Steelers Spin: Greatest Draft Hits – Third Round

Over the past week, we’ve been counting down the Pittsburgh Steelers greatest draft hits and so far the discussion has remained…cordial. Well…now it’s time for the gloves to come off as things will get much tighter and difficult to discern in this round.

It’s time for a generational UFC battle supreme to break out as surely the Millennials will have issues with the opinions of Generation X…and the Baby Boomers, well there is all of that latent Purple Haze they are dealing with to further muddy the discussion.

I mean, can the Boomers be sure that the Pittsburgh Steelers really won four Super Bowls in the seventies? For that matter did the Americans actually land on the moon?

What about recent draft selections for the Steelers? Anybody going to complicate the argument…err…discussion here?

Well, here’s the recent contenders: (2009) Mike Wallace, (2009) Keenan Lewis, (2010) Emmanuel Sanders, (2011) Curtis Brown, (2012) Sean Spence, (2013) Marcus Wheaton, (2014) Dri Archer, (2015) Sammie Coates, and the Gravedigger (2016) Javon Hargrave.

When evaluating the stunted success of Wheaton, Coates and Martavis Bryant to replace the “Young Money” third round duo of Wallace and Sanders, you have to wonder what could have been if the Steelers could have broken the bank and kept those two players on the roster.

Do you think Big Ben Roethlisberger would have minded seeing the familiar faces of Antonio Brown, Sanders and Wallace in his huddle the past five years? Who would you have double teamed?

But this is just fantasy football as the Steelers chose a different route and now we’ve still got this challenge remaining of selecting the Greatest Draft Hits of the third round.

In reality, you could shuffle the order of several of the names below and have a reasonable argument (including a couple of the alternates). But somebody has to start the conversation, so it might as well be me.

Let’s get going with the latest edition of the Steelers Depot draft history series.

Pittsburgh Steelers Greatest Draft Hits | Third Round

1Mel BlountDB1970Southern
2Hines WardWR1998Georgia
3Jason GildonLB1994Oklahoma State
4Joey PorterLB1999Colorado State
5Jon KolbLT1969Oklahoma State


Mel Blount

To some more recent fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers it may be considered blasphemy to rank Mel Blount ahead of Hines Ward. However; Blount is already in the Hall of Fame, and unlike Ward, Blount was almost unanimously considered the league’s best at his position during the 1970’s and in 1975 was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Many still consider him the best cornerback of all time in the NFL. Not only was Blount a shutdown corner, he was a beat-the-living-daylights-out-of-you defender. Receivers hated playing against Blount because it meant they would spend most of the game with their facemask buried deep in the mud. Such was Blount’s dominance in the NFL that they changed the ways receivers could be treated. The five-yard bump rule that started in 1978? Not only was it due to the bullying style of the Steelers great corner but it was actually named the “Mel Blount Rule”. Unlike Deion Sanders, Blount never made “business decisions” in avoiding contact and was glad to participate in stopping the run as well. He finished his storied career in the league with 57 interceptions and is easily one of the greatest Steelers of all time. Like so many other players for the Black and Gold, Blount was also a Hall of the Famer off the field in performing great charity work. Ironically, after tormenting so many offensive players through the years, he served as the Director of Player Relations for the NFL during the 1980’s.

Hines Ward

If ever a master craftsman was designing the ultimate Pittsburgh Steelers receiver, his work of art would look very much like Hines Ward. Hines was one of the toughest players and best blockers to ever play the receiving position. Disappointed that he wasn’t drafted until the third round Hines Ward carried this chip on his shoulder like his best imaginary friend and used it as a powerful motivator throughout his career. Perhaps if he gets a well-deserved nod for the Hall of Fame he’ll be willing at last to lay that chip down. Even his coaches and the front office doubted Ward because of a perceived lack of big play ability and they spent their next two number one draft picks trying to replace him (Troy Edwards 1999 & Plaxico Burress 2000). This only added fuel to the fire and Ward responded with a career that had him break nearly every significant team receiving record. What makes these milestones so significant is a large majority of his catches were made on critical and clutch third down and end-of-the-game-plays. To this day, Ward’s play has many fans believing the home stadium should be rightfully called “Hines Field”. A strong leader and colorful person in the locker room Ward was a winner of Dancing With The Stars and even played a zombie in an episode of The Walking Dead. Ward retired at the right time at the tailing end of his talent sealing his legacy as an all-time Pittsburgh great. Ward will always be remembered as a player who celebrated as much over a bone rattling crack-back block than a game winning touchdown. A true Pittsburgh classic.

