First Call: Ranking all 10 of Steelers first round picks of 2010s – TribLIVE

thumbnail posted this ranking of the No. 1 overall picks in the draft from 2010-19.

That’s what you do when you are in the midst of a coronavirus shutdown and you have no content to speak of.

Hey, I’m not hatin’. I’m praising! Good job, Ali Bhanpuri. The check is in the mail, pal.

Because, right now, I’m steali … ahem … ”borrowing” this idea for our Pittsburgh audience.

This is how I’d rank all 10 of the Steelers first-round picks from the same decade.

1. Maurkice Pouncey (center, 2010): I’m going to say this right out of the gate for all of the first three slots.

Put all three of those guys in a sack, hit it with a stick, and however they spill out, you’re right.

I’m wrong.

I’m gonna look in the comments section at the bottom of this column, my email box and my Twitter interactions, and it is going to be littered with “hot takes” about how insane it is to have Pouncey in front of David DeCastro. Or DeCastro in front of Cam Heyward. I’m just going to say, “OK, reader, you’re right.”

Every time.

You are right since all three are neck and neck. There is no obvious winner. All three of the Steelers first-round picks in 2010-12 were home runs.

They are all going to be Steelers for the bulk of their careers, if not their entirety. They’ve all lived up to expectations. They’ve all been Pro Bowlers. They’ve all been clubhouse leaders and positive influences.

Pro Football Focus isn’t going to like my call of Pouncey at No. 1. But everybody else who has watched him seems to love the guy.

Eight Pro Bowls. Five All-Pro nods (two first team, three second team). All Decade team. He continued the legacy of the Steelers center position after Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings. Plus, think of how good he would’ve been if he didn’t lose all of 2013 and 2015 due to injury.

Pouncey did it just as well — for longer — than anyone up for this debate.

Oh. Then there was that rant after Le’Veon Bell didn’t show up in 2018. He deserves first place for that alone.

He gets the top spot, grudgingly over DeCastro and Heyward.

2. David DeCastro (guard, 2012): I’m shamefully the world’s biggest DeCastro fan. I even considered him for the top spot.

So maybe some of you would have him lower. Five Pro Bowls and three All-Pros (two on the first team) give me a good case, though. Don’t you think?

Unfortunately, he missed nearly his whole rookie season with a knee injury. Then he had that bizarre, how did it happen, out of nowhere, what was he thinking, flubbed cut block that took out Pouncey in 2013.

So I had to deduct points in my decision making there.

3. Cameron Heyward (defensive end, 2011): Some say the local media and fan base overrate Heyward.

Nope. The national fans and media don’t appreciate him enough.

The Steelers 3-4 end position has evolved. Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have been turned loose more often. As a result, Heyward has done most of his damage as he has gotten older.

I’d argue he’s getting better with age. Twenty-nine of Heyward’s 54 career sacks have come over the last three years. Those are years seven, eight and nine of his Steelers tenure.

The Steelers were probably too slow to make him a full-time starter before 2013. And an injury cost him a lot of 2016. Otherwise, Heyward may be tops on this list.

4. T.J. Watt (outside linebacker, 2017): Let’s take a look back at this list when Watt has as many years under his belt as the three in front of him.

I’ll bet he’s in the top slot before he leaves Pittsburgh.

5. Ryan Shazier (Inside linebacker, 2014): What could’ve been.

What else can you say?

As good as the four guys in front of him are, Shazier was en route toward equaling their prowess.

After some wildly up-and-down, injury-plagued campaigns in 2014 and 2015, Shazier consistently showed that flash in 2016.

He was on his way to his best season in 2017 with 89 tackles and five forced turnovers when he suffered that career-ending spinal injury in Week 12 in Cincinnati.

The Steelers have been trying to figure out how to replace him ever since.

We’ll come back to that shortly.

6. Bud Dupree (outside linebacker, 2015): Injury, ineffectiveness and an inability to grasp technique limited “Alvin” to 20 sacks over his four years.

He was sometimes good. Occasionally invisible. Always maddeningly below his physical abilities.

Then last year happened, and “Bud” looked like the first rounder everyone in Pittsburgh has been waiting to see.

What’s he going to look like on the franchise tag? Not sure.

Is he going to be worth keeping on a long-term, big-money deal going into 2021? Depends.

What else will the Steelers have behind him by then?

Also, are they worried about making another first-round pick in an attempt to replace him that pans out just as badly as ….

… well, stick around for slot No. 9.

7. Devin Bush (inside linebacker, 2019): One year in? Not bad. Not bad at all.

Is he Shazier yet? Not yet. Not yet at all.

Nothing I’ve seen out of Devin Bush suggests to me that the Steelers overspent to move up in the draft to take him at No. 10 in the first round.

But nothing the Michigan product has done yet gives me the same level of confidence that he’ll reshuffle this deck in the same way Watt will eventually.

He’s making me be patient, though.

8. Terrell Edmunds (safety, 2018): The former Virginia Tech Hokie hasn’t done anything to warrant people calling him a bust.

Some have. Most haven’t. So far.

Equally, Edmunds has done little to make himself look worthy of being the 28th overall pick. That was a lofty achievement that many — myself included — felt was more than a level too high for him.

On the plus side, Edmunds has taken on great responsibility and has shown remarkable durability, playing in all 16 games both of his first two seasons.

Between special teams and defense, Edmunds has logged 2,292 snaps. Impressive.

He has one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery. Unimpressive.

9. Jarvis Jones (outside linebacker, 2013): What were we saying about slot No. 9?

Oh. Right.

Look, in 2013, the Steelers needed an outside linebacker. Jones was an outside linebacker. The first one taken off the board that year. After being the SEC defensive player of the year at Georgia.

I loved him. I was on the Jarvis train the entire offseason. I even applauded his Subway meat-head likeness.

The whole thing made sense. I couldn’t have been happier.

Until he played.

Well, until he tried to play.

10. Artie Burns (cornerback, 2016): The Steelers reached to get him at pick No. 25 because they were desperate at cornerback. And a bunch of corners went in the first round that year before him.

Quickly the franchise became just as desperate to replace him.

Bad last name for a cornerback in the NFL. Bad pick by the Steelers.

So how would we collectively wrap up the decade? Let’s see.

Four excellent number one picks (Pouncey, DeCastro, Heyward, Watt). Two were terrible (Jones, Burns). Two more are still in development (Bush, Edmunds). One was so-so (Dupree). And the last was rendered incomplete (Shazier).

Before we go, look at this experiment. Check out the top six picks overall on that NFL list.

1. Cam Newton

2. Andrew Luck

3. Myles Garrett

4. Kyler Murray

5. Jared Goff

6. Jadeveon Clowney

Would you take those six or the Steelers top six — if Shazier had stayed healthy?

It’s a tough comparison since four of those guys are quarterbacks. But I’d go with the Steelers six.


Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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