NFL.com’s Jim Reineking has ranked the 4 worst draft classes of the NFL’s last 25 years. If that sounds curious it should. Reineking actually claims to rank the NFL’s five worst draft classes, but he’s already included the 2013 NFL Draft, and 2 years is far too short a time to draw conclusions about any draft class.
- Beyond that, the simple fact is that at this time of year pro football focused sites, including this one, become desperate for anything that generates them page views.
But let’s assume that Reineking’s methodology is sound and the analysis behind his rankings is solid. The question of interest to Steel Curtain Rising is “How did the Steelers fare vs the worst NFL draft classes in history?” Click below to check out specific drafts, or just scroll down for the full analysis.
Steelers 1992 NFL Draft Class
For Reineking, the 1992 NFL Draft was the worst of the last 25 years and if he’s right, then this is all the much sweeter for Steelers nation, because the Steelers 1992 draft class was one of the best of the post-Chuck Noll era.
The 1992 NFL Draft was Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe’s first together, and their first three picks were Leon Searcy, Levon Kirkland, and Joel Steed. None of the three started in Cowher’s 1992 opening day upset of the Houston Oilers. That honor feel to Darren Perry who started all sixteen games and hauled in 6 interceptions.
- Searcy, Kirkland, and Steed did start on opening day 1993, and were regular starters through Super Bowl XXX.
The Steelers also grabbed long snapper Kendall Gammon in the 11th round of the 1992 NFL Draft who served as long snapper for 4 straight years. Searcy left after 1995, but Kirkland, Steed, and Perry all signed multiple contracts from the Steelers. Kirkland and Steed made 3 Pro Bowls between them.
The Steelers 1992 draft class did not produce superstars, but Pittsburgh did find four solid, long-term starters and critical special teams role player. That’s a very good effort for any draft, and all the more so for one that is rated as the worst overall draft in a quarter century.
Steelers 2013 NFL Draft Class
It is way, way too early to evaluate the Steelers 2013 draft class. Going into 2015, Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas represent huge question marks and you don’t want to say that of your first and third round pick two years after the draft. Especially when the success or failure of your defense hinges closely on their development.
Steelers 2009 NFL Draft Class
The Steelers 2009 draft class has perhaps been one of the most misunderstood. By definition, it’s a disappointment when no members of your draft class get second contracts. And if Ziggy Hood was a disappointing 1st round pick, he was no bust, and as Steel Curtain Rising demonstrated last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers made good picks in 2009, the problem is that the rest of the NFL benefited from them.
If 2009 was the third worst draft of the last 25 years, then Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin sent a lot of the right names to the podium, even if it did Pittsburgh little good.
Steelers 1999 NFL Draft Class
The Steelers 1999 draft class was Tom Donahoe’s last, and it was far from his best. The Steelers were picking 13th, and their first two picks were Troy Edwards and Scott Shields, both of whom were busts. 3rd round pick Kris Farris represented another waste of a premium pick.
- But the 1999 draft was far from a total loss for Pittsburgh.
Round’s 3 and four included men by the names of Joey Porter and Aaron Smith, two men who own three Super Bowl rings between them. Amos Zereoue also arrived in that draft and, while Zereoue never reached his potential he was hardly a bust.
The Steelers laid a couple of eggs in the 1999 NFL Draft, but they also found 2 diamonds in the rough.
Steelers 2002 NFL Draft Class
The 2002 NFL Draft was Kevin Colbert’s third with the team, and it was easily its best in terms of finding overall value. Only one of the 8 players the Steelers drafted in 2002 failed to make the roster.
Injuries ruined Kendall Simmons career, but he stayed healthy enough to start in Super Bowl XL. Most people will never think of Antwaan Randle El as great, but his value to the Steelers offenses went far beyond his stat sheet (just ask Hines Ward). Ditto Larry Foote. The Steelers upgraded when they replaced Chris Hope with Ryan Clark, but Hope was good enough to start during the 2004 15-1 season and the Super Bowl that followed a year later.
Verron Haynes and Lee Mays weren’t household words in Steelers Nation even when they were playing, but Hayes was a serviceable back up, and Lee Mays a decent spot duty role player.
- The final pick was of course Brett Keisel. What more do we need to say?
Kevin Colbert really did save the best for last here.
Keisel might not be a future Hall of Famer, he might have only earned Pro Bowl honors once, but Brett Keisel blossomed into a great player in every sense of the word.
The Steelers do Well in Picking from Weak NFL Draft Classes
Going into ever NFL draft, fans are wont to hear that “This it’s a great year to for teams that need to draft ______ [insert your position name(s)],” or “Unfortunately, there aren’t any viable franchise quarterbacks coming out this year.”
- The funny thing is, you rarely hear draft classes collectively panned or praised after the fact.
Credit NFL.Com’s Jim Reineking for trying to change that.
Steel Curtain Rising offers no opinion either way of his choices, but if his rankings are right, then the Steelers have provided a case study proving the old adage that “Good players are available in every round waiting to be found,” it just takes a smart scouting organization to find them.