Even this year, when the team is coming off a disappointing season and is in need of immediate help at several positions, the organization has largely resisted the temptation to dip into the free-agent market. It let several of its own high-profile players walk to other teams and passed on signing any but the most bargain-basement replacements.
This philosophy toward roster management may make for relatively unexciting offseasons, but it has paid off over time.
Since the 2000 season, Pittsburgh has won 64.9 percent of its regular-season games, made the playoffs eight times, captured three AFC titles and been crowned NFL champion twice.
Rebuilding through the draft has worked for the Steelers, thanks obviously, to their front office’s ability to consistently scout and acquire talent capable of playing at the professional level.
Just as obviously, Pittsburgh’s future success will hinge on how well Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Steelers’ front office can scout and acquire talent in coming years.
After all, not every draft has been a home run for the Steelers. The team has had its fair share of duds over the past decade.
Players selected in every round of the draft have failed to live up to expectations, and many never once put on a black and gold jersey before disappearing into oblivion.
With the oldest snap-adjusted defense in the NFL, the pressure is on Colbert and company to nail this year’s draft. With a little less than a month to go before the big day, now is a good time to review Pittsburgh’s draft history under the current general manager.
The following list analyzes and ranks the Steelers’ draft classes since 2000. It runs from worst to best and excludes the three most recent crops of rookies.
Most players take a few years to mature into productive NFL players, so evaluating players based only on their first few seasons of work would not necessarily give a clear indication of the real strength of a draft class.
For example, former Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis toiled in relative obscurity in nickel packages for the first three years of his career. However, Lewis won a starting spot opposite Ike Taylor last year and proceeded to have one of the best seasons of any player at his position in 2012.
The rankings are based on numerous factors, including the amount of time each draftee has spent on the field for the Steelers and each player’s approximate value (AV) while playing in Pittsburgh.
AV is an attempt by analysts at Pro-Football-Reference.com to assign a numerical value to every player at every position for every year in NFL history. For more information about the methodology, click here.