Pittsburgh Steelers: Best Draft Selection Per Round Since the Year 2000
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Since 2000, the Pittsburgh Steelers have appeared in five AFC Championship games, three Super Bowls and raised the Lombardi Trophy twice. A substantial reason for their success, or any team’s success in the NFL, falls on their ability to draft with excellence.
It is always intriguing to look back on past drafts and rank the best to worst. This slideshow will take a different approach to re-evaluating and ranking recent past selections.
The following list will rank the best players selected by the Steelers in each round over the last decade, along with a bonus of ranking the remainder players who were selected in each of those rounds.
Most football people will tell you that it takes three years to truly get a feel for how triumphant or substandard a particular class was.
This obviously means that a great deal of predicting and assumptions will go into some of these rankings, specifically for the 2009 and 2010 Steelers draft classes.
As with rankings similar to this, the following is very subjective and more than anything is simply meant to be an interesting and fun read.
Round 7: Brett “The Diesel” Keisel, Defensive End, BYU 2002
Keisel's beard raised over 30,000 dollars after shaving it in February
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The Grizzly Bear cult figure is a slam dunk winner for the Steelers’ best round 7 selection since 2000. Drafted out of BYU, Keisel primarily played behind Kimo von Oelhoffen in his first three years while also dealing with a season ending shoulder injury in 2003.
Once Oelhoffen left the Steelers via free agency in 2006, Keisel won the starting end spot and has not looked back since.
In his first full season as a starter, the bearded one tallied 5.5 sacks while playing in all 16 games. Not too shabby of a sack total for an end in the Steelers 3-4 scheme. In 2010, Keisel was added to the Pro Bowl roster, marking the first appearance for the blue collar defensive end.
He also reached pay dirt in 2010 with his first career interception and first career return against Tampa Bay in week 3. The big man rumbled and stumbled 79 yards to the end zone off a deflected pass.
It is worth a YouTube search, especially since the always vigorous Gus Johnson was providing the play by play.
Even more crucial than his play on the field is his leadership in the locker room. 2009 first round selection Ziggy Hood has described him as a big brother. His charitable work is quite noteworthy as well, especially when he finally decided to shave his epic long beard.
Keisel represents the Steelers very well and has done exceptionally well in his career. He has proven to be one of the best late-round selections in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history.
It is worth mentioning that Keisel also has three career postseason sacks.
2. David Johnson: A versatile tight end who is still getting accustomed to the NFL.
3. Noah Herron: 2 career carries for the Steelers. More than most people can say.
4. Dallas Baker: 1 less career catch than Herron had carries for the black and gold.
5. Shaun Nua: Has a Super Bowl ring, but so do the trainers.
6. A.Q. Shipley: Caused a local buzz after being drafted, shown the door shortly after.
7. Doug Worthington: Was "worth" a seventh round pick out of Ohio State. No longer with team.
8. Eric Taylor: Injured upon being drafted, never had a chance.
9. J.T. Wall: With a name like that, he must have been a fullback.
10. LaVar Glover: Practice squad and then moved on.
11. Chris Taylor: Former Texas A&M wide receiver.
12. Cedric Humes: Ran out of things to say.
Round 6: Chris Kemoeatu, Offensive Lineman, Utah 2005
Kemoeatu replaced seven time Pro Bowler Alan Fanaca on the offensive line.
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Nearly every football list needs a representative from one of the big men up front. The unsung heroes need their respect, and Kemoeatu has provided the Steelers with a lot of productive snaps.
A sixth-round draft choice in 2005 out of Utah, Chris did not get any playing time until his second year.
In 2008, he seized the opportunity when future Hall of Famer Alan Fanaca moved on and Kemoeatu started every game that season. He had enormous shoes to fill, and he did an admirable job playing the crucial left guard position.
In his career, Kemoeatu has started 45 games for the Steelers and has appeared in 62 contests. The long-haired Tongan will never get national notoriety or ever make a Pro Bowl, but he has earned this spot.
Never flashy, but always looking to out-physical the opposition, Kemoeatu will be around for a few more years.
Not a fan of Ray Lewis? YouTube, “Kemoeatu running with the ball.”
