With the 2017 draft right around the corner, talking heads will immediately be grading draft classes before a down of football is ever even played. The Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals seem to get immediate A's a lot. But they have as many Super Bowl victories combined as I have Power Ball wins. So, those grades about as much as standardized career placement tests. No Mr. Guidance Counselor, I never became an accountant/pastry chef.
Contrary to popular belief the Steelers have had pretty solid draft classes over the years. There is no argument whatsoever that 1974 ranks #1 overall. Probably, it’s the best in NFL history. But what are the other best drafts in franchise lore? Here is Part One of BTSC's list of the ten best in Steeler history. Feel free to chime in. I'm pretty sure you will.
Bill Cowher's first draft yielded some very productive players.
The first round welcomed Miami's Leon Searcy. The 11th-overall pick started 48 of 63 games for the Steelers, including Super Bowl XXX. The big RT then left for Jacksonville and played another four years. He was named to the Pro Bowl his final season in 1999.
Levon Kirkland (Round 2) ended up being the stud of the draft for Pittsburgh. The All-American from Clemson played 144 of his 176 NFL games as a Steeler. The linebacker was team MVP in 1998 and 1999, a 2X Pro Bowler/All Pro in 1996 and 1997 and was back ed a member of the 90s All-Decade team.
Joel Steed (Round 3), the NT from Colorado, played 115 games for the Steelers from 1992-1999. The 1997 selection to the Pro Bowl had 303 tackles and 19.5 sacks in his career.
Penn State's Darren Perry was selected in the eighth round in '92 and made an immediate impact. The 1994 All-Pro spent seven of his nine seasons and had 32 of his 35 interceptions as a member of the Steelers.
In Round 7b, the Steelers selected RB Scottie Graham. Graham never played a game for Pittsburgh. However, the OSU Buckeye played in 57 for Minnesota in four seasons, gaining 1,239 yards and scoring seven times.
Kendall Gammon (Round 11) spent 15 seasons and 234 games in the league with Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Kansas City. The long snapper out of Pittsburg State left after the Super Bowl XXX season, his fourth year as a Steeler.
4th-round WR Charles Davenport (38 games), 5th-round CB Alan Haller (12 games), Round 7a at TE Russ Campbell (7 games) and 9th-round pick at LB Elnardo Webster (3 games) saw limited action in the professional ranks. While failing to land on the roster in the Chinman's initial draft were G Hesham Ismail (Round 8b), DT Nate Wiiliams (Round 8c), RB Mike Saunders (Round 10) and QB Cornelius Benton (Round 12).
Just like Cowher in his first draft, Mike Tomlin's first go-around in the war room wasn't overly spectacular, but it landed significant talent.
After losing out on Darelle Revis when the Jets traded ahead of them, the Steelers took Florida State's Lawrence Timmons in the first round at #15. "The Law Dog" spent ten quality seasons at ILB in Pittsburgh, before fleeing to Miami as a free agent in 2017. Timmons started 126 of 158 games and accumulated 988 tackles, had 35.5 sacks and picked-off 12 passes.
The Steelers went linebacker again in the scond round with LaMaar Woodley, a dominating force on the outside for seven seasons with the Steelers. With 57 career sacks, Woodley's health became an issue and shortened his Pro Bowl career.
William Gay out of Louisville was the second pick in the 5th round in 2007 for Pittsburgh. Gay is the lone survivor from that class. Gay left for Arizona for a season but returned. He has 12 career picks and is tied with Rod Woodson for the career pick-síx record.
TE Matt Spaeth (Round 3) was an unsung blocker at his position for seven of his nine NFL campaigns. Injuries limited Dan Sepulveda, a quality punter picked out of Baylor in Round 4a, to 52 games. Ryan McBean (Round 4b) lasted with three teams for five seasons in the league, but only appeared in one game for the Steelers.
The Steelers missed in 2007 with G Cameron Stephenson (Round 5a) from Rutgers and Florida WR Dallas Baker (Round 7).
Picking late in each round due to an AFC championship game performance, the Steelers had a very solid draft in 2002. While not necessarily blockbuster, the Steelers got contributions from all but one player from that year's haul.
The top pick was the hard-luck guard out of Auburn, Kendall Simmons. Simmons missed the entire 2004 season due to injury, but started the entire slate of regular season and postseason games during the 2005 Super Bowl run. He retired after the 2008 campaign.
Round 2 kicked off the "El Yeah" era. The all-purpose Antwan Randle-El threw, ran, caught and returned during his Steeler/Redskin career for a total of 9,221 yards. Randle-El's most memorable moment came in Super Bowl XL with his scoring pass to Hines Ward.
2002 also netted reliable defenders and longtime starters, Round 4's Larry Foote (187 career games and 25 sacks) and Round 7b's Brett Keisel (12 seasons and 30 sacks). Florida State's Chris Hope (Round 3) was the team's starting FS in year 3 and 4 before departing after SB XL as a free agent.
Verron Haynes (Round 5) and Lee Mays (Round 6) were key reserves and contributors, who played 61 and 49 games respectively in black and gold.
CB LaVar Glover (Round 7A) was the only player from this draft not to stick.
The 2010 draft didn't feature quantity as much as it did quality. The two players that remain are mainstays of the current Steelers.
Maurkice Pouncey, selected first that year out of Florida, has completed five seasons at the center position in Pittsburgh. All five landed him as a Pro Bowl selection. The other two ended in injury or he could have been to seven. The dominant Pouncey is having a HOF-worthy caeer.
Jason Worilds never quite starred for the team in the manner in which all interested parties had hoped, but the second-rounder from Virginia Tech had some bright spots in his five Steeler seasons before retiring at age 27 to follow his faith as a Jehovah's Witness. The OLB that had 25.5 sacks and 204 tackles passed up a payday of $7-8 Million and a possible $15M signing bonus.
Emmanuel Sanders was actually the most-heralded WR drafted by the Steelers in 2010. The third-rounder from SMU played four pedestrian seasons in Pittsburgh before blowing up with 3,571 yards and 20 TDs in three seasons in Denver. The Steelers were too financially strapped to keep Sanders in black and gold. They replaced him in the draft with Martavis Bryant.
Then there's Antonio Brown. The most dynamic player in the game today lasted until the 195th pick (Round 6b). You know his resume'. With another stellar year, Brown could surpass 10,000 yards receiving in only his eighth NFL season.
A pair of 5th rounders, G Chris Scott (45 games) and CB Crezdon Butler (46 games) are still active, but didn't amount to much in Pittsburgh. While pick-5c, LB Stevenson Sylvester (50 games) and sixth-round RB Johnathan Dwyer (38 games) made contributions to the team in their four Steeler seasons.
The 2010 picks that did not pan out were DE Thaddeus Gibson (Round 4) and DT Doug Worthington (Round 7).
Stay with BTSC for sixth through fourth coming soon.
Of BTSC’s No. 10 through No. 7 Steeler draft classes, which do you think was the best haul?
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