When Chuck Noll was hired as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, "Steeler" football was born. Not ALL Steelers football. They did play prior to 1970, they just didn't play very well.
If you want to know how the Pittsburgh Steelers operated, think of the Washington Redskins of the late 90's-early 00's. They normally traded valuable draft picks for old, washed up players. That is why the Steelers were so bad, for so long.
When Chuck Noll was hired, he took the job on the condition that HE were to be the one that ran the team, the way HE wanted to run it.
With the Rooney family desperate to win, they allowed Noll to run the show in Pittsburgh, and the rest is history.
As hard as it is for me to pick the top 10 VERY BEST first round picks from the last 45 years, it is a fun task that I had a great time doing.
Yes, I expect MANY of you to think I am crazy about some of them. Others, no one will be able to argue.
I hope you enjoy the list, and let me know what you think in the comments.
With the 18th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Maurkice Pouncey.
The Steelers offensive line was been considered horrible, horrendous, god-awful and pathetic. The Steelers, who had a tradition of amazing centers, from Mike Webster to Dermonti Dawson to Jeff Hartings, seemed to forget about the position from the time Hartings retired in 2007, until three years later when they drafted Pouncey.
The significance of this pick, not only have the Steelers finally addressed the offensive line position that was the most stable in the NFL for three generations (same amount of centers as head coaches), was finally addressed by the team.
Pouncey rewarded the Steelers by not only becoming a starter from his first training camp, but earning his first Pro Bowl nomination. And award that rookie offensive linemen hardly ever earn.
With the 26th pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Alan Faneca.
I know this is going to seem like a long time ago, but for a while, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was considered as one of the very best in the NFL. They had Marvell Smith at LT, Jeff Hartings at C, and Alan Faneca was the play caller for the unit.
They led the Steelers to become regulars as one of the top five rushing teams in the NFL.
Faneca left the Steelers a year after Mike Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher, due to his loyalty to his position coach, Russ Grimm for not getting the job.
Since Faneca left the Steelers, their offensive line has been in turmoil, and has never fully recovered from the drop off in production by the lines led by Faneca.
With the 19th pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Casey Hampton.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers "thin in the middle" of their defensive line, they selected Casey Hampton in the first round, and he would become the staple in the middle of a 3-4 defense, that has consistently been on of the best in the NFL for the Steelers.
The NT in the 3-4 defense does not get a lot of statistics in the record books, or many plays on SportsCenter, because his job is not to be flashy, but to tie up offensive linemen, so that the amazing LB's the Steelers have can make plays.
Hampton has been voted to the Pro Bowl in five seasons, and is a two-time Super Bowl Champion.
With the 21st pick of the 1974 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Lynn Swann.
I almost get chills when I think of the 1974 NFL Draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The final piece to the dynasty puzzle that Chuck Noll was building.
The first pick, Lynn Swann, would go on to become Super Bowl X, MVP. He made amazing, acrobatic catches that many people thought were not possible.
Swann took ballet lessons to make him a better football player. Not only did he display amazing grace, but was also one of the toughest players on the offense. He was not afraid to go over the middle, but could still beat his opponent deep.
With the 13th pick of the 1972 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Franco Harris.
The year Franco Harris joined the Pittsburgh Steelers was when Chuck Nolls' plan for success finally started to come to fruition. It was in their first playoff victory that God smiled down from Heaven and told the Steelers Nation, with one of the most amazing plays in NFL history, that no longer would they be losers.
When the Steelers defeated the Oakland Raiders with the Immaculate Reception, rookie Franco Harris ran for the game winning TD, the actual BIRTH of the 70's Dynasty.
Harris had a hand in helping the Steelers to record four Super Bowl victories in the span of six years. A record that still holds today.
With the 10th pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Rod Woodson.
Rod Woodson is the most popular Steeler from his generation. After the Dynasty days, and until the New Super Bowl generation, Woodson stood alone as the best of the best.
Yes, he had Greg Lloyd and Kevin Green to run with, but the defenses were nowhere NEAR what those before/after, were/have become.
Woodson stands alone during that generation because there was no one that was near the talent and greatness that Woodson was.
