Over the years the Pittsburgh Steelers have been known as one of the classiest franchises in the NFL. With their six Super Bowl victories, there is no denying what they have been able to do over a long stretch of NFL history. In fact with their team they have created one of the best dynasties in the NFL and is clearly one of the faces of the sport. But that image has changed for the team over the last five years and this change was a long way in the making.
In the past, the Steelers were known for their tough defensive units, a great running game, and stern coaches who roamed the sideline. But right now, the Steelers are a dysfunctional mess that seems devoid of leadership in many areas. A lot of the blame can be thrown to the front door of head coach Mike Tomlin. For some reason, they don’t have anywhere near the same discipline that they had in the past and right now even the fire from the team seems to be less than it used to be before.
But another reason is the Steelers have started to make some questionable moves on both sides of the ball but mainly on defense. They have not been able to draft those superstar defensive players during the last couple of years and it shows each time they get lit up on that side of the ball. Those mistakes in drafting, trades, and signings have finally come full circle and might eat the team alive in 2018. Here is a look at some of those bad decisions the Steelers have made.
21 Bad Trade: Santonio Holmes To Jets For 5th-Round Pick
Santonio Holmes was taken 25th overall by the Steelers in 2006. The flashy wideout from Ohio State had an immediate impact on the NFL with the Steelers. Holmes had 824 yards in his rookie season and only improved from there. He ended up with 942 yards and 8 TDs in his second year and had his career high with the team in 2009 with 1,248 yards and 5 TDs. However, the Steelers didn’t want to pay him the long-term money so they traded him to the Jets for a fifth-round pick in 2010. Holmes was never quite as great as he was in 2009 but he was still a good receiver and could have produced more numbers if given the time.
20 Bad Signing: Sean Mahan
Sean Mahan was picked in the fifth round of the 2003 draft by the Buccaneers. As an offensive lineman, Mahan didn’t play in his first season but he started getting time as a center in year two. After that Mahan played guard for the Bucs in 2005 and 2006 and was serviceable at the position. In 2007 the Steelers decided to make the plunge and gave him a five-year, $17 million to play center for the Steelers. It was a bad plan from the onset and Mahan struggled in his one year with the team. They decided to trade him to the Bucs for a 7th after only one season.
19 Bad Draft Pick: Bud Dupree
Bud Dupree was taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 draft by the Steelers. He was taken as a player that was supposed to be a big time pass rusher for the team from the outside linebacker position.
The Steelers were starting to get a need at the position with James Harrison getting older, so the Kentucky prospect was exactly what they needed, or so it seemed.
But Dupree never reached those high-end goals as an end rusher in the NFL. His career high was in 2017 with 6 sacks but he started in 15 games for the only time in his career. Now Dupree is a backup linebacker who has some production but is not one of the best sack artists in the league.
18 Bad Trade: Steelers Acquire Josh Scobee From Jags
Josh Scobee was taken in the 5th round of the 2004 draft by the Jaguars. It's a little surprising any time a team uses a pick on a kicker, so the expectations are set that they will be reliable for a long time (we saw early this NFL season how important kicking can be). Scobee, throughout his career with the Jags, turned out to be just that. He made big strides in the 2006 season, hitting 81.3 percent of his kicks that season. That jumped to an incredible 92 percent in the 8 games he played in 2007.
Scobee got even better over time and made at least 90 percent of his kicks from 2011-2013 with the team. The Steelers needed a kicker in 2015 and decided to trade a sixth-rounder for him. He was yet another kicker that didn’t deliver and Scobee hit only 60 percent of his kicks in 2015.
17 Bad Signing: LeGarrette Blount
Hearing the name of LeGarrette Blount has to be frustrating for Steelers fans, because he's been productive pretty much everywhere he's been, except for Pittsburgh. After coming off a great season in New England, Blount signed with the Steelers in 2014 on a two year deal. Blount immediately became a bad influence on Le'Veon Bell and his production wasn't any better, only rushing for 266 yards and two TDs in 11 games. Blount's time in Pittsburgh came to an end when he left the field before the end of a game against Tennessee. The Steelers waived him, Blount re-joined the Patriots and got his career back on track.
16 Bad Draft Pick: Artie Burns
Artie Burns was taken with the 25th pick in 2016 NFL draft by the Steelers. For years they struggled at the cornerback position, but Burns was the perfect player to fix their problems on the outside. The Miami prospect had a good mix of height and speed for the position.
