Who are the best draft picks in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers? The astounding number of mid-to-late round draft picks that have done great things in Pittsburgh make it a tough list to compile. These 10 players dropped to the Steelers in later rounds but crafted remarkable careers with the team.
10. Brett Keisel
The Steelers took Keisel, the defensive end out of BYU, with the 242nd pick in the seventh round of the 2002 Draft. He became a full-time starter in 2006 with the departure of Kimo von Oelhoffen and has been a rock on the Pittsburgh defensive line since. As an end in Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense, Keisel has had a hard time coming by great stats and personal accolades. Keisel and Aaron Smith, his counterpart at defensive end for most of his career, took on an unheralded role of occupying blockers and creating mayhem at the line of scrimmage so their teammates could make plays. Keisel played on the Steeler teams that won Super Bowls XL and XLIII, as well as the team that lost Super Bowl XLV. Keisel's consistent production as a seventh-round pick puts him in the 10th spot. Oh, he grows a pretty awesome playoff beard, too.
9. Greg Lloyd
The Steelers selected Lloyd 150th overall in the sixth round of the 1987 Draft out of Fort Valley State. Lloyd would go on to become one of the top linebackers of the 1990s. In a seven-season span from 1989 to 1995, Lloyd missed only four starts and compiled 48.5 sacks. Lloyd was selected to the Pro Bowl five times and was three times named a First-Team All-Pro. Though fiery and often controversial in the media, Lloyd was a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. Along with Rod Woodson, Lloyd was a leader of the Pittsburgh defense that reached and eventually lost Super Bowl XXX to the Cowboys. The only thing that holds Lloyd back from all the other players on this list is that he never won a Super Bowl in his 10 seasons with the Steelers. Still, he was a great catch in the sixth round for Pittsburgh.
8. Aaron Smith
A fourth-round pick out of Northern Colorado taken 109th in the 1999 Draft, Smith was the marker of consistency on the tenacious Pittsburgh defense of the 2000s. Smith, like Keisel, played the less-than-glamorous 3-4 defensive end position until his retirement at the end of the 2011 season. In nine seasons from 2000 to 2008, Smith missed only seven starts. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2004 after a career-high eight sacks. Though rarely statistically stunning, Smith was one of the best defenders on the Steelers teams that won Super Bowls XL and XLIII. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and head coaches Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin often praised him as the most important defensive player on the Steelers. Smith spent most of his last few seasons on injured reserve, leading to his retirement after this past season.
7. Mike Wagner
A two-time Pro Bowl safety, Wagner was selected out of Western Illinois 268th overall in the 11th round of the 1971 Draft. During his ten year career, he was a fixture in the secondary of the 1970s "Steel Curtain" defense that carried the team to four Super Bowl championships. Wagner's best year statistically came in 1973, when he tied for the league lead with eight interceptions on the way to a Second-Team All-Pro nod from the Associated Press. Wagner would record 36 interceptions for his career. The Steelers found a consistent producer in Wagner in the latest stages of the Draft.
6. Joey Porter
Porter dropped to the Steelers at the 73rd pick in the third round of the 1999 Draft. The outside linebacker quickly became a presence in the Pittsburgh pass rush, recording 10.5 sacks in his second season with the team. In eight season with the Steelers before signing with Miami, Porter brought fear to opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. Porter accumulated 60 sacks, went to the Pro Bowl three times, and was named an All-Pro three times during his time playing for the Steelers. The vocal leader of the Pittsburgh team that won Super Bowl XL, Porter was tenacious, loud, and fiery on the field. His antics often led to scolding from head coach Bill Cowher, leading to the rather entertaining impersonations from Porter. One of the best pass rushers and personalities in team history, Porter was a steal in the third round.
