The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been known to build the team through the NFL Draft. They will make moves in free agency as they see fit, but they are never the big players in that area of the offseason.
When talking specifically about the draft, there are those players who are considered “steals”. Players who aren’t drafted high, but turn into serious players at the professional level.
ESPN’s Matt Miller and Jordan Reid put together their Top 50 draft steals of the last 10 years, and here was their criteria for the exercise:
- First-rounders weren’t included, even if they were taken late on Day 1. Undrafted free agents were also excluded since the list would skew in that direction.
- To qualify, a player must have been drafted at least 15 spots — roughly half a round — later than he should have been, and that’s just the floor for the exercise.
- There aren’t any 2023 draft picks here — they haven’t even played a game yet! Only players drafted between 2013 and 2022 were eligible for our ranking.
With that out of the way, it is worth looking to see if any Pittsburgh Steelers made the list. To answer this question, there were two. Let’s take a look at the Steelers who made the list, and at what spot in the Top 50 they fell:
20. Le’Veon Bell, RB
Drafted: No. 48 in 2013 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Career stats: 1,595 rushes for 6,554 yards and 42 TDs in nine seasons
The first rookie to lead the Steelers in rushing since 1989, Bell provided a major boost in both the passing and run games right out of the gate. His notable “slow to/fast through” running style was somewhat new to the NFL; Bell could come to nearly a complete stop and then suddenly explode up the field. It helped him become a three-time All-Pro and a three-time Pro Bowler during his six seasons in Pittsburgh.
Say what you want about Bell’s time in Pittsburgh, when he was focused and healthy there wasn’t a back which could compare. His vision, patience and explosion made him lethal with the ball in his hands. His receiving ability might have been what resulted in his departure from the Steelers, but you can’t deny his overall ability as a runner, receiver, and blocker. An all-around tremendous talent.
41. Javon Hargrave, DT
Drafted: No. 89 in 2016 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Career stats: 329 tackles, 37.5 sacks and 4 fumble recoveries in seven seasons
Hargrave was knocked hard in the NFL draft process for short arms, small hands and an FCS level of competition at South Carolina State. But he has emerged as one of the premier defensive tackles in the game, adding 11 sacks and 30 pressures to his résumé in 2022 alone. Hargave just cashed in with an $84 million contract with the 49ers, further solidifying his status as a legendary draft steal.
When the Steelers drafted Hargrave out of HBCU South Carolina State, many fans of the black-and-gold asked, “Who?”. Hargrave made a name for himself along the Steelers defensive line, and not just as a player nicknamed “J-Wobble”. Hargrave spent his rookie season with Pittsburgh before cashing in with the Philadelphia Eagles, and now the San Francisco 49ers for another huge pay day. Hargrave was absolutely a steal.
What do you think of the two Steelers who made the list? Is there anyone ESPN missed? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.