The Pittsburgh Steelers have had many great players in their history. When looking specifically at first-round draft picks, there are many who have made a huge impact on the team. Some of those players, although selected in the first round, were not picks of the Pittsburgh Steelers but we’re acquired either by trade or thorugh free agency.
So who are the best players to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers as first-round draft picks that were selected by another franchise? The following are the top five players since the 1970 merger based on their time with Pittsburgh even though they were a first-round pick of another team. Rather than rely completely on my own personal opinion, I took into consideration Pro Football Reference’s approximate value (AV) along with Pro Bowls, All-Pro Selections, and Super Bowl victories from their time with the Steelers.
5. Dewayne Washington
Draft: Pick 18 in 1994 (Minnesota Vikings)
Years with Steelers: 1998-2003
Pro Bowls: 0
Super Bowls: 0
Despite not receiving any personal awards, cornerback Dewayne Washington edged out Joe Haden for the fifth spot on the list as his AV was significantly higher due to playing and additional season with the Steelers and starting 25 more games than Haden. Washington appeared in 96 games with 92 starts in six seasons with Pittsburgh where he had 19 interceptions with two returned for touchdowns and 74 passes defensed over the last five seasons as they were not counted prior to 1999. Playing his first four seasons in Minnesota, Washington finished up his NFL career with a season in Jacksonville in 2004 and Kansas City in 2005.
4. Jeff Hartings
Draft: Pick 23 in 1996 (Detroit Lions)
Years with Steelers: 2001-2006
Pro Bowls: 2
Super Bowls: 1
After five seasons in Detroit where he started 71 games, Jeff Hartings signed as a free agent with the Steelers in 2001 where he appeared in 90 games with 89 starts over six seasons. Along with the two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro season, Hartings was Second-Team All-Pro in his first season with the Steelers in 2001.
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick
Draft: Pick 11 in 2018 (Miami Dolphins)
Years with Steelers: 2019-present
Pro Bowls: 3
Super Bowls: 0
Despite having a lower AV than Hartings, Minkah Fitzpatrick has moved in the third on the list due to his three Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections in not even four full seasons with the Steelers. In order to continue to move up this list, Fitzpatrick simply needs to continue to put in years in the black and gold. The most important thing for Fitzpatrick, especially in the eyes of Steelers fans, is the change the number of Super Bowls. In his four years in Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick has started all 61 games with 17 interceptions, with three of them returned for touchdowns, as well as 38 passes defensed and 299 tackles. Fitzpatrick only played one season and two games in Miami before the Steelers acquired him via trade where they surrendered their 2020 first-round draft pick.
2. James Farrior
Draft: Pick 8 in 1997 (New York Jets)
Years with Steelers: 2002-2011
Pro Bowls: 2
Super Bowls: 2
Despite having the highest AV of any player on this list, James Farrior lands in the number two spot. The highest drafted player of anyone listed, Farrior played 10 seasons in Pittsburgh after five in New York to start his career. Coming in second in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2004, Farrior had two Pro Bowls and an All-Pro selection with the Steelers. In 154 game started, which was every game in which he appeared, Farrior had eight interceptions with one being returned for a touchdown, 53 passes defensed, 12 forced fumbles, 30.0 sacks, and 1,085 tackles, 82 of which were for loss.
1. Jerome Bettis
Draft: Pick 10 in 1993 (Los Angeles Rams)
Years with Steelers: 1996-2005
Pro Bowls: 4
Super Bowls: 1
Gold Jackets: 1
Despite the lower AV number, Bettis is the only player on this list in the Hall of Fame as well as the only one with a Pro Bowl and All-Pro with a team other than the Steelers. After three seasons with the Rams, Bettis was a draft day trade to the Steelers where they surrendered a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick the next season in exchange for a third-round pick and the Hall of Fame running back. In his 10 seasons with the Steelers, Bettis rushed for over 1,000 yards and his first six years and had 10,571 rushing yards on 2,683 attempts during his 145 games. Bettis had 78 rushing touchdowns as well as two receiving touchdowns on 125 receptions and 806 yards. Bettis also added another nine rushing touchdowns in 13 postseason games with 199 rushing attempts for 674 yards.
Those are the top five players for the Steelers who were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft but were selected by another team and acquired later by Pittsburgh. So how does the list look? Were the players placed in the proper order? Was there anyone else who should have been on the list? Make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.