Jason Gildon

Having to wait impatiently behind the likes of Steelers linebacker greats Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene, fans questioned Gildon’s abilities early on in his career and wondered if he was a bust. But when it was Gildon’s turn to take the torch…oh my, my. All he did was become the Steelers all-time sack leader with 77 recorded during his career. A three-time Pro Bowler and 1-time first team All-Pro, Gildon was considered among the best pass-rushing threats in the league. Gildon wasn’t as flamboyant as some of the Steelers linebackers before and after him. Instead he just quietly and consistently went about his business. He made big plays constantly, turning games around during a period when the Steelers struggled mightily on offense.

Joey Porter

Speaking of flamboyant, few players talked a better game in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform than Joey Porter. But this big dog had both a bark and a bite ending his career with the Black and Gold with 60 sacks. Porter would have been higher on this list if he hadn’t left Pittsburgh early in his career. Even after his Steelers era he continued to thrive in the pursuit of quarterbacks ending with 98 in the record book before he hung up his cleats. Some of Porter’s most famous moments include chasing after Ray Lewis on the Ravens bus after a match and on another occasion getting kicked out of a game for fighting…before it started. Sometimes his antics drew attention away from people appreciating his talent. Yet, with all of Porter’s actions, they came from a genuine passion to win games and inspire his team to playing great defense.

Jon Kolb

In 1969, the future of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense changed dramatically with the selection of the legendary Joe Greene. But during that same year, in the third round, the offense received a similar boost with the pick of Jon Kolb. This jumpstarted the formation of the great Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line, one which would dominate defensive fronts for years to come. As being in the marquee position (left tackle) of one of the most prolific rushing offensive lines in NFL history, Kolb deserves credit here as being a great Steelers draft hit. A powerful man (he once placed fourth in a World’s Strongest Man Competition) Kolb went on to be strength and conditioning coach for the Steelers until Chuck Noll retired and Bill Cowher cleaned house. Kolb kept in amazing shape for his age (Google “Kolb Windshield Wiper” to see his YouTube hit).

Just Missed the Cut:

Joel Steed (1992) A quiet performer and powerful man who anchored the defensive line as nosetackle for those great 1990’s Steelers defenses.

Mike Merriweather (1980) Another in the famous line of Steelers linebackers, he dominated play during the 1980’s. He wasn’t with the team long enough to make the top five here and these lists can’t be ALL linebackers.

Neil O’Donnell (1990) Pittsburgh has never been kind to quarterbacks (even Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw was regularly booed), but few have gotten more abuse than Neil O’Donnell after he single-handedly made Dallas Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown the Super Bowl XXX MVP with two devastating interceptions. A bit on the wimpy side for Pittsburgh fans, but the man could throw the ball and it took years to replace his productivity at the position when he fled town to play for the New York Jets.

Mike Wallace (2009) The draft class of 2009 had a chance of being one of the best ever for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the front office failed to retain the talent. Wallace is no longer a popular name in the ‘Burgh following his quest for bigger fish in Miami before going to Minnesota and now…gasp…Baltimore…and his time was too short with the Steelers to make the list. But he should get a tip of the hat for the thrills he provided his first few seasons as he burst onto the scene.

Emmanuel Sanders (2010) Sanders was drafted as the member of “Young Money” with the most potential to start right away as he’s always been a polished route runner. Several nagging injuries slowed him down early in his Pittsburgh career and it was in Denver where he blossomed into one of the top receivers in the NFL.

Keenan Lewis (2009) Lewis’s departure (especially considering the Steelers ensuing struggles in filling the cornerback position) may end up being the teams’s biggest free agency blunder in years.

Steelers Spin: Greatest Draft Hits – Ninth Round +
Steelers Spin: Greatest Draft Hits – Eighth Round
Steelers Spin: Greatest Draft Hits – Seventh Round
Steelers Spin: Greatest Draft Hits – Sixth Round
Steelers Spin: Greatest Draft Hits – Fifth Round
Steelers Spin: Greatest Draft Hits – Fourth Round

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of
Ireland series.

  • aWaL

    I’m giving the award to Mike Wallace. He turned down a nice contract offer which led to the AB contract. He did Steelers nation a huge favor. Thanks Mikey

  • firefromheaven

    As much as I loved Hines, he isn’t close to Mel Blount. Mel was a shutdown corner who was bigger than the middle linebacker. Most shutdown corners are only pass defenders, but Blount had no issues with coming up on run support like a linebacker. Possibly the most physical defensive back in the history of the league. I would have loved to have seen what kind of numbers he would have put up at the combine if it existed back then.

  • walter

    the 21st century 3rd rounders dont seem to stick with the team

  • Rotten Sircus

    We can do it again this year, I like Fabian Moreau with our first 3rd round pick teams dropped him because of his injury ;^) come right back with our 2nd 3rd round pick and get Chris Godwin from Penn St who’s the new version of Hines Ward !!! I hope Colbert is reading this !!! ;^/

  • walter

    Blount played in an era where he could knock a receivers head off before the ball arrived. But even after the rule changes, he did very well.

