Steelers’ 3 best, 3 worst WR draft picks in Kevin Colbert era |

Steelers’ 3 best, 3 worst WR draft picks in Kevin Colbert era

Chris Adamski
Steelers receiver Antonio Brown (left) talks with wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on the sideline during the second half against the Panthers on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Editor’s note: This NFL Draft will be the 20th under the eye of Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. In conjunction with the Trib’s daily positional previews leading up to the April 25 start of the draft, we’ll look back at Colbert’s three best — and three worst — picks at each position.

The Steelers deservedly have earned a reputation for mining gems in the draft at wide receiver. The picks over the past two decades of Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Wallace and Martavis Bryant each can be identified as successes, and none of them came in Round 1.

Part of the Steelers’ equation in unearthing receiver talent has been casting a wide net. Since Kevin Colbert took over football operations in 2000, the Steelers have drafted 20 wide receivers. None of the 13 taken over the past 12 years, though, was a first-round pick.

While there have been some regrettable choices, on whole the Steelers’ WR drafting under Colbert is perhaps unmatched across the league.

A look at his hits and misses:

Three best

1. Antonio Brown

2010, 6th round, 195th overall

Forget the Colbert era, and forget Steelers franchise history. This might be the best wide receiver draft pick in NFL history. Twenty-one receivers were taken before Brown in 2010, including one by the Steelers. All Brown has done since is produce like no other receiver to this point of his career has.

2. Mike Wallace

2009, 3rd round, 84th overall

Wallace was a big-play threat almost immediately for the Steelers, and he had 32 touchdowns and two 1,000-yard seasons while averaging 17.2 yards per catch over four years with the team. That he didn’t agree to an extension with the Steelers and has turned into something of a journeyman since leaving doesn’t diminish what he did here.

3. JuJu Smith-Schuster

2017, 2nd round, 62nd overall

At the time, it seemed like a luxury pick. But the Steelers saw Smith-Schuster as too good to pass up late in Round 2. He’s by far outperformed the five receivers taken before him. More impressive, he has been so good through two seasons (and still just 22 years old) that the Steelers could feel comfortable enough jettisoning Brown.

Three worst

1. Limas Sweed

2008, 2nd round, 53rd overall

Sweed’s comparable NFL player on his page on the league’s official draft website was future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson — and he had all the measurables (size, speed, strength) to make that a reality. Except for one thing, that is: an ability to catch the football. Sweed flamed out after only seven NFL receptions.

2. Willie Reid

2006, 3rd round, 95th overall

Reid was a luxury pick for a team that at the time had perennial Pro Bowler Hines Ward and earlier that day had taken Santonio Holmes in the first round. The Steelers thought Reid could be an electric returner, but that never happened during his seven career NFL games.

3. Danny Farmer

2000, 4th round, 103rd overall

Another “piggyback” receiver pick (Plaxico Burress was taken at No. 8 overall), Farmer didn’t even make the active roster when the regular season started. At the time, he was the highest Steelers draft pick in 15 years to have that dubious distinction. His NFL career consisted of 43 catches in 33 games for the then-lowly Cincinnati Bengals.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Steelers
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