While I initially planned to cover just the Mike Tomlin years in revisiting the Steelers’ recent drafts, I recently talked about their first-round history dating back to 2006, so I thought that we should keep going. And in the interests of reaching a round number—and with a nod toward Heath Miller—I thought we would make it an even 10 drafts by taking us back to 2005.
In the subsequent comments, a few people asked about evaluating past draft classes, which is idea that I had already previously considered. While I will not go so far as to provide letter grades for each player, I will cover each of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft picks from the 2005 class.
First Round (30): TE Heath Miller: We end our draft lookback 10 drafts ago that began with tight end Heath Miller, a home run of a first-round draft pick to be sure, especially late in the round. The recently retired Pro Bowler was a staple for the Steelers for over a decade, both on and off the field, and his absence from the stadium—for the first time in over a decade—will be palpable this year. Expect to hear some residual “HEEEAAATH” chants whenever one of their white tight ends catches a pass.
Second Round (62): CB Bryant McFadden: Bryant McFadden might not have the greatest reputation these days in Pittsburgh among the fan base—honestly, I don’t really know—but I consider myself a fan. As a second-round draft pick, perhaps they didn’t get the longevity out of him you would look for, but he was a quality player when healthy who contributed to three Super Bowl runs. His body quit on him at the end.
Third Round (93): OL Trai Essex: As with McFadden, Trai Essex is another player who was a quality contributor but who perhaps did not live up to his draft stock. It actually took him a couple of seasons to even become a competent contributor, but at the end of his career, Essex was a five-position backup lineman who started 28 of 75 games he played in a Steelers uniform.
Fourth Round (131): WR Fred Gibson: As would become a pattern, as we saw in subsequent drafts, Fred Gibson was yet another size-and-speed prospect that didn’t pan out. He did not make the 53-man roster as a rookie and was added to the Dolphins’ practice squad. He kicked around practice squads for a couple years and then even found himself in the NBA D-League.
Fifth Round (166): ILB Rian Wallace: The fifth-round pick hung around with the Steelers for two seasons at inside linebacker, but, even after trying to expand his versatility outside in 2007, Rian Wallace was finally cut that year, and he never got back to a 53-man roster.
Sixth Round (204): G Chris Kemoeatu: Considering he was a sixth-round draft pick, Chris Kemoeatu had himself a very good career, spanning seven seasons, 75 games, and 53 starts. No doubt many are aware of the underlying health issues that accelerated his early retirement.
Seventh Round (228): DE Shaun Nua: Like Wallace, Shaun Nua managed to kick around in Pittsburgh for a couple of season, though he was only on the 53-man roster for a several-game stretch his rookie year. The rest of his time was on the practice squad.
Seventh Round (244): RB Noah Herron: Though Noah Herron did not find a home in Pittsburgh—he was released his rookie season—he later found some success with the Packers. He totaled 85 carries for 273 yards and three touchdowns in his career by 2007. That year, he was to compete for the starting job, but a knee injury ended his season, and that was about all she wrote.