2. Antonio Brown: Bright future, big play capabilities and could be a consistent game breaker soon.
3. Rodney Bailey: Productive backup seasons for the Steelers from 2002-2003. 9.5 sacks total.
4. Ryan Mundy: Increased playing time and could continue that trend in 2011.
5. Lee Mays: 11 career catches including a long of 46.
6. Jonathan Dwyer: Remained on the roster his rookie season, might still have a future.
7.Chris Combs: Six career tackles for the Steelers.
8. Ra'Shon Harris: Was born in Pittsburg, Calif. Isn't that neat?
9. Jason Gavadza: TE out of Kent State.
10. Mike Humpal: Found the injured reserve and then cut.
11.Matt Kranchick: Local kid out of Penn State.
12. Roger Knight: Linebacker out of Wisconsin.
13. Marvin Philip: Smooth name.
14. Drew Caylor: Cut after summer camp.
Round 5: Clark Haggans, Linebacker, Colorado State 2000
Haggans emerged as a leader on and off the field
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Penn State University is known as Linebacker U. Well if there was a graduate program to PSU’s undergrad program, it would be located in Pittsburgh.
Defensive coordinator and Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau always give his linebackers all the tools they need to excel. That does not mean they always do.
Clark Haggans certainly did. The all-time Colorado State sack leader was drafted into the perfect system. He played behind Jason Gildon for a few years, racking up 7.5 sacks in four seasons before Gildon was released.
In 2004, Haggans nearly matched his career sack mark with six quarterback takedowns that season alone.
The following season would be a career year for Haggans. The outside linebacker would set a personal best nine sacks during the regular season. He also had a sack in Super Bowl 40, playing an outstanding game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Wearing No. 53 for the black and gold, Haggans would start two more seasons for the Steelers. He recorded ten sacks and an interception in those two years combined.
Clark was never the most physically gifted linebacker, but from 2002-2007 he left everything on the field. He was put in a favorable position rushing the quarterback over Aaron Smith and took advantage of that opportunity. The Steelers got a lot of value out of this fifth-round pick in 2000.
2. Chukky Okobi: Saw action in 77 games for the Steelers, including starting 7.
3, Verron Haynes: Solid third down back for a few years. Two seasons of over 200 yards rushing.
4. William Gay: 22 career starts. Many of them not good with a few splash plays.
5. Dennis Dixon: Incredible talent, one career start. Future with the Steelers is in question.
6. Brian St. Pierre: Spent three seasons as the Steelers third-string quarterback.
7. Steven Sylvester: A beast on special teams during his rookie season.
8. Chris Scott: The way Steelers offensive lineman get hurt, he always has a chance to play.
9. Frank Summers: The tank quickly had a fan base in Pittsburgh, but has since moved on.
10. Crezdon Butler: Plenty of speed at the CB position. Might have a future with the team
11. Joe Burnett: Showed glimpses of talent in the preseason, but eventually was released.
13. Rian Wallace: Currently playing in Canada, eh.
14. Omar Jacobs: Many thought he could compete for the backup QB position after being drafted.
15. Cameron Stephenson: Released after training camp.
16. Nathaniel Adibi: He has never played a down.
17. Charles Davis: Tight end out of Purdue.
Round 4: Ike Taylor, Cornerback, Louisiana-Lafayette (Swaggin') 2003
Many teams avoid throwing to Ike Taylor's side.
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In recent years, the cornerback position has been stamped with a massive question mark. That is no fault of Ike Taylor. After playing primarily on special teams his first two professional seasons, Taylor started for the Steelers in 2005.
He had a solid year, but an even better postseason. He recorded two interceptions in the playoffs, including one in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks.
After a sub-par 2006 season, Ike emerged as one the better cornerbacks in the AFC. He possesses great footwork and teams tend to avoid throwing his way.
On average, a cornerback’s shelf life is short in the NFL, but Taylor has put together four consecutive excellent seasons. A very impressive career for a fourth-round draft selection.
Taylor’s biggest knock is his inability to hold onto interceptions. The lack of splash plays is the only reason that he is not mentioned with the better cornerbacks in the league.