In the NFL Burns hasn’t lived up to the hype or been a shutdown defender at the cornerback position.
He did get three picks in his first season but started only 9 games. Last year, Burns started every game, but wasn’t a difference maker on defense and only got 1 interception. He just hasn’t lived up to expectations.
15 Bad Trade: Steelers Trade Todd Fordham, Get Draft Rights To Shaun Nua
In 2004, the Steelers decided to trade right guard Todd Fordham. He was a lineman that bounced around the NFL but started in six games for the team and could be versatile when necessary. However, the Steelers decided to move on from him and get rid of him for only a seventh-round pick in the 2004 draft. This is a move that was strange considered what that kind of pick will normally net you back.
In this case, it was Shaun Nua, a defensive lineman who never played a down for the team despite being listed on their lineup from 2005-07.
14 Bad Signing: Duce Staley
Duce Staley was taken in the third round of the 1997 draft by the Eagles. He was a running back at South Carolina University, and the team liked him more for his kick returning ability. But after year one they put Staley in the backfield to run for the team. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1998 and 1999 before injuries derailed his next two seasons.
Staley bounced back with 1,029 yards in 2002 and the Steelers decided to make him a one-two tandem with Jerome Bettis in 2004. After getting a five year, $14 million contract Staley failed to reach 1,000 yards over three total years with the team and was out of the league after 2005.
13 Bad Draft Pick: Senquez Golson
Senquez Golson was taken by the Steelers in the second round of the 2015 draft. He was another player who was supposed to help them at the cornerback position. He is only 5’9" and didn’t run the fastest 40-yard time, but the Steelers saw him at Ole Miss and figured that he was going to be a good player. But Golson never ended up making an impact at the NFL level.
In his rookie year, Golson injured his shoulder and wasn’t able to play for the entire season.
Then in 2016 Golson was injured again and couldn’t play for the Steelers. Golson never suited up for the Steelers, even in the preseason, during his time with the team.
12 Bad Trade: Steelers Get Brandon Boykin For 5th-Rounder
Brandon Boykin was taken in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by the Eagles. As an undersized cornerback, Boykin fell back in the draft and was a player who would only work in the slot cornerback position in the NFL. But he excelled in that role in 2013 with the Eagles. After not playing much in his rookie year, Boykin exploded with 6 interceptions for the team in 2013.
In 2014, he went back to being ineffective, as he had only one interception, but the Steelers still wanted him. After trading a fifth-round pick for him in 2015, Boykin was only able to produce one interception for the team in his one season and then was cut at the end of the year. It was Boykin’s last stop in the NFL.
11 Bad Signing: Ladarius Green
Ladarius Green was taken in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by the Chargers. Green was a tight end that they took as a second option for Antonio Gates. He was supposed to be the future of the position for the Chargers, with his good height (6'6") and his athletic ability. Green had a quiet first season but in 2013 he ended up with 376 yards and 3 TDs in year two. His best season came with the Chargers in 2015 when he had 429 yards and 4 TDs for the Chargers.
In 2016 the Steelers signed Green to a four-year, $20 million contract to replace Heath Miller. Green didn’t quite reach those expectations with 304 yards in 2016 and he hasn't played in the NFL since he was cut in 2016.
10 Bad Draft Pick: Jarvis Jones
Jarvis Jones was taken with the 17th pick of the 2013 draft by the Steelers. He was going to be the next pass rusher for a team that still had Lamar Woodley playing well on one end and James Harrison as a Pro Bowler on the other.
The Steelers still decided that they needed Jones as a pass rusher to start creating havoc for the team as a pass rusher.
But in the NFL, Jones never showed that ability to get to the passer and make impact plays. Over four seasons, Jones ended up with 6 sacks for the Steelers. He was one of the biggest draft disappointments they had and hasn’t played since 2016.
9 Bad Trade: Steelers Trade Up In Draft For Kendrell Bell
The Steelers traded their picks in the second round and the fourth round of the 2001 draft to trade up and get Kendrell Bell from the University of Georgia. He was right in the mold of Steelers players that they wanted in the 3-4 scheme. He was a big outside linebacker who could go and get the passer, which is what he showed in his first season. Bell came onto the scene on fire with 9 sacks and making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. But from that point on he wasn’t the same player with 9 total sacks over the last three years he played for the Steelers. Bell didn’t play for the Steelers after 2004 not something you want from a top draft pick.
