A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the importance of the selections made by the Steelers in the 2002 Draft and how a large number of those players developed into significant contributors to the numbers of successful teams Pittsburgh has fielded during the 2000’s. You know, teams which have won 2 Super Bowls, 3 A.F.C. Titles, and made 7 Playoff Appearances from 2001-2010. But as I alluded to at the beginning of the article, 2002 wasn’t the beginning of the Steelers’ building process to greatness through the Draft, oh no.
It was actually the Class of 1998 that kicked off the string of successful Drafts in recent Steelers history, and helped Pittsburgh achieve greatness during the 2000’s. So in the spirit of Draft season, let’s take the DeLorean up to 88 MPH, go back to 1998, and try to discuss how special and important this Draft truly was:
First of all, let me start off by saying that this Draft Class in terms of quantity of players picked that turned into starters and solid contributors pales in comparison to many Drafts during Donahoe’s regime, and many during Kevin Colbert’s as well. In fact, the Steelers missed on more picks in terms of numbers than they hit on in 1998. Don’t believe me? Here you go:
The Steelers whiffed on Defensive End Jeremy Staat in Round 2, a guy who lasted only three years in Pittsburgh, and cost 3 picks to acquire. Interesting fact about Staat’s post-football career though, Jeremy served a tour of duty in Iraq after deciding to enlist after his college teammate Pat Tillman’s death. With one of their picks in the 3rd Round, Pittsburgh missed yet again, and Offensive Tackle Chris Conrad only suited up for 17 games during two seasons with the Steelers. 5th Round CB Jason Simmons contributed solely on Special Teams during his 4 year stay in Pittsburgh (1998-2001), before finishing his career in Houston. 4th Round Fullback Carlos King, and 7th Round Defensive Linemen Ryan Olson and Angel Rubio never even played a down for Pittsburgh during their short careers.
To be fair, 6th Round Fullback/Running Back Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala did have some nice moments with the Steelers during his 5 year career (Game Wining TD Run in 2002 A.F.C. Wild Card). But stuck behind “The Bus,” Richard Huntley, and Amos Zereoue led to limited playing time for “Foo,” and he only gained 751 Yards and 6 TD’s from 1998-2002.
Fortunately, the Steelers found themselves two future Hall of Famers in Rounds 1 and 3, and a solid 11 year veteran CB that contributed a heck of a lot on Special Teams and Defense throughout his career in Round 4. It was these three players which were the longest tenured Steelers when they won Super Bowl XL, and it was their selections which began the accumulation of talent that led to so much success during the 2000’s. Let’s take a look shall we: