Ranking Kevin Colbert’s Draft Picks (Part 12): The ‘All-Time’ Line

Part twelve of a series I’ll be exploring over the next several weeks. Kevin Colbert is calling it a career as GM, or de facto GM, of the Pittsburgh Steelers. His career has so much in it, running the team since 2000s. Lots of highs, two Super Bowls added to the trophy case, and the occasional low, but overall, a fantastic career for a – by all accounts – fantastic person.

What I’ll continue doing today is recapping and ranking all the draft picks Colbert made in his tenue with the team. Every. Single. One. That’s 176 picks from 2000 to 2021. I am, obviously, leaving out the 2022 draft class since they are impossible to judge in any capacity. But the rest are fair game. We’ll revisit and remember the best picks, the first round studs, Day Three steals to the busts and the guys who simply never did anything in Pittsburgh.

There’s a slight method to my madness. In creating the rankings, I considered *only* what the player did in a Steelers’ uniform. Even if the selection had a good or great career elsewhere, and you’ll see examples of that, it is excluding from consideration. The player may have worked out but not to Pittsburgh’s benefit and that’s the only thing that matters. What we won’t consider are circumstances that led to a player’s success of failure. If a player got hurt or traded or cut or whatever, we’ll accept it without examining it. Players struggle for different reasons but it’s too subjective trying to make those kinds of excuses.

I also weighed the round/selection the player was drafted in, slight consideration to positional value, the process in which the player was picked, and of course, the quality of the players Steelers’ career.

We’ll work down this list #176 to #1, meaning we’ll begin with the worst selection Colbert’s ever made until we get to his best pick. There may be some surprises, controversy, and plenty of blasts from the past along the way. These articles will include roughly 15 names at a time, though the number may sometimes change based on the grouping.

In Part twelve of the series, we’ll work through just six names today, #16 to 11.. If you want to check out part eleven, click the link here.

Part thirteen will be the final edition of this series with Colbert’s ten best picks.

#16 Marvel Smith/OT Arizona State – Round 2, 38th Overall (2000)

Colbert nailed the second pick of his Steelers’ career in choosing Smith, whose only negative was his fleeting health. But when on the field, he was an excellent left tackle. Not quite the elite level of say, Jonathan Ogden, but a very good offensive tackle. That isn’t entirely reflected in his career accolades, just one Pro Bowl, but Smith couldn’t find consistent traction throughout his career to put him into popular, Pro Bowl status.

Still, he started all 16 games four times and 12 games in two separate years. He played both tackle spots, starting at right tackle before flipping to left, and was part of the 2005 Super Bowl winning team. Smith made his lone Pro Bowl the year prior.

A tricky back injury ended his career at the tail end of a six-year contract extension, one of the first big-money deals Colbert handed out.

In total, Smith started 108 games, all with Pittsburgh. By far, it was the most starts out of a Colbert draft pick. Here’s the top five.

Most Steelers’ Starts By Colbert 2nd Round Pick

1. Marvel Smith – 108
2. Marcus Gilbert – 87
3. LaMarr Woodley – 81
4. Stephon Tuitt – 79
5. Le”Veon Bell – 62

Smith is far and away the leader of the group. He’s a forgotten name given the decade-plus that’s occurred since his last football snaps. But not only is he one of Colbert’s greatest draft picks, he’s one of the best offensive tackles in franchise history.

#15 Brett Keisel/DE BYU – 7th Round, 242nd Overall (2002)

Easily Kevin Colbert’s greatest 7th round pick, Keisel was one of the final picks of the 2002 NFL Draft. For reference, the player who went before him was Leonard Henry (two career starts). The player who went after him was Chris Massey (zero career starts, though he did have a long career)! Brett Keisel? A whopping 114 starts, an absolute gem in Colbert’s third draft.

It almost didn’t happen. His career seemed stuck three years into his career. He survived but hardly played as a rookie and missed the entire 2003 season with a shoulder injury. Healthy in 2004, he again was used in a reserve role. He cut his teeth on special teams before seeing serious defensive playing time in 2005, including a two-sack performance in a blowout win over the Cleveland Browns.

He’d crack the starting lineup in 2006 and stay there the next eight seasons. A well-rounded player, Keisel didn’t do one thing incredibly well but he was a terrific role player on Steelers’ defenses full of stars like Joey Porter, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, James Farrior, and so many others. Keisel was one brick in the wall that was Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, and himself.

The Steelers had a top five run defense five years with Keisel as a primary starter: 2006 (#3), 2008 (#1), 2009 (#5), 2010 (#1), 2012 (#4).

