New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is widely recognized as the best sixth-round pick in league history, but an undersized receiver out of Central Michigan is emerging as the second-best, with all due respect to Terrell Davis and Matt Birk.
Antonio Brown is an easy selection for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ best late-round draft pick ever. Like Brady, Brown wears that sixth-round pick proudly, an overflowing tap of motivation for every practice and game.
Brown was productive in college, but he was 5-foot-10 and wasn’t considered a blazer by NFL combine standards. Those factors, coupled with the small-school stigma and his developing route-running skills, made Brown a questionable prospect.
The Steelers saw great value in him late in the 2010 draft, but no one saw this -- with the exception of Brown, who said he always knew he’d be great.
No NFL receiver has more catches over the past three seasons than Brown’s 375, 31 of which have gone for touchdowns. In games in which quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played in 2015, Brown averaged about 10 catches per contest.
Brown entered 2015 as one of the game’s best receivers, and entered this offseason as the game’s clear-cut top receiver, edging Atlanta’s Julio Jones for the top honor.
The Steelers have found many mid-to-late-round gems over the years, including Hall of Fame receiver John Stallworth and cornerback Ike Taylor, a two-time Super Bowl winner. But Brown is on pace to become the best receiver in Steelers history.
Brett Keisel, defensive end, Brigham Young: Keisel is one of the franchise’s great success stories. The seventh-round pick in 2002 rewarded the Steelers for their faith with 408 tackles, 30 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two interceptions in 156 games (114 starts) over 12 seasons. He became a fan favorite because of his tree-like beard and his tenacious play.
Merril Hoge, fullback, Idaho State: The Steelers turned the 261st overall pick (10th round) in 1987 into an invaluable backfield option for seven seasons. Hoge amassed 3,115 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns for Pittsburgh, and he was almost as valuable catching passes out of the backfield, finishing with 254 for 2,133 yards and 13 touchdowns.