Hey, you're back. As you are painfully aware, BTSC has been going back in time and redrafting or standing-pat on the first two picks of every Steeler draft from 1975-2015. It's not real and it won't be fool proof, but it's pure fantasy and that's a good thing to slip into every now and again. Here we reopen the half-decade that saw the Steelers trade for a Hall of Famer, pass on two in the same draft and select two possible Canton enshrinees in the same draft, three years later.
But first, we need to review the guidelines with the following disclaimer so I don't get livid and punch my Bubby Brister bobblehead after you question my every move in the comments section.
I realize that any changes would possibly alter the Steelers entirely and that the Steelers that we know today could look altogether different. Remember that this is merely an essay on what other possibilities existed. I only chose players drafted within 15 picks of the Steelers actual choice. I only included the first two rounds of each draft from 1975-2015. Remember to have fun as we drift into fantasy and destroy the space-time continuum altogether.
Now welcome back to Steelers Fantasy Island. Our special guest star for this very riveting episode is none other than 1995-1999.
Round 1 Pick 27
Actual Pick: TE Mark Bruener-Washington
Re-Pick: LB Derrick Brooks-Florida State (Round 1 Pick 28)
Breuner was a very good player for the Steelers for nine seasons. The TE was a leader and solid blocker for the franchise and had 137 catches for 1,197 yards and 16 TDs in Pittsburgh. He moved on to Houston for five more seasons.
As solid as Bruener was, Derrick Brooks, the very next pick, also played 14 NFL seasons. The difference was that Brooks had slightly more selections to the Pro Bowl (11), was 9x an All Pro, was an NFL Defensive Player and Man of the Year, is a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team, won a SB ring and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Round 2 Pick 60
Actual Pick: QB/WR Kordell Stewart-Colorado
Re-Pick: RB Curtis Martin-Pittsburgh (Round 3 Pick 74)
The Colorado connection continued with Kordell Stewart. No. 10, although a very polarizing figure in Steeler history, was still a very good pick. As a rookie, "Slash" was the spark plug that helped energize a 3-4 team to win the AFC Championship and won the Joe Greene Great Performance Award for being that year's outstanding rookie. The utility man had 2,561 yards on the ground and 35 rushing TDs and 658 yards with five receiving scores for the Steelers. His 38 total rushing touchdowns ranks him fourth all-time among quarterbacks. Insisting on being a QB, Stewart started 80 games in the 'Burgh. He had a record of 46-29, threw for 13,328 yards, tossed 70 TDs against 72 interceptions and had a completion percentage of 56.5%. Kordell led the team to two AFC Championship Games at home, but imploded with six-combined interceptions in both losses (which I unfortunately attended). I always wondered what might have been had Kordell remained at the receiver position. After being minutes away from 0-3 in 2002, Stewart was yanked for Tommy Maddox, who pulled out an improbable victory in the closing minutes and led the Steelers to the playoffs. Kordell left after that, his eighth season, and retired two years later after stints with Chicago and Baltimore. Stewart was the Steelers MVP, a Pro Bowler and AFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2001. These days, controversy still stalks Stewart as a part of television's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
I would have protected the selection of Stewart, but a Hall of a Famer was once again available, a hometown kid to boot. Since this is a "hindsight is 20/20" piece, I have to go with CMart, whose achievements include being a 3x All Pro, a 5x Pro Bowler and the fourth all-time leading rusher in NFL history with 14,101 yards.
Round 1 Pick 29
Actual Pick: OT Jamain Stephens-North Carolina A&T
Re-Pick: DE Tony Brackens-Texas (Round 2 Pick 33)
Jamain Stephens had great size and was selected as a "project" with the second-to-last pick of the '96 draft. The Steelers could afford to do that because of boasting a solid offensive line and having just come off of a season in which they were runners-up in the Super Bowl. However, Stephens was believed to have had poor conditioning habits and a suspect work ethic. After Stephens showed up allegedly over 350 pounds at the beginning of 1999's training camp in Latrobe and failed to complete the customary 40-yard runs, Bill Cowher cut him almost immediately that day. Legend has it that Stephens also consumed an entire pizza on the Steeler sideline during pregame warmups of a game.
Brackens was a tough defender that spent eight seasons in Jacksonville as a defensive stalwart. The 1x Pro Bowl-selection had 55 sacks, 27 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries and five interceptions for the Jaguars. Leg injuries and subsequent operations led to his release in 2004.
Round 2 Pick 59
Actual Pick: Traded to St. Louis for Jerome Bettis.
Re-Pick: No Change
Not on your life do you even think about reversing the greatest trade in Steeler history. The Steelers got a Hall of Fame running back for a two and a four.