His sack numbers were never impressive, more than five just once his whole career (5.5 in 2006), but he embodied what it meant to be a Steeler. Tough, selfless, doing the grunt work so the elites could play like elites. But Keisel had his memorable moments, like a 79 yard touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Keisel played through his age 36 season, spending all 13 of his NFL years in Pittsburgh. He appeared in 156 games, starting 114. No 7th round pick has had more starts by a Steeler and it isn’t even close.

Most Steelers’ Starts By Colbert 7th Round Pick

1. Brett Keisel – 114
2. Kelvin Beachum – 39
3. David Johnson – 31
4. David Paulson – 9
5. Tre Norwood – 3

Tre Norwood, drafted last year, makes the top five. Keisel is the only one with more than 40 and he has almost 100 more than second place. Keisel was a unicorn of a 7th round pick and the Steelers may not get a more productive one for another two decades.

#14 LaMarr Woodley/OLB Michigan – Round 2, 46th Overall (2007)

Woodley didn’t have the storybook ending of his Steelers’ career, riding off into the sunset in black and gold like say, Hines Ward, but Woodley made up a dangerous duo with James Harrison for a couple of incredible years.

As Pittsburgh so often did, and occasionally missed, they took Woodley from a hand-down college defensive end to NFL standup outside linebacker.

Woodley found the starting lineup his second year and immediately flourished. He racked up 11.5 sacks in 2008 as Pittsburgh unleashed the league’s most dominant defense on the rest of the league, finishing first in points allowed, yards allowed, pass yards allowed, and rush yards per carry allowed. Woodley put his best sack numbers the following year, leading the team with 13.5 sacks and the league with 20 tackles for loss. He again hit double-digits in 2010 with ten and had nine more in 2011.

Pittsburgh’s only mistake was giving Woodley a long-term, $61.5 million contract after the 2020 season. It was hard to blame them but Woodley’s injury bug popped up immediately after, limited to ten games in 2011 while his production began to fade as his weight ballooned. By 2013, he played in just 11 games and picked up five sacks, dealing with multiple calf injuries before landing on IR.

The Steelers released him that offseason and he spent two more years in the league, notching just one more sack. Overall, Woodley recorded 57 sacks in Pittsburgh. He wasn’t a great player for a long time but at the right time and helped Pittsburgh take home their 6th Lombardi.

#13 – Santonio Holmes/WR Ohio State – Round 1, 25th Overall (2006)

I know he only played four years. I know the team traded up for him. I know he had just one 1000 yard season.

But the dude caught a Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh traded up to get him 25th overall in the 2006 drafts, one of Colbert’s few aggressive first-round moves. Holmes became an immediate contributor as a receiver and punt return with three total scores his rookie year (two touchdowns, one punt) and produced splash play after splash play. In 2007, he led the league in yards per catch, just over 18 yards per grab.

Holmes had a clutchness about him, coming up large in postseason action. In seven career postseason games, he caught 25 passes for 402 yards (16.1 YPC) with five receiving scores and one punt return touchdown, a zig-zagging runback to beat the Chargers. That began an incredible run during the 2008 postseason. He found the end zone in all three games, the punt return against San Diego, a receiving score versus Baltimore (a 65-yarder often forgotten about) and the granddaddy of them all, the game-winner to beat the Cardinals. One of the best catches you’ll ever see on the world’s biggest stage, Holmes was rightly named Super Bowl MVP.

HIs best statistical season came the following year in 2009 when he went over 1200 yards and found the end zone five times. In the prime of his career, he got into off-field trouble and was shipped to the Jets along. A four-game suspension came with him.

Just four years in Pittsburgh but they were highly productive years. And again. He won a Super Bowl. 

#12 Le’Veon Bell/RB Michigan State – Round 2, 48th Overall (2013)

Though things ended on a sour and disappointing note, Bell was the man in his prime with the Steelers. After his rookie year was slowed by a foot injury, Bell dropped weight and looked like a brand new man in 2014. His play reflected it, his yards per carry jumping from 3.5 to 4.7. He became a force and security blanket in the passing game, catching a then-record 83 receptions, a number he’d break three years later.

Bell was a complete back in tremendous shape who never had to come off the field. In 2016, he played a whopping 96% of the snaps of the 12 games he participated in, missing three of them not due to injury but suspension. Off-field issues were persistent, including him going all Harold and Kumar with LeGarrette Blount on his way to a 2015 preseason game, earning him a short suspension, his first by the league.

All that aside, Bell was a weapon in Pittsburgh’s offense. Carry the ball 30 times? No problem. Catch 11 passes? Can do. Dig the blitzing linebacker? You got it, Coach. Injuries got in the way, including a 2015 MCL tear that ended his season, but when on the field, there were few better.

