Biggest draft steals in Pittsburgh Steelers history

When you consider draft position and value to the team, here are the five biggest draft steals in Steelers history.
Hines Ward #86
Hines Ward #86 / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted and produced Hall of Fame talent over the course of their storied franchise. Most of the time, Pro Bowl, All-Pro, and future Hall of Fame players are found early in the draft. But this isn't always the case.

Every so often, the Pittsburgh Steelers strike gold with an incredible find in the NFL Draft. Many of these players went on to become some of the best to ever wear the Black and Gold.

I took the liberty of ranking the greatest draft steals in Pittsburgh Steelers history based on factors like draft position and impact on the team. Here are the top five all-time NFL Draft steals for the Steelers.

1. Mike Webster, C

It's hard to argue against having Mike Webster atop this list. The 1974 Steelers draft class is still regarded as the best in NFL history, and Webster has a lot to do with that. After finding three future Hall of Fame players in the first three rounds of the '74 draft (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, and John Stallworth), the Steelers took a shot on Mike Webster in Round 5 with the 125th overall pick.

It took a while for Webster to get going, and he logged just a pair of starts in his first two NFL seasons. From there, he hit the ground running. Webster earned five First-Team All-Pro honors from 1978 to 1983, and he earned Pro Bowl recognition 9 times in a decade-long stretch from '78 to '87.

What makes Webster's career path so remarkable is that he played for the Steelers from age 22 to age 36 before joining the Chiefs for the final two seasons of his career. Webster was one of the longest-tenured Steelers players ever and one of the best to ever play the center position in the NFL.

2. Antonio Brown, WR

If we can look past the brash personality and laundry list of off-field incidents, it's easy to appreciate the outstanding performances Antonio Brown brought the Pittsburgh Steelers for nearly a decade. Despite being a sixth-round selection and picked three rounds later than fellow receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, Brown's talent quickly won out as he jumped up the depth chart.

In his second season, Brown made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist. By year four, he inserted his name as one of the best receivers in the NFL. Brown caught over 100 passes and over 1,200 yards for 6 straight seasons from 2014 to 2018.

Brown looked like a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame before derailing his career and forcing his way out of Pittsburgh during the 2019 offseason. His name might leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Steelers fans, but you won't find many more talented players with the 195th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Brown is considered one of the greatest late-round steals of all time.

3. L.C. Greenwood, DE

Back in the day, there used to be 17 rounds in the NFL Draft and well over 400 players drafted per year. In the 10th round of the 1969 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected L.C. Greenwood with the 238th overall pick.

At 6'6'' and 245 pounds, Greenwood combined size and athletic traits to become one of the best defensive ends in the league. Greenwood had to earn his keep and wasn't awarded the opportunity to start until his third year in professional football. But at the age of 25 in 1971, Greenwood exploded for an 11-sack season and forced 5 fumbles in his first year as a starter.

Greenwood would go on to play a total of 13 seasons in the league -- all of them coming as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He earned 6 Pro Bowls and 2 First-Team All-Pros throughout his career. Joe Greene gets all the love from the 1969 draft class, but Greenwood was a staple to the defensive line for over a decade in Pittsburgh.

4. Hines Ward, WR

With the 92nd overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Georgia wide receiver, Hines Ward. Ward wasn't the biggest or fastest receiver on the field, but he was as tough as nails and always found a way to come down with the football.

Ward didn't see the field for offense much as a rookie, but he became a starter in his second season. However, it wasn't until Year 4 in 2001 that he broke out for his first huge performance -- racking up 94 receptions for 1,003 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Ward's best season, from a statistical standpoint, came in 2002 when he secured 112 receptions for 1,329 yards and 12 touchdowns. This solidified his status as a Pro Bowl receiver in the NFL. Ward played 14 seasons all with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a Second-Team All-Pro player three years in a row from 2002 to 2004 and proved to be a crucial part of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl teams in the 2000s.

5. Mel Blount, CB

Some football fans would argue that finding talent with the 53rd overall pick is hardly a steal... but it is when we are talking about hitting a home run on a Hall of Fame talent like Mel Blount. The scrappy defensive back had size, length, and physicality on his side that allowed him to re-route receivers -- making it nearly impossible for them to do their jobs.

Blount didn't earn his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro honor until his 6th NFL season in 1975, but after recording 11 interceptions in 14 games, Blount had established himself as one of the best defensive backs in the league.

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Blount played only for the Steelers during his professional career that stretched from 1970 to 1983. He later earned Hall of Fame honors and was considered one of the best defensive backs of his era.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.