Since joining the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000, Kevin Colbert—who has since been titled general manager—has been a part of 16 drafts, involving the selection of 20 players in the seventh round, but none has sparked as much discussion as that 20th player, safety Gerod Holliman, selected this past May.
His status has been discussed ad infinitum by now, that much is sure. All the questions have been asked, and he will have the opportunity to provide those answers shortly when the Steelers open up training camp in less than two weeks.
It seems worth a look, however, to explore the history of seventh-round draft picks under Colbert’s watch to see what type of story that might tell. How many managed to make the 53-man roster out of training camp? How many ever made the roster? How many eventually played with somebody else? And finally, how many ever became truly successful?
Of those 19 players, excluding Holliman for obvious reasons, 10 of them never spent time on the Steelers’ 53-man roster. That, however, includes Nick Williams, who spent his rookie year on injured reserve and was later signed by the Chiefs off the Steelers’ practice squad. That also includes Rob Blanchflower, who is entering his second season after spending his rookie year on injured reserve.
From that list, only two players, Chris Taylor in 2000 and J.T. Wall in 2003, never made a 53-man roster. Others, such as LaVar Glover drafted in 2002, Eric Taylor drafted in 2004, A.Q. Shipley in 2009, Doug Worthington in 2010, Toney Clemons and Terrence Frederick in 2012, and finally Nick Williams in 2013, managed to make another team’s roster and be active for at least one game. From that group, however, only Shipley has had any kind of tangible success, though Frederick started three games last year for the Saints.
Shaun Nua spent two seasons with the Steelers without ever playing in a game. Noah Herron was active for two games as a rookie, and later spent time with two other teams over three seasons. Cedric Humes was on the team as a rookie, but was released before playing in a game, and later was on the Giants’ roster that season, again never getting a helmet.
Dallas Baker was active for eight games as a rookie in 2008, but failed to make the team the next season. Baron Batch was on injured reserve his rookie year, but played in 12 games the following year, failing to make the roster in 2013 and then retiring. Clemons spent time on the practice squad before being signed by the Jaguars and playing in four games.
Of the four players left, all were contributors for at least two seasons, while two became integral players. Brett Keisel was a fixture along the defensive line for years as a starter, even reaching the Pro Bowl. Kelvin Beachum has locked down the left tackle spot since midway through his second season.
David Johnson became a strong role player for the Steelers as a fullback/tight end hybrid, playing four seasons, but he spent last year with the Chargers. David Paulson played two seasons with the Steelers, but failed to make the roster after that.
In all, just seven of the Steelers’ 19 draft picks in the seventh round since 2000 have ever played a game for the team, and just four of them ever rose to the level of contributor, with three of them becoming a starter. Obviously, it goes without saying that similar numbers are likely to be found across the board from other teams, but this is how it breaks down for Pittsburgh.