How The 2001 Draft Led To Casey Hampton

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images - Casey Hampton #98 Pittsburgh Steelers

By Christina Rivers

It was 2001. The Pittsburgh Steelers had drafted two wide receivers in the first round the previous two years (Troy Edwards and Plaxico Burress). The Steelers were targeting defensive linemen, and for the first time since 1990, they ended up doing something they very seldom ever do; trading down. The result was that the man they wanted – Marcus Stroud out of Georgia – was picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars 13th overall. At the time, Coach Bill Cowher said, “If you don\’t get Dan Morgan, you\’ve got the next best player down the middle.” Cowher was talking about Casey Hampton.

The Steelers were so convinced they could get Hampton (Texas) that they traded the 16th pick to the New York Jets for the 19th pick, plus fourth- and sixth-round picks. Not having a third-round pick due to punishment for a salary cap violation involving Will Wolford (a former offensive lineman), the Steelers then traded up with the New England Patriots and grabbed Kendrell Bell (Georgia) at inside linebacker. In a draft sensation, the Steelers ended up with Hampton, Bell and former St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones (who replaced Levon Kirkland) and were able to create a revived interior defense in less than 24 hours. Dan Morgan went to the Carolina Panthers with the 11th pick of the draft.

The most interesting part of the tale is what happened after the draft.

During the 2001 season, Dan Morgan started 11 games at weakside and strongside linebacker, posting 75 tackles, one sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. During his second season, Morgan helped re-define a Panthers defense that had struggled since the team\’s inception and led the team to Super Bowl XXXVIII. In 2007, Morgan was placed on injured reserve due to an ankle injury and then released after the season. The New Orleans Saints signed Morgan to their 2008 roster, however, Morgan retired, stating that his recovery after a partially torn Achilles tendon wasn\’t going as planned. Although Morgan filed reinstatement papers with the NFL for the 2009 season with the Saints, Morgan once again called it quits after a strained calf muscle in minicamp. He never played another down in the NFL.

Marcus Stroud gave the Jacksonville Jaguars a twin to already powerful John Henderson. The pair was considered to be one of the most dominant defensive tackle duos in the NFL. Stroud was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 2003, 2004 and 2005 NFL seasons.  In 2005, Stroud was involved in a traffic accident when his SUV rolled on Interstate 10 outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Losing a step or two on and off the field, Stroud was suspended in 2007 for four games for violation of the league\’s policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. Jacksonville traded Stroud to the Buffalo Bills in 2008 for third- and fifth-round picks in that year\’s draft. After signing with the Bills, Stroud spent a mere two seasons with the team and was released on Feb. 16, 2011. In March of that year, the New England Patriots signed Stroud to a two-year contract, but released him on July 28.

In retrospect, the Steelers ended up with a more consistent player in Hampton. Some could argue the best of the three Bill Cowher and Kevin Colbert looked at that day in 2001. Then defensive line coach John Mitchell said of Hampton, “There\’s three things I like about him. He\’s a no-nonsense guy, and football is important to him. He\’s been well coached. And he stays on his feet, and you can\’t make plays in the NFL without staying on your feet.”

It didn\’t take Hampton long to step into the middle of the defensive line for the Steelers. As a rookie, Hampton started the final 11 games of the regular season plus two postseason games for the Steelers, replacing Kimo von Oelhoffen (who moved to defensive end). Hampton finished his rookie season with 33 total tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery.

Hampton soon proved that he could be highly disruptive in the middle of the pack, and it earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2003. Hampton missed most of the 2004 season due to a right knee (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. In 2005, Hampton was named the Steelers\’ co-MVP (with Hines Ward), finishing the season with 43 tackles. He helped propel the Steelers defense to the rank of first in the AFC in total defense and third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. In Super Bowl XL that season, Hampton recorded four solo tackles and his first ever career post-season sack for a loss against Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. His sack sealed the win for the Steelers.

