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Steelers: Who Is The Best First Round Pick Of The Past Decade?

Posted By Michael Waterloo On Feb 26 2011 @ 2:21 pm In Pittsburgh | 1 Comment

When it comes to women and sports, they can be categorized in two ways:

1.) The woman who wears a jersey because she thinks it is cute and has no idea what is going on with the player, team or even sport associated with the jersey.

2.) The woman who would rather miss the birth of her own child than miss her favorite team play.

I’m happy to say that my aunt Allison falls into the latter of the two categories.  She attends Pitt basketball and football games, Penguin games and never misses a Steelers home game.  She was actually lucky enough to attend the Super Bowl a few weeks ago down in Dallas.  The saying is that a guy will grow up to marry a woman that is exactly like his mother.  Well, sorry mom, but I hope I marry someone exactly like my aunt.

While we were tailgating for the Winter Classic in January, I struck up a conversation with a few of my uncle’s buddies about the success of Steelers’ rookie center, Maurkice Pouncey.  I stated that Pouncey was the Steeler’s best first round draft pick in the past ten years to make such a profound impact.  Being the ever-observant woman that she is, my aunt spoke up and disagreed with me, then proceeded to ramble off names of those that she thought were better picks.  She said Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and Lawrence Timmons have to be considered top picks as well.  While I agree they do, I stuck with my pick of Pouncey as the best.

With the NFL Combine this weekend in Indianapolis, it’s getting to that time of year where every football fan officially becomes one of the nerds.  We set our draft board and predict who our favorite team is going to select.  It’s too early to have my mock draft for the Steelers, but I want to revisit the conversation that my aunt and I had back on January 1st.  Who is the best first round draft pick of the past ten years for the Steelers?  In chronological order, from 2001 until 2010, the Steelers selected Casey Hampton, Kendall Simmons, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes, Lawrence Timmons, Rashard Mendenhall, Ziggy Hood and Maurkice Pouncey.  Before we debate which of these was the best pick, allow me to just say that there isn’t another NFL team that can even come close to that list of players above.  Hats off to Kevin Colbert.

While I can see a case here for Roethlisberger and Polamalu, I still don’t think anyone can top what Pouncey did in his rookie year.  Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a 15-1 record and the AFC Championship game his rookie year after coming in for the injured Tommy Maddox, while Troy had a rather unremarkable rookie season with only 38 combined tackles and 1 fumble recovery.  While they both may have earned two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers, let us not forget the dismal performance Roethlisberger had against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.  Saying he has two rings is like saying Trent Dilfer has one.  Sure they technically do, but weren’t the main catalyst behind it.

Polamalu is the greatest safety of our generation, and teams must gameplan around his presence.  Being that the Steelers defense has been the key factor to their success takes away from his overall value as a singular draft pick to me.  Pouncey on the other hand, was placed in a situation where he had to have instant success.  It’s no secret that the Steelers’ offensive line has been the weak link for a while now, and it was injury-riddled all last year.  The Steelers thought so much of Pouncey, that they released Justin Hartwig, their starting center from the previous few seasons, in training camp and announced Pouncey as the starter.  How did he respond?  Only by starting every game of the season except the Super Bowl (due to a high ankle sprain) and was named to the Pro Bowl to represent the AFC.  A lineman usually must earn a Pro Bowl vote through respect and name recognition.  For Pouncey to earn the vote over veteran centers says a lot about him.

Pouncey continues the long history of success of centers in Pittsburgh, following the likes of Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson.  The success of Pouncey this past year has Steeler fans hoping that the team will be able to land Maurkice’s twin brother, Mike – who many scouts say is even better than Maurkice – in this year’s draft.  While it would be quite a story, I don’t see Mike lasting to pick 31 or even past pick 15 or so.  While Roethlisberger and Polamalu may have the hardware and while Mendenhall and Timmons will each have a huge impact on the Steelers going forward, I still stand by my choice of Maurkice Pouncey as the best #1 pick by the Steelers in the past decade if for no other reason that he has the task of keeping their franchise quarterback upright.

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