Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why This Draft is So Important to the Steelers

Nathaniel Adibi. Ricardo Colclough. Alonzo Jackson. Just some of the guys the Steelers have drafted after the 1st round that came into Pittsburgh and became colossal busts. They are part of the reason why this week’s draft is so important to the future of your Pittsburgh Steelers.

When I look at the roster, I see a mess along the offensive line. I see a starting defensive line that when the season begins will consist of a 30 year-old, a 31 year-old, and a 32 year-old. I see a starting inside linebacker who’s 33 (Farrior) with no successor in sight. I see a starting cornerback who will also be 33 when the season begins (Townsend), with a nickel guy who’s had two seasons to unseat the veteran and has yet to do so (McFadden). I see an aging wide receiver (Ward) that probably has two seasons left in him. Beyond that, I see serious depth issues along the offensive and defensive lines, and also at outside linebacker. This is an aging roster that needs an infusion of youth and talent, and this is where the draft comes into play.

For any team in the NFL, the core of their roster is built between rounds 2-7. Failing in these rounds causes serious depth issues, and this is exactly what has happened to the Steelers in recent drafts. For the most part, the Steelers have knocked it out of the ballpark in the 1st round. They’ve pretty much failed miserably thereafter, although last year’s draft seems like it could be different (Woodley, Spaeth, Sepulveda, and Gay look like they could be contributors for quite some time). Let’s take a look at the Steelers drafts between 2003-2006. We won’t look at 2007 because it’s too early to form an opinion on those guys.

2003:

1) Troy Polamalu, S, USC
2) Alonzo Jackson, LB, Florida St.
4) Ike Taylor, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
5) Brian St. Pierre, QB, Boston College
7) J.T. Wall, FB, Georgia

Great 1st and 4th round picks, but the trade up to get Polamalu cost several valuable draft choices. Total misses on Jackson, St. Pierre, and Wall.

2004:

1) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Miami (OH)
2) Ricardo Colclough, CB, Tusculum
3) Max Starks, OT, Florida
5) Nathaniel Adibi, LB, Virginia Tech
6) Bo Lacy, OT, Arkansas
6) Matt Kranchick, TE, Penn St.
6) Drew Caylor, C, Stanford
7) Eric Taylor, DE, Memphis

This draft will long be remembered for getting The Franchise, but beyond that it was absolutely abysmal. Colclough busted, and making matters worse was the fact that we actually traded up for him and sacrificed an additional pick. I still hold out some hope for Starks (who signed his transition tender this past weekend, by the way), but overall he’s been under whelming. And all of the other guys were absolute scrubs, and I believe not one of them is on an NFL roster today.

2005:

1) Heath Miller, TE, Virginia
2) Bryant McFadden, CB, Florida St.
3) Trai Essex, OT, Northwestern
4) Fred Gibson, WR, Georgia
5) Rian Wallace, LB, Temple
6) Chris Kemoeatu, OG, Utah
7) Shaun Nua, DE, BYU
7) Noah Herron, RB, Northwestern

Another great pick in the 1st round but little thereafter. I had higher hopes for McFadden, and am still hopeful he can be an important cog on the defense. For a third round pick you are hoping for more than a mediocre backup swing offensive lineman, which is what Essex is. Gibson and Wallace stunk, as did Nua and Herron. Kemoeatu in the 6th round was decent.

2006:

1) Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio St.
3) Anthony Smith, S, Syracuse
3) Willie Reid, WR, Florida St.
4) Willie Colon, OG, Hofstra
4) Orien Harris, DT, Miami (Fla.)
5) Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green
5) Charles Davis, TE, Colorado
6) Marvin Phillip, C, California
7) Cedric Humes, RB, Virginia Tech

Not much needs to be said about Holmes. He’s a stud. Smith is still developing, but the coaching staff did sour on him some last season. Reid was drafted primarily for his special teams ability, which he magically lost upon arriving in Pittsburgh. Colon was pretty bad at right tackle, but I think he would do much better at left or right guard. None of the last five picks are even on the roster. That’s right. This draft was only two years ago, and yet five of our six picks on the second day are not on the roster today. Not acceptable.


It’s up to Colbert and Tomlin to improve between rounds 2-7. As I mentioned, last year’s draft looks like it could be a good one if Timmons ultimately fulfills his potential. But the failures in the previous ones are the reason why the Steelers are where they’re at today. It’s an aging roster that could cause the team to go downhill quickly if they don’t start drafting better after the first round. This is a draft that they need to hit big on, and they have to do it with only six picks since they traded away their 7th rounder for Allen Rossum. I think they need to get at least three eventual starters, and two decent depth guys. Obviously, we won’t know if that’s the case for at least a couple of years, but if in that time the 2008 draft looks similar to the ones in 2003-2006, well, we could be in trouble.

As a side note, I will be putting up a post on Friday detailing who I think the Steelers will ultimately pick in the 1st round. Most years I have a pretty good idea where they’re going, but this year, I could envision them going pretty much anywhere except quarterback and tight end. And on Saturday, sometime before the draft begins at 3 PM, I will post my final first round projection (along with Mel Kiper’s), and we’ll see if I can truly take down the man himself.

8 comments:

Pat said...

wannstache, a legendary performance here as always.

Sam said...

Wise words, 'stache. As long as we see no part of Justin King in any round, I'll be happy.

Dave Wannstache said...

Well, the bad news is that the Steelers have shown interest in King. Tomlin and Colbert went to PSU's Pro Day to see him. He'd probably be a target in the 2nd round, but like you, I want no parts of him.

Even worse news is that they've shown an interest in Anthony Morelli. I'm hoping that's just to try and sign him to an undrafted free agent contract. If they spend a pick on him, I will punch my TV.

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

Escellent post. Agreed on King and Morelli.

Cowher's talent-evaluation abilities don't look so good in retrospect, do they? Not to mention that Cowher didn't even want to select Roethlisberger. Cowher wanted to take Shawn Andrews, the fat guard from Arkansas who eventually went to the Eagles. Dan Rooney over-ruled him.

Dave Wannstache said...

Yeah, I do remember the whole Andrews-Roethlisberger debate. Andrews is a very good guard, maybe one of the best in the league, but I think we can all be thankful that Rooney won out in that decision.

It was quite clear Cowher had a lot of influence over the draft. That's not to say that Colbert isn't at fault as well, but it may not be a coincidence that last year's draft was the first without Cowher and seems to be more well-rounded. I don't think Cowher's strong suit was player evaluation.

Pat said...

I couldn't rationalize making this it's own post. And you can bet it will be on every steelers blog in a day, so might as well throw it in the comments.

http://deadspin.com/382005/sir-you-seem-to-have-dropped-your-terrible-towel

Sam said...

As long as they didn't waste a draft pick on him, I would like to see Morelli in camp, simply for the comic value. Guaranteed you would see at at least a few articles from the PG on his "arm strength that has the Steelers intrigued."

Assuming he never saw any real minutes, he'd be good to have around. The confidence he would give our DBs might prove to be invaluable.

Dave Wannstache said...

Wow... for some reason, this team has an affinity for taking of their clothes.

I bet you Jeff Reed talked him into doing it.

"Yeah man, it's totally cool. I got tons of free publicity. Everyone knows who I am now."