In the NFL Draft, your first and second rounders are the lifeblood of your team, as they’re obviously the cream of the crop when it comes to talent available. There’s usually a far cry between the #1 overall pick and Mr. Irrelevant, unless of course your name happens to be JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf.
Now, for the last several years, the defense of the Steelers has eroded, having been the victim of Father Time , who last time I checked is undefeated. However, upon further review, much of what should be the “meat” of the Steelers roster is M.I.A. or nonexistent. This is due in large part to the drafts of 2008 through 2010, which have yielded, for lack of a better term, a bag of mixed results.
We begin in 2008, in the first round, when the team grabbed running back Rashard Mendenhall, a 225-pound ultra back who could do it all. A punishing runner with a low center of gravity, he could run inside just as easily as he could bounce it outside, and as we all came to witness, he was often caught in the backfield trying to decide which he’d rather do. In the second round the team grabbed Limas Sweed, which I’ve touched on before and is very well-documented so no need to touch on that. In the third, the team grabbed Bruce Davis, an outside linebacker out of UCLA, who’s NFL resume includes all of 4 tackles and seven different teams. In fact, I just saw him on an infomercial the other day on NFL Network for “Copper Fit” which is a copper-infused knee brace for pain. Meanwhile, Cliff Avril and his 52.5 career sacks went off the draft board four picks later. You get the picture by now, and there are currently zero players on the current roster from this draft.
In the 2009 NFL Draft, coming off their Super Bowl XLIII win, the team grabbed Ziggy Hood to end the first round. He was not a bust by any means, but just a solid yet unspectacular player who in many ways reminds me of a player who he currently plays alongside with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tyson Alualu,
Alualu was shockingly the 10th pick of the 2010 draft for Jacksonville. He’s not a bad player, but like Hood, he’s a jack of all trades, master of none type of player in that he doesn’t particularly excel at one thing. Both are solid players but in the first round you want something more than serviceable. Right after Hood came off the board, names like James Laurinaitis and Jairus Byrd began to fall. Could you imagine a secondary featuring Byrd and Polamalu his prime? That Super Bowl loss to Green Bay very well could’ve been Lombardi #7 if that’s the way the dominoes fell that year.
With no second rounder, but armed with 3 thirds, the team grabbed guard Kraig Urbik in the third, who was subsequently cut and since 2011 has been a starter for the Buffalo Bills. With their second third rounder, the team grabbed Mike Wallace, the speedster deep threat who has bounced around the league since chasing the dollar signs after leaving Pittsburgh.
With their last pick of the third round, the team landed cornerback Keenan Lewis, a name that likely stings considering he’s developed into a very good starter for New Orleans. He left town after his rookie deal was up, and rumors have floated that he had his heart set on playing for his hometown of New Orleans so who knows if Pittsburgh had any shot of re-signing him. Bottom line, another draft, another blank canvas with zero names to show for it. Now in their seventh season in the league, these are veterans who would be major contributors for ball clubs, so it’s not as if these losses should be taken lightly.
In 2010, the team grabbed All-Pro’s in Maurkice Pouncey and Antonio Brown, so it’s not as bad as the aforementioned two, since both of these players are key chess pieces to the franchise. There are a few duds in it, including Thaddeus Gibson and second rounder, Jason Worilds, who unexpectedly retired following last season at the age of 27. If he had re-signed, perhaps the team wouldn’t have drafted Bud Dupree in round 1 this year but I feel many fans will agree that Dupree’s ceiling is far higher than what we’ve seen out of Worilds the past few seasons. In the third, the team grabbed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who formed the “Young Money” trio with Wallace and Brown during their time in Pittsburgh. However, it’s obvious to anyone that the team made the right decision regarding which two to let walk and which to keep.
Drafting is not a science by any means, and like every team, there are some hits and there are misses. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, these drafts yielded far more misses, and they’re being felt now, as they could’ve been used for key depth and/or starters at positions of need, particularly on defense.