Of course, you know how the story ends. Bell refused to twice play on the franchise tag and sat out the entire 2018 season, one year removed from leading the league in carries. The Steelers made lucrative offers to keep Bell in Pittsburgh but he turned them down. He signed with the New York Jets for the 2019 season. But in a bad offensive system, his numbers cratered and he was released mid-way through the 2020 season. Since, he’s bounced around with Kansas City, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay, but has never come close to capturing what he had in Pittsburgh.

Running backs may be fungible but few had Bell’s complete skillset. Luckily, the Steelers have seemed to find a carbon copy in Najee Harris, who hopes to stay in Pittsburgh longer than Bell.

#11 Lawrence Timmons/LB Florida State – Round 1, 15th Overall (2007)

The first draft pick Mike Tomlin was ever part of, Timmons was part of the new-wave linebackers you see today. Smooth and athletic, Timmons served as backup his rookie year, par for the course back then, but began to rotate onto the field his second season, recording 45 tackles and an 89 yard-interception across 16 games and two starts.

He became the majority-time starter in 2009. Timmons was a great fit in Dick LeBeau’s system, able to cover, chase, and blitz, giving LeBeau plenty of options in his fire zone system. Despite starting only 15 total games across 2008 and 2009, Timmons managed to rack up 12 sacks. 2010 saw his first 100 tackle season, finishing with 135. He would record 100+ tackles five more times as a Steeler. His six seasons of 100+ tackles are tied for most in team history, matching Levon Kirkland and James Farrior.

Timmons spent ten years as a Steeler, appearing in 158 games and starting 126 of them. He finished his career just shy of 1000 tackles though he hit that number in his final NFL season with the Dolphins. In Pittsburgh, he notched 35.5 sacks and was a consistent, excellent presence. It’s a surprise he made just one Pro Bowl over his career. In Pittsburgh, he was as valuable as nearly any defensive piece of his era.