8 Bad Signing: Cam Thomas
Cam Thomas was picked in the 5th round of the 2010 draft by the Chargers. As a defensive tackle, Thomas didn’t have an impact in his first season in the league as a starter but came in with 2 sacks. In his second year, Thomas got four sacks for the team even though he was more of a run stopper. That was Thomas’ role in 2012 and 2013 for the Chargers. In 2014 he signed with the Steelers and didn’t give them the impact he did the Chargers. After his first year, Thomas started only one game with the team, and was released from the team in 2016.
7 Bad Draft Pick: Ziggy Hood
The Steelers took Ziggy Hood with the 32nd overall pick in 2009. He was seen as a big-time run stopper for the Steelers 3-4 defensive scheme, but also was known for disrupting plays in the backfield. Hood didn’t start any games for the Steelers in his first season and only got one sack. In year two, Hood got 3 sacks in the season.
The Steelers were hoping that he would get better over time, but that was the height of his production for the team.
In five years with the Steelers, Hood ended up with 11.5 sacks over that time with the team. That's not the production you’d want out of a first round pick.
6 Bad Trade: Steelers Move Up To Draft Ricardo Colclough
In 2004 the Steelers traded up in the draft to take cornerback Ricardo Colclough from Tusculum university. It was a little-known school, but the franchise liked what they saw out of the young cornerback and wanted him to badly be with the team enough to make the move. But Colclough never worked out of the Steelers. During his four years with the team, he never got an interception or played corner. He was only a kick returner and got no career touchdowns doing that either. The move to go up and get Colclough was one of the worst trades the Steelers ever had.
5 Bad Signing: Lance Moore
Lance Moore was an undrafted free agent signed by the Saints in 2006. Moore was an undersized wide receiver for the team and didn’t make an impact until 2008. Moore ended up with 928 yards and 10 TDs and proved to be a real impact player.
From 2010-2012, he was very impactful with 600 yards and 6 TDs at least in every season.
Moore did decline a little in 2013 but the Steelers thought he could still be successful with the team in 2014. He signed a two-year deal with the team but was released after one season. Moore only had 100 yards with the team and was released in the offseason.
4 Bad Draft Pick: Jason Worilds
Jason Worilds was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Steelers. He was originally taken as a middle linebacker but slowly started to move to the outside as a pass rusher. In his first two years, Worilds only played in 7 games but had 5 sacks combined. From 2012-2014, Worilds started to take off as a pass rusher and had over five sacks each season. He showed some production, but not for the length that the Steelers would have liked only playing for five seasons with the Steelers and in the NFL. Worilds made the surprising decision to retire from the NFL at the age of 27.
3 Bad Trade: Byron Leftwich Comes To Pittsburgh
Byron Leftwich was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft by the Jags. He was seen as their quarterback of the future as a big QB with a bigger arm but who still had some mobility. Leftwich never quite reached those expectations. In his first year, he had a negative TD-INT rating, throwing 16 picks. In year three Leftwich went 8-3 with the team and only had 5 interceptions before getting hurt and losing his job. Leftwich lost his starting role in the NFL forever and became a journeyman.
In 2010 the Steelers traded a seventh-rounder for him, expecting a good backup but he didn’t do that right either.
In the games, he started, Leftwich didn’t perform well which is important considering how much Ben Roethlisberger got hurt over the years.
2 Bad Signing: Todd Peterson
Todd Peterson was taken in the seventh round of the 1993 draft by the Giants. As a kicker, he never played for them but really got his shot in 1995 with the Seahawks. In his first two seasons with the team, he kicked 82 percent for the Seahawks and was one of the better kickers in the league. Peterson had a solid career from 1995-2001, making at least 75 percent of his field goals each season.
In 1999 Peterson made 85 percent of his kicks, then signed with the Steelers in 2002. It only took 10 games for the Steelers to be fed up with Peterson, as he made only 57 percent of his kicks.
1 Bad Draft Pick: Limas Sweed
The Steelers don’t normally miss on wide receivers, but Limas Sweed was an exception to the rule. He was picked in the second round of the 2008 draft by the team and was one of the few tall receivers they took.
At 6’5 Sweed was looked at as a player who could be a freak of nature at the position and really cause other teams issues. But Sweed never paid off at the NFL level, only getting 64 yards in his first season in the league and only one catch in year two. After that, the Steelers decided to move on and Sweed never played in the NFL again.