The blast furnace campaign length is today usually restricted by the hearth life, which is strongly related to the drainage and behavior of the coke bed in the hearth, usually referred to as the dead man. Because the hearth is inaccessible and the conditions are complex, knowledge and understanding of the state of the dead man are still limited compared to other parts of the blast furnace process. Since a number of publications have studied different aspects of the dead man in the literature, the purpose of the current review is to compile the findings and knowledge in a comprehensive document. We mainly focus on contributions with respect to the dead man state, and those assessing its influence on the hearth performance in terms of liquid flow patterns, lining wear and drainage behavior. A set of common modeling approaches in this specific furnace area is also briefly presented. The aim of the review is also to deepen the understanding and stimulate further research on open questions related to the dead man in the blast furnace hearth.