I don't think the 90s FO was very astute in the early goings of free agency. Lost more than they gained, Bettis the notable exception
Doesn't the official history claim that the team lacked the cash to compete in free agency until they built Heinz field, or something like that? And therefore it was hard to beat the signing bonuses other teams were offering for players like Woodson, Searcy, Lake? Add that people were willing to way overpay for Thigpen and O'Donnell, combine that with a team with little room for error cash-wise, and you get a lot of roster churning in the 90s.
But yes, very true, Cowher's second run of greatness was built in rounds 2 through 4, where we have generally whiffed on. That we've also done poorly in round 1 makes the weakness in depth everywhere so glaring. Teams can pick and choose how they want to beat us.
Sometimes I wonder if it isn't talent so much as on the intangibles where we are missing on players. Ward, Aaron Smith, Marvel Smith, I don't think of them were elite athletically, so much as they were tough motherfuckers. Warriors. Wallace? Woodley? Not so much.