday for the next article as you all have convinced me to now look at the worst draft picks by round in the Kevin Colbert era.
In case you missed the previous articles, they can be seen below: