The Pittsburgh Steelers have been fortunate to find some hidden gems in the draft over the past decade. We recently highlighted some of their biggest misses in the draft since 2010 (when Kevin Colbert took over as general manager). In the same time period, though, there have been some Steelers draft steals, too. Below are some of the best draft steals Pittsburgh has found in the last ten draft classes, in no particular order.
Steelers Draft Steals of the 2010s
Martavis Bryant: 118 Overall
Looking back, it’s crazy to think that Martavis Bryant fell to the fourth round of the 2014 draft (though if teams knew of the issues that would ultimately ruin his NFL career, maybe it does make sense). His 4.42 40-yard dash and 39″ vertical jump at the combine pointed to the exact kind of player he would be for the Steelers. When his first NFL reception went for a 35-yard touchdown, it was just a sign of things to come. Bryant finished his rookie season with 26 catches, 549 yards, and eight touchdowns in just ten games. His 21.1 yards per reception led the NFL, and he scored touchdowns of 94 and 80 yards.
Bryant missed the first four games of the 2015 season due to a failed drug test and would miss the entire 2016 season for the same reason. Some of his stat lines in 2o15 and 2017 were ridiculous, though. 6-137-2, 6-178-1, 4-114-1, and 9-154-0 (playoff game). His career stats for the Steelers were 1,917 yards on 126 receptions and 17 touchdowns in 36 games. Bryant was traded to the Oakland Raiders following the 2017 season but was ultimately suspended indefinitely for another substance-abuse violation. His career came to an unfortunate end, but Martavis Bryant was without a doubt one of the best recent Steelers draft steals.
Vince Williams: 206 Overall
For some people, Vince Williams won’t come to mind as a draft steal. But Pittsburgh fans will forever be grateful for Williams landing in the black and gold. He has developed into a fan favorite since being a Steelers draft pick in 2013. His style of play has won the fans over. Williams plays old school, smash-mouth football. There are numerous clips of Williams laying the boom on opposing ball carriers on both special teams and defense. Though he’s not a coverage linebacker, Williams is a linebacker any team would take to toughen up their run defense.
Williams had his best season in 2017 when he started every game for the Steelers. He finished that season second on the team in tackles with 89. To go with his tackles, Williams added eight sacks and 14 quarterback hits, both second on the team as well. That year, Williams and Ryan Shazier were an incredible linebacker duo before Shazier suffered his probable career-ending injury. Though his playing time decreased last year, it is expected to increase again in 2020. Even if it doesn’t and his best days are behind him, Williams was one of the underrated Steelers draft steals.
Kelvin Beachum: 254 Overall
In hindsight, it was an absolute steal for Pittsburgh to be able to snag Kelvin Beachum so late in the 2012 draft. He was drafted as a depth player and that’s how he began his rookie year, as a third-string. Thanks to some injuries, Beachum ended up starting five games in his rookie year and never looked back. He began the 2013 season as a backup, but by week five he became the full-time left tackle.
Beachum’s 2014 season was spectacular. He played every snap for the Steelers that season and was one of the best left tackles in the league. Though he was overshadowed by the likes of David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey, Beachum was a crucial piece of Pittsburgh’s dominant offensive line. Pro Football Focus graded Beachum as the fifth-best overall and third-best pass-blocking left tackle in 2014. He was off to a good start in 2015, too, until he tore his ACL. Beachum left for the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2015 season, but his time in Pittsburgh absolutely made him a draft steal.
Antonio Brown: 195 Overall
As everyone knows, Antonio Brown is likely the biggest draft steal in Steelers franchise history. He was taken in the sixth round of the 2010 draft out of Central Michigan and no one had a clue what was coming with his career. The two-time first-team All-MAC receiver would go on to become the best receiver in the NFL for multiple seasons in his legendary career. With his recent personal problems, it’s hard to say if he will play again. Whether he does or doesn’t, he was the best receiver in Steelers history and probably one of the ten most talented receivers ever.
Where do you even start with Brown? He led the NFL in receiving yards and receptions two times each in his career. Brown made seven Pro Bowl teams, was a four-time first-team All-Pro and was a second-team All-Pro once. His 15 receiving touchdowns in 2018 (his last season in Pittsburgh) led the NFL. His connection with Ben Roethlisberger was one of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in the league’s history. There’s no way to fit all of Brown’s great plays and moments into one paragraph. Needless to say, he gave the Steelers good production for a sixth-round pick.
Javon Hargrave: 89 Overall
Not many defensive tackles taken in the third round will end up becoming draft steals. But it was very good value for the Steelers to get Javon Hargrave in the third round of the 2016 draft. Taken out of South Carolina State, Hargrave was an immediate contributor to the Steelers defense, appearing in 15 games and making 13 starts in his rookie year.
Through his first three seasons, Hargrave was never able to play more than 50percent of the defensive snaps. The Steelers play a lot of sub-packages with two defensive ends, two outside linebackers, and no true nose tackle. That changed in 2019 when Stephon Tuitt suffered a season-ending injury and Hargrave played 63 percent of the snaps. His versatility was very clear. He rushes the passer very well for a nose tackle and is tremendous against the run. His 6’2″, 305-pound frame allows him great leverage and his huge legs serve him very well. It was no surprise to see him get paid $13 million per year by the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. Hargrave is one of the best true nose tackles in the league, and he was a great player for a third-round pick out of a small school.
READ MORE: The Extraordinary History of the Pittsburgh Steelers Logo
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