This is the third in a 10-part series that concludes on April 26, the day before the 2023 NFL Draft starts. Each day Depot staff members offer their spin on a Steelers-related draft question.
Who is the best draft pick in Steelers history? This does not necessarily have to be a first-round pick. It can be relative to where a player was drafted (i.e. tremendous value).
Scott Brown: Well, I whiffed when coming up with this question. I should have posed: Who is the best draft pick in Steelers history not named Joe Greene. The answer to that question, for the sake of variety, is Ben Roethlisberger and because of two words: Cleveland Browns. Stay with me here. The Browns won eight pre-Super Bowl titles from 1946-64, including four NFL Championships. They became, to quote JuJu Smith-Shuster, “the Browns is the Browns” because of decisions like drafting a tight end over Roethlisberger, a homegrown franchise quarterback.
The Browns’ goof allowed the Steelers to exorcise their Dan Marino draft demons and make a critical pivot. Not saying a franchise draped in glory would have become the Browns had it passed on Roethlisberger, as it did on Marino. But the Steelers won two Super Bowls and played in another before Roethlisberger’s 30th birthday, linking the 2000s to the greatness of the 1970s. An added bonus: Roethlisberger tortured the Browns during a career that secured his place in Canton.
Dave Bryan: The Joe Greene selection in the first round of the 1969 draft must be my choice, especially considering when I was born, which was in 1968. His selection completely changed the trajectory of the franchise and quickly paid dividends in the form of not just one Super Bowl win, but four of them in the 1970s. Greene instantly became the quintessential face and model player of the franchise and he set the standard to which all things are still measured to this very day. You can’t talk about the history of the Steelers, both in synopsis and long-drawn-out stories, without talking about Greene. If you had to sum the Steelers franchise up with one picture of one single player, Greene must be that picture.
Joe Clark: I hate going along with the masses here, and I gave a lot of consideration to guys on the offensive side of the ball. But the Pittsburgh Steelers were built on defense. The Steel Curtain never would’ve been a thing if Joe Greene wasn’t selected fourth overall in the 1969 NFL Draft out of North Texas. The Steelers are the Steelers because of Greene. The team went from one of the worst in football to the 60’s to a team that won four Super Bowls in the ’70s, and it all started with Greene. Joe Greene is why the Steelers are a winning organization, and that’s why he’s their best draft pick ever.
Alex Kozora: I’m wired to be “that guy” that gives the obscure answer just to piss you off. Don’t forget about ‘ol Oswald ‘Tin Can’ Hambletone of the 1944 NFL Draft! But the answer is as simple as it is clear. Joe Greene. This franchise has so many Hall of Famers but it started with the man from North Texas. If Chuck Noll was the architect, Greene was the first building block. A literal keystone. He helped change the culture and set the standard that’s so commonly talked about today. Greene didn’t accept losing and soon enough, the Steelers stopped losing.
Matthew Marczi: How many organizations have such a clear answer to this question as the Steelers do? And how many of those organizations actually have a decorated history with a slew of worthy candidates? In spite of the competition, the inevitable answer has to be Joe Greene. Few players, at least non-quarterbacks, have had as transformative an impact on an organization. It’s the boring, predictable answer, but that is the answer.
Thank you for reading and please drop your answer to the question below.
Previous Depot draft discussions: