Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Steelers Draft: The Last Five Years

It is NFL Draft time. With the playoffs and Super Bowl in the rear view mirror and the NFL Labor dispute in full force it the draft was kind of less looked upon this year. You didn’t hear as much about the combine as you might have in the past and something just seemed off. Well never fear because I am back here to talk a little Steelers draft. Now, I am not here to talk about who the Steelers might take or what position they might take because literally everyone is all over that stuff. I am here to talk draft history.

As most people probably know the Steelers are cash money when you talk about first round draft picks. As you will see below it is really, really, hard to dispute that. The Steelers do have some people that knock them because they have never been able to find that back end of the draft kind of guy and really struggle from the third round on. Thinking about this the other day, and getting some suggestions that yinz wanted to see this stuff, I decided to go back and look at the past five draft years of the Pittsburgh Steelers and see what we really have to look with.

What I have done is broke down the last five drafts (2006-2010) and gave some of my thoughts on most of the draft picks. If you can’t figure it out the process on the top line will read as such: Round-Overall-Player-Position-School (Notable player taken anywhere between one and five picks from when the Steelers drafted their player).

After I look at all these drafts I break it down a little bit more and give you some general thoughts. It was pretty interesting to see the picks a few years ago and what they are doing for the team now.

1 – 25 – Santonio Holmes – WR – Ohio State (Nick Mangold 29)
Coming out of college Tone was a big time receiver from a big time school. He turned out to not disappoint the Steelers when he caught numerous big time balls when the Steelers needed them the most. He was as clutch as they come, but he couldn’t stay out of the police blotter, which was his unraveling as a Steelers player. Still a great player and a huge pick.

3 – 83 – Anthony Smith – DB – Syracuse
Never worked out. The guarantee thing with the Patriots was wildly overblown but Madison just never made enough plays. He was a liability on the field and just wasn’t a good fit.

3 – 95 – Willie Reid – WR – Florida State (Owen Daniels 98)
Reid was expected to do big things. A fast guy that could burn in the open field but another one of those guys over this list that never put it together. He was supposed to be a return guy but Mike Tomlin saw nothing in him. Released in 2008.

4 – 131 – Willie Colon – T – Hofstra (Kyle Williams, 134)
This was the second best pick of the ’06 draft behind Holmes. Colon has become the Steelers best offensive lineman in the past couple of years. Colon is a much better run blocker than he is a pass blocker but he still has been rock solid and filled in for injured lineman and eventually became a building block for a Super Bowl winning line.

4 – 133 – Orien Harris – DT – Miami (Kyle Williams, 134)
No idea.

5 – 164 – Omar Jacobs – QB – Bowling Green
Like the pick when we made it. An athletic kid that made some pretty good plays at Bowling Green but he wasn’t around long.

5 – 167 – Charles Davis – TE – Purdue

6 – 201 – Marvin Philip – C – California (Antione Bethea, 207)

7 – 240 – Cedric Humes – RB – Virginia Tech
Thought this might have something. Solid kid at Va. Tech. Humes was released and is currently out of football. Meh.

Hit the jump to see the rest

1 – 15 – Lawrence Timmons – LB – Florida State (Michael Griffin, 19)
Lawrence Timmons might be the most underrated player in 2010. He got off to a really slow start the first few years but really blew up as the middle linebacker the last couple of years. I don’t think the Steelers knew if he was going to be an inside guy or an outside guy but Timmons figured that out on his own. Freakishly athletic his is finally understanding the defense and might be the best first round draft pick of this five year run.

2 – 46 – LaMarr Woodley – LB – Michigan (Steve Smith, NYG, 51)
Honestly, second round? LaMarr Woodley. Please.

3 – 77 – Matt Spaeth – TE – Minnesota (James Jones, 78)
People kind of wondered why the Steelers drafted Spaeth after they had Heath Miller a few years prior but he was a solid pick. More of a blocker than a pass catcher he was brought in to be developed slowly and he has found his nitch in the Steelers offense. A much better blocker than a pass catcher but can hall in some passes. Dropped a few big ones but not everyone is Heath Miller. Good pick for Spaeth here.

4 – 112 – Daniel Sepulveda – P – Baylor
People bashed the Steelers for taking the punter in the fourth round. A lot of people said that it was still too early to take a punter, but it was a good pick. Outside of the obvious injury issues Sepulveda has been one of the best punters in the league and makes the world of difference for the special teams.

4 – 132 – Ryan McBean – DE – Oklahoma State (Clint Session, 136; LeRon McClain, 137)
He turned into Steely McBeam. Terrible pick for that reason alone.

5 – 156 – Cameron Stephenson – G – Rutgers (Brent Celek, 162)

5 – 170 – William Gay – CB – Louisville (Legedu Naanee, 172)
For all the heat that Gay takes he had a pretty solid season this year after a pretty bad season in 2009. He is a decent nickel back and for basically a sixth round pick I can deal with that. He has his ups and downs and is defiantly not an every down corner but still is very serviceable.

7 – 227 – Dallas Baker – WR – Florida
A late round guy that I thought was going to be able to play. Came out of a big time program that threw the ball around, but never really fit into the system.

1 – 23 – Rashard Mendenhall – RB – Illinois (Chris Johnson, 24; Mike Jenkins, 25)
Going into this draft the general thought was that the Steelers had to draft a lineman. I remember watching the draft and thinking that the Steelers were going to reach for a lineman. Thank God the Steelers are not idiots. The Black and Gold selected Rashard after he slid down the draft board. I was excited. Much to some shagrin though there wasn’t much to get excited about. The first season was mud for Mendenhall as he got knocked out by Ray Lewis early in the season. IT then came out that Mike Tomlin wasn’t too fond of Mendy early, and that made him a better back. He is the real deal now. One of the best backs in the NFL.

2 – 53 – Limas Sweed – WR – Texas (Ray Rice, 55)
Seriously you can’t even begin to think about Limas Sweed. I was very excited when the Steelers got Sweed. There was the dropped pass in the playoffs and then there was the devastating block a few plays later. The past two years he hasn’t played much because of injuries so it is very hard to tell if he would have been productive. That being said I can’t imagine him having much of a chance with how AB and ES are playing. Good problem to have I guess.

3 – 88 – Bruce Davis – LB – UCLA (Jermichael Finley, 91)
Davis was waived in 2009. He was having a really hard time adjusting in the 3-4 defense and was never really a fit.

4 – 130 – Tony Hills – T – Texas
No idea on Hills. Dude is friggin huge, but it just seems like he can’t get a grasp on what is going on. As a fourth round pick you would expect that he would be able to fill in during the injury situation this year, but when all but one of your starting lineman goes down and you aren’t on the field, and sometimes not dressing then you know you are on your way out. This pick could have gone a ton better.

5 – 156 – Dennis Dixon – QB – Oregon
Lets get one thing straight, DD was a good gamble pick. This was going to be the runaway Heisman Trophy winner before he blew out his knee. He had enough athleticism to give away to other players. With Ben Roethlisberger on the team it probably wasn’t realistic to have DD be a QB, but he could possibly still come in and play when he had to. He did that this year and was partially responsible for going 3-1 without Big Ben. The year before he filled in for Ben when he was hurt in Baltimore for a Monday night game and almost won. Nobody is going to confuse him with an NFL starter but he is a good guy to have on the roster.

6 – 188 – Mike Humpal – OLB –Iowa
Humple really didn’t cut it much. He was hurt and release, picked back up and then relased again in 2009. Nothing to see here.

6 – 194 – Ryan Mundy – FS – West Virginia
This, in my opinion, was a nice pickup for the Steelers. Mundy played for five years for Michigan and West Virginia and came to the Steelers and filled in when Troy gets hurt and some spot duty. In 2010 he came in and played pretty well for an injured Troy Polamalu. He didn’t get noticed in the games he played but that is a good thing. Solid player that has made an impact. Good pick in my eyes.

1 – 32 – Ziggy Hood – DT – Missouri (Ray Maualuga, 38)
His first year in 2009 wasn’t that great. People were wondering if he was going to be able to do it and a lot of people started to question if he was ever going to turn into a first round pick. 2010 was his coming out party. When Aaron Smith went down with a tricep injury Hood stepped in for the Pro Bowl defensive end and did work. He only made 20 tackles and had three sacks but you can’t measure the success of a defensive lineman in a 3-4 on stats. He played to a championship level and if he keeps this us the Steelers got an absolute steal at the 32nd pick of the draft.

2 – 79 – Kraig Urbik – T – Wisconsin
Urbik just didn’t work. With all the success that the Steelers have early in the draft this was pretty disappointing. Nothing more needs to be said.

3 – 84 – Mike Wallace – WR – Mississippi
I mean seriously, do I even need to write about this kid? Fastest dude in the NFL and he was Pro Bowl caliber this season. Nuff said.

3 – 96 – Keenan Lewis – DB – Oregon State
See Burnett

5 – 168 – Joe Burnett – DB – Central Florida
Lewis and Burnett I am going to bundle here. Both were brought in with hopes of trying to sure up the secondary. Trying to find DB’s in the later round is something the Steelers try to do a little bit more and it hasn’t worked out at all. Ike Taylor was a fourth round pick but the Steelers haven’t had a lot of luck picking up middle round DB’s in the recent future. Hopefully one of these two can be a play maker but I really don’t know. I have more faith in Lewis than I do Burnett but they need to show me something big time next year.

5 – 169 – Frank Summers – RB – Las Vegas
Summers never really just got it going. Two years is a short span to evaluate a player but the Steelers were out a fullback and that is where Summers really looked like that would be his position. With guys like MeMo and Dwyer and Ike Redman there really wasn’t a place for Summers. Summers was released by the Steelers in 2010.

6 – 205 – Ra’Shon Harris – DT – Oregon

7 – 226 – A.Q. Shipley – C – Penn State (Julian Edelman, 232)

7 – 241 – David Johnson – TE – Arkansas State
Johnson is still on the Steelers roster and only made four catches this season. With the emergence of Spaeth as a decent blocker and an average pass catcher there really isn’t much room for Johnson. They do get him on the field in a H-Back role, so they do think something of his blocking ability. Spaeth is a free agent, which I think they might bring back, but nice to have someone that is familiar with the system and can be relied on in case something happens. Not a terrible pick considering it is a seventh round deal.

1 – 18 – Maurkice Pouncey – C – Florida (Bryan Bulaga, 23)
Unreal pick by the Steelers. Coming in it wasn’t known whether he would start out at guard or center. Most though maybe guard since the Steelers rely heavily on the center to make every call in the offense, but Mike Tomlin put him at center and used a baptism by fire. Maurkice likes it hot. First year he was the centerpiece of the offensive line and made the Pro Bowl. For a coach that doesn’t like to play rookies a lot it says something about this kid for him to step right in. He will be a multiple Pro Bowl guy and go in line with the great centers in Steelers history (I hope).

2 – 52 – Jason Worilds – OLB – Virginia Tech (Terrence Cody, 57)
Worilds did not see a lot of time he did play some this season and racked up two sacks. Worilds was mostly a special teams guys and he did a pretty nice job in that aspect. Like I said before HCMT doesn’t play rookies a lot and they have to earn their stripes on special teams. In the limited action I saw Worilds play I think he could be a decent outside linebacker and although there is a lot of time to evaluate picks from the 2010 draft but I like what I see from JW.

3 – 82 – Emmanuel Sanders – WR – SMU
Manny Sanders didn’t come on till late in the season but he was a pretty important part of the offense. He made 28 catches for 376 yards and two touchdowns but you can just see the raw talent that this kid has. He is fast and quick which is something that kills in the NFL. Once this kid has some time to work on his route running he could be a really nice third receiver for next year and for some years to come.

4 – 116 – Taddeus Gibson – OLB – Ohio State

5 – 151 – Chris Scott – G – Tennessee

5 – 164 – Crezdon Butler – DB – Clemson
Butler was another DB taken by the Steelers and he really didn’t do much in 2010. Not much else you can say about him, but hopefully he can grasp the system and learn from guys like Troy, Ryan Clark and Ike to be an impact player.