Rod Woodson was the best CB in the NFL during his days. Like a Champ Bailey for those of you too young to remember Woodson. He shut down one side of the field. Big, fast, strong, liked to hit. Woodson WAS what a Pittsburgh Steeler was during the Steel Curtain.
With the 11th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Ben Roethlisberger.
Many people will argue this one with me, and trust me, I'm ready for it.
There is probably not a more discussed QB in the NFL than Ben Roethlisberger. There are MANY haters of Big Ben, and the shots they fire are both personal and professional.
Ben Roethlisberger was not supposed to be starting for the Steelers in his rookie season. It was said that Roethlisberger would need two years of playing behind Tommy Maddox before he was ready to take the reins for the Steelers.
When injury forced him to play as a rookie, the Steelers realized they got the steal of the draft.
Rothlisberger has already exceeded most exceptions by the victories and Super Bowls that Steelers Nation has witnessed. Having taken the Steelers to three Super Bowls in his seven years in the NFL, Roethlisberger has laid claim to being one of the best in the NFL.
All those people that say the Steelers would have won those games anyway need to look at the 26-year gap between Ben and Terry Bradshaw. The Steelers, with a similarly talented defense, went to a total of ONE Super Bowl, which they lost.
Then, there are those that want to say Ben is not great because of his off the field issues. Though, I do understand how someone can feel that way, regardless of off the field issues (by the way, NONE have ever been proven), there has still not been another QB for the Steelers, EVER that has joined the team and brought them such success, so quickly.
With the 1st pick in the 1970 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Terry Bradshaw.
When people talk about the "All-Time Greats" at the QB position, it is amazing to me, how often Bradshaw is excluded from the conversation.
The detractors are quick to point out how Bradshaw had two Hall of Fame receivers. How Bradshaw had an amazing running game. How Bradshaw had the Steel Curtain, and THAT was the reason for his success.
Could it be possible that the reason Bradshaw had two Hall of Fame receivers was because HE made them Hall of Fame worthy?
Would Franco Harris have been Hall of Fame had defenses not had to account for Bradshaw beating teams with his arm?
Sure, no one can knock the Steelers defense, but they did have to score points. The defense did have to have an occasional rest.
The one thing that so many people don't realize is, Bradshaw is one of only two men that have gone 4-0 in the Super Bowl (Joe Montana).
In each one of those games, in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, Bradshaw threw a TD pass that either gave the Steelers the lead, or put the game out of reach for their opponent.
So, you may have to spot Terry the C and the A for him to spell CAT, but one thing is for sure, he knows how to win more than most teams in history.
With the 16th Pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Troy Polamalu.
The most amazing thing about the Steelers drafting Polamalu is that it was the first time in the history of the Steelers that they actually traded UP in the first round.
Troy Polamalu is a once in a lifetime player. When people look back at his career, they are going to know that Polamalu changed the way the game of football is played.
Yes, people would freelance long before Polamalu joined the NFL. But, people dunked a basketball before Michael Jordan did. Jordan, like Polamalu, just does it better.
When Polamalu is on the field, the Steelers defense is different than when he is not. And it is a big difference.
At the end of his career, Polamalu will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, and will go down in history as one of the greatest defenders, EVER.
With the 4th pick in the 1969 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Mean Joe Green, and the franchise would be changed forever.
Chuck Noll knew that he needed to build his team from the inside out, and selected one of the greatest defensive linemen that have ever played the game.
With the drafting of Mean Joe, the culture of the Pittsburgh Steelers changed. No, it was not an easy change. Greene, hating to lose, almost quit before the Steelers even had a chance to become the dynasty they did.
All of the prideful things Steelers Nation thinks of going back to the 1970's, Steel Curtain, Dynasty and four-time Super Bowl Champions, all started with the drafting of Mean Joe Greene.
From that day, the Steelers became the team we all currently know and love.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a great history of making their first round picks into Super Stars. Every single member of this list has been to the Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are not too many teams that can claim they have this type of success with first round picks.
Those of you that believe that the Steelers should trade up or down in the first round, need to look at how great the Steelers have done with their first round picks. Only Troy Polamalu was drafted with a pick other than the Steelers had when the draft started.
If the Steelers can have the kind of success in the next couple of season they have had with these men in the past, then there is no reason at all, to think that their success is only going to continue to be one of the best in the NFL.
Feel free to let me have it in the comments!