Round 1 Pick 24
Actual Pick: CB Chad Scott-Maryland
Scott recorded 21 interceptions in the NFL, including 19 in Pittsburgh. Four of those picks, No. 30 returned for touchdowns. Injuries cost Scott his second season in Pittsburgh and a majority of his seventh, which led to his release. Scott hooked on with the Patriots and won a title. Chad missed the entire 2007 season and then retired after ten years in the league.
Re-Pick: DE Trevor Pryce-Clemson (Round 1 Pick 28)
Pryce had 440 tackles, 91 sacks and 12 forced fumbles in 14 seasons with Denver, Baltimore and the New York Jets. The big defensive lineman was a relentless pass rusher and a member of two Super Bowl winners. Pryce is an inductee into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame. The 4x Pro Bowler and 3x All Pro is now an author of the young adult series, "Kulipari: Army of Frogs".
Round 2 Pick 53
Actual Pick: WR Will Blackwell-San Diego State
Blackwell only recorded 67 receptions in his five-year Steeler career. However, No. 89 returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. He hooked on with San Diego briefly, then was out of the league.
Re-Pick: CB Ronde Barber-Virginia (Round 3 Pick 66)
Ronde, who shares a birthday with another player of the time named Tiki, spent 16 years with Tampa Bay. An elite hitter, Barber was a 5x Pro Bowl-selection and 3x All Pro. In 2001, Ronde led the league with 10 of his 47 career interceptions. The Roanoke native is a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s. His career totals included 28 sacks, 15 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries and eight touchdowns. The Super Bowl champ has started more games (215) then any other defensive back in history.
Round 1 Pick 26
Actual Pick: G Alan Faneca-LSU
Re-Pick: No Change
Faneca of LSU anchored the Steeler line for 10 of his 13 seasons. He spent three more years with the Jets and Cardinals. No. 66 was a 9x Pro Bowler, 8x All Pro and a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade team. Faneca was a key in the Super Bowl XL win, pulling and laying a bone-crushing block to free Willie Parker on his record run of 75-yards for a score. Faneca was a finalist in February, but narrowly missed out on induction to Canton.
Round 2 Pick 41
Actual Pick: DE Jeremy Staat-Arizona State
Re-Pick: No Change
Seriously, no change. In Round 2, the Steelers traded up to select DE Jeremy Staat. Staat had 20 tackles in three seasons for Pittsburgh. Inspired by his close friend, the late Pat Tillman, The ASU Sun Devil joined the Marines in 2006 and served in Iraq. He now heads the Jeremy Staat Foundation to aid veteran affairs. Staat once commented that he was more proud of being a Marine than a Steeler. He should be. Thanks for your service, Jeremy. Semper Fi.
The best that the Steelers could have done here may have been TE Stephen Alexander. But for patriotic reasons, stick with Staat.
Round 1 Pick 13
Actual Pick: WR Troy Edwards-Louisiana Tech
This was a very myopic pick. The Steelers thought they needed a receiver (even though Hines Ward was already in-house), so they took the best, although undersized receiver, still available. Fortunes started out well for Edwards with 61 catches as a rookie that netted him the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, but it soured from there. Edwards only started seven games for the black and gold. In his three years in Pittsburgh, Troy had 1,212 yards and six total TDs. Edwards was traded to St. Louis for one season and played with both Detroit and Jacksonville. He concluded his career with Grand Rapids in the Arena League. Edwards was infamous in Pittsburgh for running out-of-bounds and coming back in on punt defense in the 2001 AFC Title Game. The Patriots took advantage of the subsequent penalty and Troy Brown returned the re-punt for a TD.
Re-Pick: DE Jevon Kearse-Florida (Round 1 Pick 16)
The man known as "the Freak" was just that on the football field in his 11-year career. A Titan for seven years and an Eagle for four years, Kearse had 74 career sacks and 28 forced fumbles. Kearse went to three Pro Bowls his first three seasons and was named a First-team All Pro and Defensive Rookie and Player of the Year in 1999.
Round 2 Pick 59
Actual Pick: S Scott Shields-Weber State
Shields didn't last more than two seasons in Pittsburgh and the league due to limited tackling technique. No. 47 recorded four interceptions in his rookie campaign, but had no more and was out of the league by 2001.
Re-Pick: CB Daylon McCutcheon-USC (Round 2 Pick 62)
With 12 career interceptions, 463 tackles, seven sacks and seven forced fumbles, the NFL legacy was a solid option at cornerback for seven years for the expansion Browns. McCutcheon's father, Lawrence was the Rams leading rusher for five straight seasons from 1973-1977. The 5x Pro Bowler threw a TD pass against the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.
Part Six of Steelers Fantasy Island is on deck. Be sure to look for 2000-2004.