5 – 166 – Stevenson Sylvester – LB – Utah
Much like Worilds, Sylvester is another backer that was brought in and made some impact on special teams. Not sure if Sylvester has the upside that Worilds has. Worilds had 14 tackles, most on special teams, and that is where he is going to earn his stripes. With the addition of SS and JW the special teams got better for much of the season and that was a big part of the Steelers success. When you have guys like Woodley and Harrison it is hard to get these guys the main reps and game time, but they can still have a huge impact on the game.

6 – 188 – Jonathan Dwyer – RB – Georgia Tech
Dwyer came in with a lot of fan fare, but never seemed to really “get it”. He didn’t dress until the playoffs and didn’t get much playing time so hard to say. I still have some hope for the kid and I hope that he can get some work and another training camp and we can see where Dwyer is.

6 – 195 – Antonio Brown – WR – Central Michigan
AB is another guy like Manny Sanders. Dude just came in later in the season and made huge plays. Like Sanders and Wallace, Brown has speed and he utilizes it to its full effect, none bigger than the clutch catch he made in the AFC Divisional game against the Ravens when he basically put the dagger in the hearts of the most hated rivals on a 3rd-and-19. Ben had no reservations in going to him and that says a lot about a sixth round pick.

7 – 242 – Dough Worthington – DE – Ohio State

Five Year Draft Pick Breakdown:
QB – 2 (1 still on roster)
RB – 4 (2)
WR – 7 (4)
TE – 3 (2)
OL – 7 (4)
DL – 5 (1)
LB – 7 (4)
DB – 5 (4)
S – 1 (1)
P – 1 (1)
K – 0 (0)

Best Draft Class: 2007, by far.
Worst Draft Class: 2008
TRBB Draft Class Order:
1. 2007
2. 2010
3. 2006
4. 2009
5. 2008

General Thoughts:

-It is really hard to put in perspective about the 2009 and 2010 draft. I mean it takes some players a few years to fit into the system (Colon, Spaeth) and some are able to jump in and play right away (Pouncey). These are the unpredictables. The development of players like Lewis and Burnett will go a long way in determining those draft classes so you really can only take the rankings at face value right now. They could go up drastically or fall drastically depending on the development of some players.

-The 2007 draft class that the Steelers got is just freakishly good. I mean the first four rounds you can’t really say they missed. I mean sure Spaeth isn’t a Pro Bowl tight end but he played some pretty good football this season. Couple that will Will Gay being productive this season in the nickel package you can’t have any gripe about that draft class.

-For those people that are going to bash the Steelers for late round draft picks you can just take it easy. I mean, sure the Steelers haven’t had the best success in later rounds but what team gets an every day starters from the fifth and sixth rounds every year? Nobody. Those rounds you take the best player available and hope they can turn into something. I think Ryan Mundy has been somewhat effective, Antonio Brown has been good, David Johson, Will Gay. It hasn’t been all bad. The Steelers actually have done an okay job of getting about a player of the year to contribute over the last five years from the fifth round on. I will take that.

-I mean if you can show me a better team at getting stud players in the first round of the draft I would LOVE to see that team. Look at this five year span. The worst player out of the first round picks is Ziggy Hood? Teams would kill to have Ziggy Hood right now. The Steelers do this from the back end of the draft board too. They are almost always a playoff team and picking in the mid-20’s or later. Unreal job of getting first round talent.

-I talked about the latter round picks above and what I did was I looked to see if there was a player around 10 spots taken after the play the Steelers took to see if there were any huge “misses” and I really couldn’t find any. Players don’t get drafted in the sixth round because they are really good, it is because they have significant holes in their game. Sometimes these players could be good but get cut because it is a numbers game. I can’t really bash the Steelers for not drafting well late. I explained why earlier.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed it. What do you guys think? Am I off base on anything? Did I miss a player the Steelers passed on that could have been huge? Let me know in the comments.

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