  • Jason Vancil

    Mel Blount just looks badass.

  • firefromheaven

    He was even more badass than he looked. He was Greg Lloyd playing CB. Every bit as mean and nasty but he could run a 4.3 40 at 6’3″ 220 lbs.

  • Man_of_Bats_81

    Imagine Blount matched up on Ward both in their primes. That would be so awesome the universe would explode!!!

  • Jaybird

    Blount made three more pro bowls and one All Pro after the “blount” rule. Not too shabby!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Just thinking about these old guys is fascinating. Mel Blount was more muscular and heavier than that skinny Jack Lambert guy. Imagine that. He had to have so much fire to become one of the most feared tacklers ever. I love jack Lambert.

    If Joey played his whole career with the Steelers his sack total would have been huge. Gildon was a beast. Kolb’s face has barely aged! Staying in shape is definitely worth it. Go watch that video. Crazy sh@@t.

    Hines Ward blocking and celebrating the RB TD he produced is classic. Textbook blocking and tough catches. It’s great to have a guy like that and they had him and Heath at the same time.

    We could go on for days about the guys that didn’t make the list.

  • Robert E Lil

    As much as I love Blount, he isn’t close to Hines Ward. Ward was a stud number 1 receiver who made bad qbs look good prior to getting Ben. He could play outside or in the slot. Most number 1 receivers are only big play threats but Ward had no issues on run support. Possibly the most physical wide receiver in the history of the league. I would have loved to have seen what kind of numbers he would have put up at the If he played his career with only Ben instead of Stewart, Graham and Maddox.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Not only is Mel Blount my favorite Pittsburgh Steeler of ALL-TIME, not only is he the best CB the Steelers have ever had, not only is he the best CB that the the NFL has ever seen, but he is also the greatest 3rd Round draft choice EVER… in the history of the NFL. So, apologies to anyone else on this list who had their hopes up, including all of the Psycho Ward fans. But this one was essentially as easy a call to make, as Webster was in the 5th. The pride of Southern University…

    There was never a CB like him before him, there wasn’t one his equal during his time, and there will never be another one like him again. He had every single tool in the toolbox at his disposal. He had literally ZERO weaknesses. And yes, was so good, so dominant, so scary, so talented, and so different, they had to create a freakin’ rule to try to stop him. The superlatives for Blount are endless. On the field, off the field, there is only one man like the legendary, Mel Blount. The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.

    The rest of the list is good. Ward in 2nd is apropos. The BEST blocking WR in the HISTORY of the NFL. A future Hall of Famer in my book. Personally, I have Porter 3rd and Gildon 4th. But it’s a hairsplitting / ice cream flavor, type of debate. There is no wrong answer, as long as you’re talking ice cream. Any glaring omissions? I don’t think so. I think you rightfully covered everyone in the lists provided. Maybe if there was another “Ones that got away list,” it would have to include Mike Vrabel.

    I will simply say… I do NOT envy the task you have ahead of you now. As I’m sure many will be able to predict the number 1 from the 1st round… the 2nd round contains the battle of the “Jacks.” And Lord knows I’m not a courageous enough man to try to be the one who splits those two apart. Lambert’s Lunatics vs. the Dobre Shunka’s. Plus, there a few other names that will garner some real honorable mentions. Should be a fun one. “Ding, ding.”

  • Brenton deed

    Hate to say it but this series is fizzling because it’s hard to argue against hall of famers. The last round should be interesting with HOFers locking horns … although ….

  • Brenton deed

    You know the steelers gave up a second round pick ( I think) for the bus… does he qualify as a de-facto second round pick for the steelers?

  • I think you meant to say sizzling.

  • I would have thought the Mel Blount inclusion at number one would have cleared the blemish on my record. I’m going back to that round and debating my case further.

  • Brenton deed

    Well interesting discussion but my gut tells me the #1s are obvious.

  • Brenton deed

    Hey what about #14???

  • Darth Blount 47

    Naw, Michael. You can’t buy your way into Heaven, but you sure can rob your way into Hell.

    If you HADN’T pick Blount at 1, you would have heard it from more than just me, believe that.

    And that blemish is gonna stay. You can’t choose to not include Larry Brown, on the master or the sub-list, and expect to slide it past me. Oh, no. Some of these other sleuths don’t have the awards on the walls to prove how great they are at their jobs. I’m running out of wall space, myself. Thinking about doing some renovating here real soon.

    Seriously though, I’ve enjoyed your articles quite a bit.. Keep it up. These last 2 rounds are a minefield on this team. No more slam dunks to be found. I especially can’t wait to see how you handle this next grenade. There may not be a wrong answer… but I’m not equally as sure that there is a right one, either.