The 8 Best And 7 Worst First Round Draft Picks In Pittsburgh Steelers History

The 8 Best And 7 Worst First Round Draft Picks In Pittsburgh Steelers History





The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the greatest franchises in sports history. Currently the only NFL team with six Super Bowls, the Steelers have made their mark in the history as a legendary franchise. The greatest franchises often win by drafting, and the Steelers are no different. And in comparison to other teams, the Steelers have one of the best track records of drafting players that go on to become great. Pittsburgh is notorious for their legendary defenses, notably the “Steel Curtain” which is the best example of what great drafting and scouting can do for the legacy of a franchise. That’s not to say that all Steelers picks have become what they thought they would have when drafting them. Pittsburgh has dealt with the frustration of drafting busts as well, which means this list will contain the eight best and seven worst Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft picks.

This list will contain the best first round picks only, so the likes of Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, Mel Blount, etc. will not be included because they weren’t drafted in the first round of their respective drafts. Also, this list will not include the likes of Bill Dudley and Len Dawson who, though they are Hall of Famers drafted by the Steelers, reached their tremendous accomplishments with other teams. This list will also not feature Gabriel Rivera because if it were not for his tragic accident, we don’t know what he would have accomplished on the field.

With that said, here are the eight best and seven worst first round picks in Pittsburgh Steelers history.


For some teams, a future Hall of Fame lineman could be the best player the team has ever drafted in their franchise’s history. Since the Steelers have a great legacy, a player like Alan Faneca may be overlooked as one of the greatest in the team’s history, but his resume suggests that he is one of the greatest linemen ever. Faneca was drafted 26th overall out of LSU in the 1998 draft, standing out in a draft that featured Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Randy Moss, and Hines Ward, among others. Faneca became a nine-time Pro Bowler, was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team, and has also been named to the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team. Though Faneca would finish his career with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, he will always be remembered as one of the most important pieces of the Steelers’ Super Bowl XL championship team in 2006.


Mark Malone was seen as a potential replacement for Terry Bradshaw when the Steelers picked him the 1980 NFL draft. Unfortunately, Malone did not become the Bradshaw-type QB Pittsburgh hoped for, and though he lasted eight years with the Steelers, he was never too impressive with Pittsburgh and was traded to the San Diego Chargers in 1988. He also isn’t a very popular Steelers alumnus, as Pittsburgh decided not to draft Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL draft because they were fine with Malone as their starter. All told, it’s possibly the worst decision at quarterback in Steelers history.

With such high hopes for Arizona State quarterbacks entering the draft and the disappointment Malone brought to Pittsburgh, he is one of the worst first round picks in Steelers history. Luckily for Malone, he ended up having a very successful sportscasting and directing career, winning four Emmys for his sports directing. He also has a radio show with fellow ex-NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb titled Under The Center With Mark Malone.


Lynn Swann will forever be remembered as one of the most memorable players of those 70s Steelers teams. Drafted 21st overall in 1974 out of the University of Southern California, Swann is a part of what is considered the greatest draft class in Steelers history, in which four Hall of Famers were drafted that year, with Swann joined by John Stallworth, Mike Webster, and Jack Lambert.

Swann made three Pro Bowls, became the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1981 and won four Super Bowls with the Steelers, also winning the Super Bowl X MVP against the Dallas Cowboys.  The legendary wideout played his entire career with Pittsburgh, went on to have a political career and became the chairperson of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition until 2005. In 2011, Swann became the co-owner of the AFL (Arena Football League) team Pittsburgh Power. No matter what, the city of Pittsburgh will forever love Lynn Swann.


Then-defensive line coach “Mean” Joe Greene begged the Steelers to draft Aaron Jones in the 1988 NFL draft. Greene didn’t hit a home run on this pick as Jones only lasted four years with the Steelers and didn’t do much of anything in those years, registering just 7.5 sacks, and didn’t even have his best year statistically with the team that drafted him 18th overall. His best statistical year came in 1994 when Jones would play in 16 games and register four sacks for the New England Patriots. That is still a very disappointing season for a guy who was drafted so highly, but that was the peak of his career, as he was out of the NFL by 1996, last playing for the Miami Dolphins. Thankfully, the Steelers got a Hall of Fame Center in Dermontti Dawson in the second round of the 1988 draft.


The legendary four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback is one of the best-known players in the Steelers’ franchise’s history; it could be argued that Terry Bradshaw is the first player most people think of when they think of a Pittsburgh Steelers player. Bradshaw was the 1st overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft, and ended up winning four Super Bowls in six years from the 1974 season to the 1979 season, became a three-time Pro Bowler, two- time Super Bowl MVP, and 1978 league MVP.

Ending his career with over 2,000 passing completions and nearly 30,000 passing yards, Bradshaw’s accomplishments are undeniable. After his career with Pittsburgh, Terry Bradshaw pursued a broadcasting career and is currently an analyst for Fox NFL Sunday. Though he often criticizes the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and players like Ben Roethlisberger, Bradshaw is still seen as one of the greatest players to ever play for Pittsburgh.