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.
Since we have already looked at the best draft picks by round, let’s take a look at the worst 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 lack of longevity a key factor in determining whether it was a bad draft pick?
The final step as we count our way down will be players selected by the Steelers in the 1st round of the NFL draft.
Note: Only players no longer on the Steelers will be considered as those still on the roster still have the opportunity to improve their standing (and rumors of a Terrell Edmunds departure came after the article was written).
Editors note: Despite having a career AV (28) that would put him here, I refuse to place Ryan Shazier‘s name on this list. Yes, other player’s careers were derailed by injuries and landed them in the bottom (see Senquez Golson), but Shazier made the Pro Bowl two of his four seasons before his career ended tragically. Feel free to discuss this decision in the comments.
5: Ziggy Hood
Draft Year: 2009
NFL games played: 142
This draft pick by the Steelers wasn’t necessarily about poor play but more of an imperfect fit. Despite only having a 30 AV with a Steelers, Hood had a 44 career AV especially after having a couple of strong years in Washington in 2016 and 2017. But his five years in Pittsburgh didn’t bring a lot as Hood appeared in 80 regular season games with 46 starts and 11.5 sacks. Hood had 140 tackles with 18 being for loss and 23 quarterback hits along with four fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed. So it’s not that Ziggy Hood was a poor NFL player, he just didn’t live up to a first-round draft pick, albeit at the end of the round as he was selected 32nd overall. But when looking at a comparison, Cam Heyward was drafted 31st overall along the defensive line and has had a much different career.
4: Rashard Mendenhall
Draft Year: 2008
NFL games played: 72
Much like Ziggy Hood, the biggest reason Mendenhall lands on this list was that he only lasted five years in Pittsburgh and never received any honor such as a Pro Bowl. What also didn’t help was Mendenhall missed most of his first and last season with Pittsburgh due to injury early on and poor play at the end. In fact, Mendenhall was suspended by the Steelers for a game after he didn’t show up the previous week when he was inactive. So with only three seasons sandwiched in the middle, Mendenhall did have some quality time in Pittsburgh with two years rushing over 1,000 yards in 2009 and 2010 as well as having all 29 of his rushing touchdowns in the three seasons where he stood out. After his time in Pittsburgh was over, Mendenhall did go on to have one season in Arizona. After the 2013 season with the Cardinals, Mendenhall chose retirement because he just didn’t want to play football anymore.
3: Devin Bush
Draft Year: 2019
NFL games played: 52
By signing with the Seattle Seahawks once the 2023 league year kicked off, Devin Bush is eligible to land on this list. Bush had a strong rookie season where he was a Pro Bowl alternate and came in third in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. But an injury after five games in 2020 set everything else sailing. Bush came back in 2021 looking somewhat hesitant. Starting to break out of his shell in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos, Bush missed a significant portion of the game due to another leg injury and it appeared to affect both the physical and mental side of his game. Never returning to the player that he was, the Steelers declined Bush’s fifth year option and by the end of his final year in Pittsburgh he barely saw the field of defense. It was quite the disappointment for a player the Steelers gave up significant draft capital to move into the top 10 to draft.
2: Jarvis Jones
Draft Year: 2013
NFL games played: 50
The ongoing theme when looking at first-round draft picks ultimately comes down to longevity. Jarvis Jones only lasted four seasons in the NFL as the Steelers did not exercise his fifth-year option. In 50 games with 35 starts, Jones only managed 6.0 career sacks in four seasons as an outside linebacker. Although he did sign the following season with the Arizona Cardinals, Jones didn’t make the team and was out of football.
1: Artie Burns
Draft Year: 2016
NFL games played: 72
That argument could be made that Artie Burns deserves to be one spot higher on this list as he at least landed with other teams following the Steelers, but his time in Pittsburgh simply didn’t stack up to others. With some promise in his rookie season where he had three interceptions, Burns simply didn’t get the job done as his career went on. His last season Pittsburgh only saw him appearing in 10 games with one start and only eight tackles is any form of statistics as he didn’t see the field much playing only 66 defensive snaps. Burns did not have his fifth-year option picked up for 2020 and then missed the entire season with a Chicago Bears due to injury. Burns did return to start six games for the Bears in 2021 and did appear in three games for the Seattle Seahawks in 2022.
So there are the worst draft picks of the Kevin Colbert era coming from the first round. This brings and end to the series, which I hope you enjoyed.
In case you missed the previous articles on the top draft picks, they can be seen below:
The previous articles on the worst draft picks can be seen below: