Fourteen years later and the goalkeeper guru is adamant, nothing of the quality that made the English goalkeeper England’s No.1 for most of a decade has escaped him.
According to Steele, the 34-year-old just needs the right club to prove it after a season as Hugo Lloris’ replacement at Spurs.
Celtic signed Hart on Tuesday as new boss Ange Postecoglou seeks to fill a gaping hole that has plagued the Hoops since Fraser Forster and Craig Gordon twice started over a year ago.
The Englishman will effortlessly fill the void, according to Steele. But just as important, he believes Celtic would be the right fit for Hart.
Proof of this is the reboot the Parkhead club gave Forster as his career threatened to stagnate on the sidelines of Southampton two years ago.
Steele, who has coached legends such as Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van Der Sar during a distinguished career that has spanned Manchester’s two clubs, Aston Villa and Derby, believes Hart will not have gone unnoticed. And he thinks the former English hero still has years at the top.
Steele told Record Sport: “Joe has to play. That’s all that will be on his mind.
“And if it seems that Hugo Lloris is not for the change at Spurs, he must be tempted by the offer of a new challenge at a big club like Celtic.
“He will suit Celtic perfectly because there is a hungry goalkeeper who wants to resume play and Celtic are at a good level.
“They are still in Europe and would provide Joe with regular football.
“He will see what Celtic did for Fraser Forster.
“The goalie coach there, Stevie Woods, is very well respected throughout the game. Joe would love to work with him if he had the chance.
“He only played 10 games last year – all cup games – but he’s still young and has years left.
“Without a doubt there is always a good goalkeeper in Joe and if Celtic said, ‘Come on, we want you to bring your experience and do a job for us’ that would be a great solution for both sides. . He’s in great physical shape – he showed that when he played in the Cup games last season. I watched a few where he was the Joe Hart of old.
“I have no doubt that he still has five or six years to play at a very good level.
“I worked with Edwin Van Der Sar and Peter Schmeichel who have reached their forties.
“I think Allan McGregor is probably going to do the same with the Rangers.
“There’s a lot more to the 40s club these days – watch Gigi Buffon sign a two-year contract at Parma at 42!
“Joe just needs someone to tell him, ‘Come on Joe, you’ve got the gloves and the No. 1 shirt, go play.’ “
There is no doubt that Postecoglou would like to be the coach to take up this challenge. It’s a position that threatens to be a major problem again for Celtic this season, with the Australian boss having already moved from Vasilis Barkas to Scott Bain just three competitive games in the season.
Neither impressed, with Barkas at fault in the Champions League playoff first leg against Midtjylland before Bain cashed twice away to seal a 3-2 defeat at the total.
But when it comes to stature and experience, Hart has it all – as well as a mindset that allows him to handle life in the Glasgow Goldfish Bowl.
Not only that, but Steele reckons the 75 times capped goalie has an understanding of the game that would see him shaping the Hoops’ backline.
Steele said: “I worked with Joe for two years at Manchester City when he was 20 and 21. It was a sponge. He wanted to learn everything. He had a fantastic physique and we developed him in terms of improving his strength and power.
“He learned on the job and there were games where he won us points. He made saves with his bravery, his decision making and he never hesitated to come for crosses.
“He’s great in the locker room, sets the example, a good communicator.
“He won’t be afraid of anything. He will probably help a defense that is not having a good time because he is also a good coach.
“What I mean is he knows what defenders should be doing and he’ll be there to cheer them on or he won’t hesitate to berate them when necessary.”
“He’s played with some of the greats – Vincent Kompany, Richard Dunne, Micah Richards – so he knows what he wants from center-halfs and how to strengthen that back line.
“He won’t play for nothing but Joe will find he has to start playing again.
“His career has given him what he has but he has years left and he will be looking for a springboard to show people that Joe Hart is still a very good goaltender. I think Celtic would be a perfect fit.