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NFL Draft

History of Steelers Trading First-Round Draft Picks under Kevin Colbert



Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has not typically been a big mover and a shaker in the first round of the NFL Draft.

In his 21-year tenure with the team, Colbert has traded the team’s first-round pick just five times, and one of those was for a player in safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Of the four draft-day trades, Colbert has traded down once, in 2001, and traded up in 2003, 2006 and 2019.

Colbert said on Monday that a trade up this season is unlikely, while he gave a greater credence to the idea that the team could trade down from No. 24 overall.

Here’s the full breakdown of each time Colbert has made a trade involving the Steelers’ first-round pick, they players they could have had instead and how it worked out for both sides:


Original pick: No. 16

Traded: Down to No. 19 with New York Jets

Player selected: NT Casey Hampton

Player taken at original slot: WR Santana Moss

Also acquired in trade: 2001 4th Rd No. 111 (OT Mathias Nkwenti), 2001 6th Rd No. 181 (DL Rodney Bailey)

Players taken in between: OG Steve Hutchinson (Seattle), OT Jeff Backus (Detroit)

Evaluation: Moss was a very talented player, but the Steelers filled a huge need with a player that became a franchise icon. It’s hard to imagine the Steelers winning Super Bowls in the 2000s without Casey Hampton.

Oct. 2, 2011 – Houston, Texas, U.S – Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (43) on the bench waits for the defense to take the field. Houston Texans beat he Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 at Reliant Stadium in Houston Texas


Original pick: No. 27

Traded: Up to No. 16 with Kansas City

Player selected: SS Troy Polamalu

Player taken at original slot: RB Larry Johnson

Also given up in trade: 2003 3rd Rd No. 92 (DB Julian Battle), 2003 6th Rd No. 200 (QB Brooks Bollinger)

Players taken in between: WR Bryant Johnson (Arizona), LB Calvin Pace (Arizona), QB Kyle Boller (Baltimore), OT George Foster (Denver), C Jeff Faine (Cleveland), QB Rex Grossman (Chicago), RB Willis McGahee (Buffalo), TE Dallas Clark (Indianapolis), William Joseph (NY Giants), Kwame Jarris (San Francisco)

Evaluation: With due respect to McGahee, look at the pile of crap the Steelers leap-frogged to take the best player in the entire draft at No. 16 overall. This trade might be among the most underrated draft-day moves of all time. The Steelers won two Super Bowls with Polamalu and he’s headed to the Hall of Fame. Johnson was a nice back for Kansas City, but they did nothing with the other two picks to justify moving down.

October 25 2009: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes (10) carries the ball. The Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 27 to 17 at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.


Original pick: No. 32

Traded: Up to No. 25 with New York Giants

Player selected: WR Santonio Holmes

Player taken at original slot: DE Mathias Kiwanuka

Also given up in trade: 2006 3rd Rd No. 96 (LB Gerris Wilkinson), 2006 4th Rd No. 129 (OT Guy Whimper)

Players taken in between: DT John McCargo (Buffalo), RB DeAngelo Williams (Carolina), TE Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville), C Nick Mangold (NY Jets), RB Joseph Addai (Indianapolis), CB Kelly Jennings (Seattle)

Evaluation: Holmes made the greatest catch in the Steelers’ storied history to win Super Bowl XLIII. While he wasn’t the kind of long-term performer you hope to get with a first-round pick, he made his years in Pittsburgh count, while none of the three players the Giants picked ever had Colbert and company regretting this move for a second.


Original pick: No. 20

Traded: Up to No. 10 with Denver Broncos

Player selected: ILB Devin Bush

Player taken at original slot: TE Noah Fant

Also given up in trade: 2019 2nd Rd No. 52 (TE Drew Sample), 2020 3rd Rd No. 83 (C Lloyd Cushenberry)

Players taken in between: OT Jonah Williams (Cincinnati), OLB Rashan Gary (Green Bay), DT Christian Wilkins (Miami), OG Chris Lindstrom (Atlanta), QB Dwayne Haskins (Washington), DE Brian Burns (Carolina), DT Dexter Lawrence (NY Giants), C Garrett Bradbury (NC State), DT Jeffery Simmons (Tennessee)

Evaluation: The jury is still largely out on this one, especially with Bush missing most of 2020 with an injury, but Denver has done very little with two years of Fant at tight end. The Sample pick was traded to Cincinnati as part of a package to go up and get Drew Lock, who the Broncos just replaced with Teddy Bridgewater. Cushenberry is the only player keeping this close. He started all 16 games as a rookie.


Original pick: No. 18

Traded: to Miami for FS Minkah Fitzpatrick

Player taken at original slot: OT Austin Jackson

Also given up in trade: 2020 5th Rd No. 154 (DE Jason Strowbridge), 2021 6th Rd No. 207 (TBD)

Evaluation: Jackson started 12 games as a rookie, while Strowbridge made almost zero contribution in his first season. Miami traded this year’s sixth-round pick to Kansas City for running back DeAndre Washington, who gained 86 yards in three games with the Dolphins. That’s not much compared to Fitzpatrick’s pair of Pro Bowl seasons in Pittsburgh. There’s time for the Miami side of this trade to come around, but it looks lopsided so far.