#176. Senquez Golson – Rd. 2
#175. Alonzo Jackson – Rd. 2
#174. Fred Gibson – Rd. 4
#173. Danny Farmer – Rd. 4
#172. Kraig Urbik – Rd. 3
#171. Bruce Davis – Rd. 3
#170. Artie Burns – Rd. 1
#169. Orien Harris – Rd. 4
#168. Alameda Ta’amu – Rd. 3 (Trade Up)
#167. Dri Archer – Rd. 3
#166. Limas Sweed – Rd. 2
#165. Thaddeus Gibson – Rd. 4
#164. Nathaniel Adibi – Rd. 5
#163. Willie Reid – Rd. 3
#162. Ricardo Colclough – Rd. 2
#161. Doran Grant – Rd. 4
#160. Tony Hills – Rd. 4
#159. Ryan McBean – Rd. 4
#158. Mathias Nkwenti – Rd. 4
#157. Jarvis Jones – Rd. 1
#156. Terry Hawthorne – Rd. 5
#155. Cameron Stephenson – Rd. 4
#154. Shaq Richardson – Rd. 5
#153. Charles Davis – Rd. 5
#152. Omar Jacobs – Rd. 5
#151. Wesley Johnson – Rd. 5
#150. Mike Adams – Rd. 2
#149. Joe Burnett – Rd. 4
#148. Sammie Coates – Rd. 3
#147. Colin Holba – Rd. 6
#146. Sutton Smith – Rd. 6
#145. Bo Lacy – Rd. 6
#144. Roger Knight – Rd. 6
#143. Mike Humpal – Rd. 6
#142. Jordan Zumwalt – Rd. 6
#141. Keith Williams – Rd. 6
#140. Drew Caylor – Rd. 6
#139. Marvin Philip – Rd. 6
#138. Jason Gavadza – Rd. 6
#137. Ra’Shon Harris – Rd. 6
#136. Quincy Roche – Rd. 6
#135. Travis Feeney – Rd. 6
#134. Chris Scott – Rd. 5
#133. Brian St. Pierre – Rd. 5
#132. Shamarko Thomas – Rd. 4 (Trade Up)
#131. Chris Rainey – Rd. 5
#130. Anthony Smith – Rd. 3
#129. Frank Summers – Rd. 5
#128. Devin Bush – Rd. 1 (Trade Up)
#127. Jerald Hawkins – Rd. 4
#126. Gerod Holliman – Rd. 7
#125. Eric Taylor – Rd. 7
#124. Lavar Glover – Rd. 7
#123. Chris Taylor – Rd. 7
#122. Nick Williams – Rd. 7
#121. AQ Shipley – Rd. 7
#120. Shaun Nua – Rd. 7
#119. Rob Blanchflower – Rd. 7
#118. Toney Clemons – Rd. 7
#117. Cedric Humes – Rd. 7
#116. Doug Worthington – Rd. 7
#115. JT Wall – Rd. 7
#114. Josh Frazier – Rd. 7
#113. Terence Frederick – Rd. 7
#112. Keion Adams – Rd. 7
#111. Derwin Gray – Rd. 7
#110. Crezdon Butler – Rd. 5
#109. Noah Herron – Rd. 7
#108. Tee Martin – Rd. 5
#107. Brian Allen – Rd. 5
#106. Chris Combs – Rd. 6
#105. Dallas Baker – Rd. 7
#104. Anthony McFarland – Rd. 4
#103. Antoine Brooks Jr. – Rd. 5
#102. Matt Kranchick – Rd. 6
#101. Curtis Brown – Rd. 3
#100. Chris Carter – Rd. 5
#99. Rian Wallace – Rd. 5
#98. Justin Brown – Rd. 5
#97. Kendrick Clancy – Rd. 3
#96. Demarcus Ayers – Rd. 7
#95. Baron Batch – Rd. 7
#94. Carlos Davis – Rd. 7
#93. Isaiah Buggs – Rd .6
#92. Josh Dobbs – Rd. 4
#91. David Paulson – Rd. 7
#90. Sean Spence – Rd. 3
#89. LT Walton – Rd. 6
#88. Buddy Johnson – Rd. 4
#87. Dennis Dixon – Rd. 5
#86. Hank Poteat – Rd. 3
#85. Daniel McCullers – Rd. 6
#84. Justin Layne – Rd. 3
#83. Ulysees Gilbert III – Rd. 6
#82. Marcus Allen – Rd. 5
#81. Chukky Okobi – Rd. 5
#80. Stevenson Sylvester – Rd. 5
#79. Lee Mays – Rd. 6
#78. Kendrick Green – Rd. 3
#77. Mason Rudolph – Rd. 3 (Trade Up)
#76. Pressley Harvin III – Rd. 7
#75. Isaiahh Loudermilk – Rd. 5 (Trade Up)
#74. Ryan Mundy – Rd. 6
#73. Zach Gentry – Rd. 5
#72. Tre Norwood – Rd. 7
#71. Rodney Bailey – Rd. 6
#70. Ziggy Hood – Rd. 1
#69. Jonathan Dwyer – Rd. 6
#68. Jaylen Samuels – Rd. 5
#67. Benny Snell – Rd. 4
#66. Dan Moore – Rd. 4
#65. Kevin Dotson – Rd. 3
#64. Landry Jones – Rd. 4
#63. Verron Haynes – Rd. 5
#62. Daniel Sepulevda – Rd. 4 (Trade Up)
#61. David Johnson – Rd. 7
#60. Trai Essex – Rd. 3
#59. Anthony Chickillo – Rd. 6
#58. James Washington – Rd. 2
#57. Markus Wheaton – Rd. 3
#56. Cortez Allen – Rd. 4
#55. Sean Davis – Rd. 2
#54. Keenan Lewis – Rd. 3
#52. Jesse James – Rd. 5
#52. Chukwuma Okorafor – Rd. 3
#51. Jason Worilds – Rd. 2
#50. Tyler Matakevich – Rd. 7
#49. Emmanuel Sanders – Rd. 3
#48. Rashard Mendenhall – Rd. 1
#47. Chris Kemoeatu – Rd. 6
#46. Chase Claypool – Rd. 2
#45. Matt Spaeth – Rd. 3
#44. Alex Highsmith – Rd. 3
#43. Terrell Edmunds – Rd. 1
#42. Pat Freiermuth – Rd. 3
#41. Kendrell Bell – Rd. 2
#40. Martavis Bryant – Rd. 4
#39. Willie Colon – Rd. 4
#38. James Conner  – Rd. 3
#37. Cameron Sutton – Rd. 3
#36. Chris Hope – Rd. 3
#35. Bryant McFadden – Rd. 2
#34. Kelvin Beachum – Rd. 7
#33. Kendall Simmons – Rd. 1
#32. Najee Harris – Rd. 1
#31. Diontae Johnson – Rd. 3
#30. Bud Dupree – Rd. 1
#29. Plaxico Burress – Rd. 1
#28. JuJu Smith-Schuster – Rd. 2
#27. Marcus Gilbert – Rd. 2
#26. Clark Haggans – Rd. 5
#25. Vince Williams – Rd. 6
#24. William Gay – Rd. 5
#23. Ryan Shazier – Rd. 1
#22. Javon Hargrave – Rd. 3
#21. Mike Wallace – Rd. 3
#20. Antwaan Randle El – Rd. 2
#19. Max Starks – Rd. 3
#18. Larry Foote – Rd. 4
#17. Stephon Tuitt – Rd. 2
#16. Marvel Smith – Rd. 2
#15. Brett Keisel – Rd. 7
#14. LaMarr Woodley – Rd. 2
#13. Santonio Holmes – Rd. 2 (Trade Up)
#12. Le’Veon Bell – Rd. 2
#11. Lawrence Timmons – R. 1

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