2. Larry Foote, tremendous career with the Steelers. Started four seasons for Pittsburgh.
3. Willie Colon: Was expected to make an impact in 2010 before tearing his Achilles.
4. Daniel Sepulveda: Field changing punter who simply cannot stay on the field.
5. Tony Hills: Saw action in 3 games during the 2010 season.
6. Ryan McBean: Made one appearance in the regular season while in Pittsburgh.
7. Fred Gibson: A lot of hype after being drafted in 2005, but was cut that September.
8. Mathias Nkwenti: Stayed in the organization for three seasons.
9. Thaddeus Gibson: Cut before his rookie season started, 49ers picked him up.
10. Orien Harris: Never played in a regular season game for the Steelers, born in Jamaica.
11. Danny Farmer: Waived soon after being drafted.
Round 3: Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver, Mississippi 2009
Mike Wallace is one of the fastest players in the league
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In his short two-year career, the burner Mike Wallace has proven that his speed can kill opposing teams for 60 minutes. His 40 time is clocked at 4.33, but his “football speed” appears to be even faster.
His rookie season was filled with stimulating plays and big-time performances. Playing as the third wide receiver, Wallace led the entire National Football League in average per reception at 19.4 yards.
His most notorious rookie year catch came in Week 15 when he was on the receiving end of a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass with all zeros left on the game clock to win the game 37-36.
With the departure of Santonio Holmes following the 2009 season, Wallace was able to move up in the depth chart. He continued his progression in his second season, finishing the regular season with 1,257 yards and led the NFL with seven 100 yard games.
As Wallace continues to grow as a wideout in the league, he needs to run more crisp routes and develop more of an all-around game.
With his ability and natural speed, the ceiling on his potential remains exceptionally high. Kevin Colbert struck gold with this third-round selection, and Wallace should be Roethlisberger’s primary target for many years to come.
2. Chris Hope: 4 seasons with the team, 2 excellent seasons starting next to Troy Polamalu.
3. Emmanuel Sanders: 28 receptions, 376 yards and 2 TDs as a rookie. Plenty of upside.
5. Trai Essex: Primarily a backup, but unique offensive lineman that can play multiple positions well.
6. Max Starks: Has started 68 games on the offensive line for the Steelers.
7. Matt Spaeth: 60 career games and 5 touchdowns as a tight end.
8. Hank Poteat: Appeared in 41 games for the Steelers in 3 seasons.
9.. Kendrick Clancy: Backup on the defensive line for 4 seasons.
10. Keenan Lewis: Still has potential to be a solid third round selection for the Steelers.
10..Willie Reid: He was fun to watch in the preseason.
11. Anthony Smith: It is "guaranteed" that he never had serious talent.
12. Kraig Urbik: Waived four months after being drafted.
13. Bruce Davis: Drafted into the wrong system and could not adjust.
Round 2: LaMarr Woodley, Outside Linebacker, Michigan 2007
Woodley has been a force on defense since entering the league
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The second round has been hit or miss for the Steelers in recent years. Woodley was certainly a hit, and that is exactly what he has been doing to opposing quarterbacks since he entered the league out of Michigan.
He took over the starting outside linebacker spot in his sophomore season. In his first start, Woodley had three tackles, a sack, an interception, a defended pass, and a fumble recovery. A start to what already has been a magnificent career.
The national media has yet to put the 6-2 266 pound freight train in the top tier of NFL outside linebackers with the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Terrell Suggs or his teammate James Harrison. Woodley now has 3 consecutive seasons of at least 10 sacks.
When discussing sack artists from the linebacker position, the standard starts and ends with Lawrence Taylor. In LT’s first four seasons, he accumulated 28 sacks (which were not an official stat in Taylor’s rookie season). Woodley has amassed 39 sacks in his first four seasons. Those are very comparable numbers.
Even more impressive is the fact that LaMarr has more postseason sacks, 11, than the Hall of Famer Taylor, who has 6. Woodley is not on the level of LT and probably never will be. Taylor changed the game. Woodley is still an elite player on the defensive side of the ball.