Since 2001, Casey Hampton has become a premier defensive lineman in the NFL. He has earned five trips to the Pro Bowl (2004, 06, 07, 08, 09). During the 2007 season, Hampton was named to the Steelers\’ 75th Season All-Time Team. On Feb. 25, 2010, Hampton signed a three-year contract with the Steelers. Although Hampton will spend most, if not all, of the 2012 season on the PUP list, it is easy to see why the Steelers and Kevin Colbert expect Hampton to return to the roster in 2012. He has become an anchor to their defense.

In 2001, Bill Cowher said, “He\’s a Pittsburgh Steeler. He\’s our guy. We\’re happy to have him.” Draft expert Mel Kiper said, “Cat-quick. He\’s strong and gains an immediate leverage advantage… [he] never stops until the whistle blows.” Kiper had Hampton ranked as the 8th best defensive tackle in the NFL Draft that year.

Casey “Big Snack” Hampton was worth the wait in 2001. For the Steelers, it may be worth waiting for him to heal rather than letting him go. When Kevin Colbert was asked about the 2012 season, he said that the Steelers “need to re-tool.” Perhaps Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin will find a way to repeat similar success in the 2012 NFL Draft that brought Hampton to Pittsburgh over Morgan and Stroud on 2001.

Casey Hampton – Career highlights and awards

Hampton Defensive Stats (Career) – All with Steelers

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About the Author

Christina L. Rivers

Born in 1972, Christina L. Rivers follows in her maternal Grandmother’s shoes as a writer. Christina is currently a journalist for, and writes for several blogs. She has recently been added as a writer for SteelersDepot and ‘The Beam’ in Pittsburgh. Christina’s favorite Steelers players of all-time are Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. She is active on Twitter @3Rivers_Writer. Christina also enjoys collecting NFL cards, and has over 5,000 individual Steelers cards, some as old as the late 1950s.

  • Mike.H

    at the Bronco’s (Tebow) game, Hampton was injured and stood on the sideline, I swear he’s so huge, he looked 365 or more, like a human granite — massive tree trunk legs. How many lbs do you think big snack is really? listed at 325…let’s be real.

  • I am guessing 340.

  • Ron Jammes

    Most of the Steelers linemen weigh a lot more than what the roster says. McLendon weighs 320 but it says 280. Hood is about 10 pounds heavier. The only guy that got lighter was Farrior woh has trouble keeping his weight up. Bi snack is probably 360, he needs to be about 335 with all his knee problems

  • Daveb1952

    Absolutely Hampton is the lynch pin for this defense. Which is EXACTLY why we need a premier NG in this draft, in the first round of this draft, should one be available , instead of an ILB like Hightower. If we do not get better protection for our LBs from our DL, Hightower will be caught up in the same wash that caused Farrior’s numbers to drop dramatically over the last two years.

  • The link you posted regarded the expected return to the roster in 2013 was actually a statement that he will probably be on the roster in 2012.

    I don’t think they expect him here in 2013

  • TrueSteelerForLife

    Great insight, this draft was a little before I actually got into the whole draft process. And I think Hamp is around 375 I guess

  • SteelersDepot

    typo. fixed.

  • kevin

    I remember that many thought that the Steelers were going to take his teammate Shaun Rogers, but they took Hampton instead. Very good call.

  • Dcmalibu66

    Who were the 7 Defensive Tackles that the draft guru had rated higher?

  • dale

    i remember reading some print football magazine- lindy’s, i think. they hated the pick because they claimed hampton just wasn’t fast enough to play end. this was during a time when some folks still didn’t understand the 3-4.

  • Steelerfanmatt1933

    Nice article, Christina. Thanks.

    With all of the”changing of the guard” that we are seeing this offseason, more write-ups like this one should be in order.

    Casey is a Steeler through and through. As fans, we’ve been fortunate to have him in a Steelers uniform for all of these years.

  • Thanks @Steelersfanmatt1933!

    Casey Hampton was considered ‘undersized’ in the 2001 Draft because they didn’t think he was tall enough. Thank goodness Cowher and Colbert saw the great potential.

    I fully expect that the Steelers will go after someone in the draft this year to be mentored by Hampton, but I have good vibes Hampton will get back into playing shape as soon as he can.

  • I will have to look into that. Good question.

  • Thank you Dave — yes a typing, fingers-too-fast thing.