5. L.C. Greenwood
A defensive end selected 238th overall out of Arkansas AM&N in the 10th round of the 1969 Draft, Greenwood spent his entire 13-year career in Pittsburgh. He lined up next to "Mean" Joe Greene on the "Steel Curtain" defensive line of the 1970s. The Pittsburgh defenses on which Greenwood played are among the most stingy in NFL history. He suited up for all four of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl wins in the 1970s. Though sacks were an unofficial stat at the time, Greenwood is listed as having racked up 73.5 sacks over his career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times and named a First-Team All-Pro twice. A flashy player, Greenwood was known for wearing his signature gold cleats. He reached the finals of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection in 2005, but failed to be elected. Still, Greenwood well exceeded the expectations of a 10th round selection to become one of the all-time Steeler greats.
4. John Stallworth
Stallworth, a receiver from Alabama A&M, was picked up by the Steelers with the 82nd pick in the fourth round of the 1974 Draft. Stallworth spent 14 seasons with the team. He held the team's major receiving records until Hines Ward broke them in the 2000s. Stallworth was selected to four Pro Bowls in his career and was twice named an All-Pro. He played in each of the four Super Bowls the Steelers won in the 1970s. In Super Bowls XIII and XIV, Stallworth caught touchdown passes of over 70 yards, one of which was decisive in Pittsburgh's 35-31 victory in Super Bowl XIII. In 1984, following two seasons restricted by injury, Stallworth caught a career -high 80 passes and received Comeback Player of the Year honors. After a long run of near misses as a finalist, Stallworth was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
3. Hines Ward
The Steelers selected Ward, a wide receiver and quarterback from Georgia, with the 92nd pick in the third round of the 1998 Draft. Supposedly, Ward's draft stock dropped because he lacked an ACL in one knee from a childhood accident. He fell to the Steelers, and, like Stallworth, put together a 14-year career with the team that ended with his retirement after the 2011 season. Ward holds team records in receptions (ending his career with exactly 1,000), receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl four times and was named a Second-Team All-Pro three times. Ward's most successful year statistically came in 2001 when he caught a career-high 112 passes. He won Super Bowls XL and XLIII with the Steelers, earning Super Bowl MVP honors for his performance in Super Bowl XL. Ward was a tough, versatile, and heartless player. Ward blocked more effectively than any receiver of his generation. He's known for as many hard hits as great catches. On top of that, he never stopped smiling. Ward transformed himself from a late third round pick into one of the most beloved Steelers ever.
2. Mel Blount
A cornerback from Southern University, Blount was selected 53rd overall in the third round of the 1970 Draft (the same draft in which the team selected Terry Bradshaw first overall). He would go on to become one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time. Blount started for 14 years and four Super Bowl victories in Pittsburgh, anchoring the secondary of the "Steel Curtain" defense. Durability and consistency were key to Blount's career as he never started less than nine games in each of his 14 seasons. He played toughly and physically, prompting the NFL to create the "Mel Blount Rule" which enforced stricter pass interference penalties. A five-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-Team All-Pro Selection, Blount was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1975 after recording 11 interceptions. For his career, Blount would record 57 interceptions. In 1989, Blount was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of four Pittsburgh defensive players from the 1970s enshrined in Canton. For the career he made from the 53rd selection, Blount reaches number two on the list.
1. Mike Webster
The Steelers took Webster with the 125th overall pick in the fifth round of the 1974 Draft. The center out of Wisconsin went on to spend 15 seasons with the team (before two years with the Chiefs), the longest run of any player in franchise history. He is widely considered the best center ever. Webster served as the backup center during Pittsburgh's victories in Super Bowls IX and X, but became the starter the next season. "Iron" Mike was known for his durability and consistency, rarely missing games to injury during his career. He was a rock on the Pittsburgh offensive line throughout the 1970s and 1980s, playing an integral role in the Pittsburgh victories in Super Bowls XIII and XIV. Webster was selected to the Pro Bowl and named an All-Pro nine times during his career. After a year as a finalist in 1996, Webster was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. Because of his long career and the unfortunate circumstances of his death in 2002, Webster has become one of the poster children for the effects of brain injuries on NFL players. As an unheralded fifth round pick that crafted a long, prosperous career with the Steelers, "Iron" Mike Webster receives the distinction of the greatest Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick ever.