Most imposing is that No. 56 does his most damage in the postseason. Every coach in every sport wants an athlete that brings their utmost performances when the lights are shining brightest. Woodley excels in the bright lights and will turn the lights off with clutch plays.
The most extraordinary statistic in Woodley’s impressive, young resume is the fact that he has one sack in his first seven postseason games. That is a National Football League record. He is also the only player to record three consecutive multi-sack playoff games.
He also forced a fumble on Kurt Warner in Super Bowl 43 that sealed a Steelers victory. The only postseason game Woodley was relatively quiet was Super Bowl 45 against the Packers. He still had a sack in the game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers develop productive linebackers at an impressive rate, but Woodley is in a class of his own. His ability to be creative in the passing game, specifically making agile plays in the flats, is what separates him from most pass-rushing backers.
2. Marvel Smith: A Pro Bowl tackle who had a tremendous career in Pittsburgh.
3. Antwaan Randle-El: Significant SB catch and statistically, one of the best QBs ever.
4. Bryant McFadden: Grittiness outweighs his talent, but has played well at times.
5. Kendrell Bell: Former Rookie of the Year who had one too many knee injuries.
6. Jason Worilds: Might have a bright future relatively soon.
7. Limas Sweed: Disappointing career, but a great playoff block on his resume.
8. Ricardo Colclough: Many Pittsburgh fans still haven't forgotten his muffed punt against Cincy in 2006.
9. Alonzo Jackson: B.U.S.T.
Round 1: “Big” Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback, Miami (OH) 2004
Roethlisberger is a 2 time Super Bowl winning QB
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There is no denying that the NFL, in the way it is played today, is a quarterback-driven league. Unfortunately for many organizations, so few teams have franchise quarterbacks under center. The Pittsburgh Steelers do.
Ben Roethlisberger was drafted 11th overall and was the third quarterback taken in 2004. Then-starter Tommy Maddox was injured in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens. Roethlisberger was forced to start in Week 3 and the rest, they say is history.
Even though to this point it has been an exhilarating, publicly filled, motorcycle wrecking, Super Bowl winning and always interesting history.
Without all the extra-curricular activity away from the football field, Roethlisberger has performed well and has a few rings to prove it. His current playoff record is 10-3 and is right in the middle of his prime at age 29.
Roethlisberger has always been known as a winner. His actual play on the field and impact in those victories has still been underrated. Many skeptics of Roethlisberger like to bring up his first Super Bowl in which he evidently played poorly.
At 22 years old, he played phenomenal in the three preceding games in that Super Bowl run. In fact, his numbers in all four games of that year are better than Peyton Manning’s four games in 2007 when he won the Super Bowl and was named Super Bowl MVP.
Roethlisberger in 2005: 62% for 803 yards with 9 TDs (2 of those rushing) and 3 INTs
Manning in 2007: 63% for 1,034 yards with 4 TDs (1 of those rushing) and 7 INTs
On a personal level, Ben treated his next Super Bowl as redemption. He did not want to be the reason the Steelers did not win their sixth Lombardi Trophy. Not only did he play well, but he orchestrated one of the greatest drives in NFL history.
The Steelers reached the Super Bowl again last year. Roethlisberger played well throughout the season after receiving a four game suspension to begin the campaign.
Rumors that Roethlisberger proposed in the bathroom are completely false.
2. Troy Polamalu: Defensive Player of the Year, all time great and future Hall of Famer.
3. Casey Hampton: Anchor of the defense for a decade. He is a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
4. Maurkice Pouncey: So ridiculously early in his career, but he has Hall of Fame potential.
5. Rashard Mendenhall: Get this kid off twitter #stopfumbling.
6. Heath Miller: Many people believe he is still underused, but has put together a great career.
7. Santonio Holmes: One catch and one catch alone puts him here.
8. Lawrence Timmons: Has found his groove and might be one of the best MLB in the league soon.
9. Ziggy Hood: Slowly worked into the rotation, but has shown signs that he can be great.
10. Plaxico Burress: So many jokes, so little time. Did have two 1,000 yard seasons in Pittsburgh.
11. Kendall Simmons: Worked hard in his six seasons. Started 83 games.