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Study: Starting Experience For Steelers’ Draft Picks

Another fun, historical draft pick study I’ve been working on. We’ll take this one in a different direction. Instead of looking at measurables and times, we’re focusing in on starting experience. Does it matter for Pittsburgh? Is it more important for first rounders than it is late round picks? Or different positions. I had no clue. So it was my mission to find out.

Here are each draft pick’s starts under Mike Tomlin. The only player I could not find was Daniel Sepulevda because…punters.

2015:

Bud Dupree/OLB – 38
Senquez Golson/CB – 33
Sammie Coates/WR – 24
Doran Grant/CB – 30
Jesse James/TE – 31
Anthony Chickillo/OLB – 47
L.T. Walton/DE – 32
Gerod Holliman/S – 12

2014:

Ryan Shazier/ILB – 29
Stephon Tuitt/DE – 29
Dri Archer/RB – 21
Martavis Bryant/WR – 13
Shaquille Richardson/CB – 37
Wesley Johnson/OT – 51
Jordan Zumwalt/ILB – 30
Daniel McCullers/NT – 19
Rob Blanchflower/TE – 27

2013:

Jarvis Jones/OLB – 26
Le’Veon Bell/RB – 19
Markus Wheaton/WR – 30
Shamarko Thomas/S – 39
Landry Jones /QB– 50
Terry Hawthorne/CB – 26
Justin Brown/WR – 39
Vince Williams/ILB – 26
Nick Williams/DE – 22

2012:

David DeCastro/OG – 39
Mike Adams/OT – 25
Sean Spence/ILB – 40
Alameda Ta’amu/NT – 42
Chris Rainey/RB – 19
Toney Clemons/WR – 24
David Paulson/TE – 24
Terence Frederick/CB – 45
Kelvin Beachum/OT – 52

2011:

Cam Heyward/DE – 46
Marcus Gilbert/OT – 27
Curtis Brown/CB – 28
Cortez Allen/CB – 28
Chris Carter/OLB – 38
Keith Williams/OG – 34
Baron Batch/RB – 11

2010:

Maurkice Pouncey/C – 39
Jason Worilds/OLB – 25
Emmanuel Sanders/WR – 35
Thaddeus Gibson/OLB – 23
Chris Scott/OG – 39
Crezdon Butler/CB – 40
Stevenson Sylvester/ILB – 37
Jonathan Dwyer/RB – 27
Antonio Brown/WR – 40
Doug Worthington/DE – 35

2009:

Ziggy Hood/DE – 35
Kraig Urbik/OG – 50
Mike Wallace/WR – 26
Keenan Lewis/CB – 48
Joe Burnett/CB – 46
Frank Summers/FB – 24
Sonny Harris/DE – 13
A.Q. Shipley/C – 39
David Johnson/TE – 19

2008:

Rashard Mendenhall/RB – 14
Limas Sweed/WR – 39
Bruce Davis/OLB – 28
Tony Hills/OT – 24
Dennis Dixon/QB – 25
Mike Humpal/ILB – 24
Ryan Mundy/S – 35

2007:

Lawrence Timmons/ILB – 13
LaMarr Woodley/OLB – 33
Matt Spaeth/TE – 44
Daniel Sepulevda/P – ??
Ryan McBean/DE – 23
Cameron Stephenson/OG – 14
William Gay/CB – 36
Dallas Baker/WR – 26

From the positions that have enough of a sample size, quarterback, nose tackle, and safety do not, let’s look at what the minimum threshold appears to be, like we’ve done in our other studies.

RB/FB: 15+ starts (6 of 7 players)

WR: 20+ starts (9 of 10 players)

TE: 20+ starts (4 of 5 players)

OT: 25+ starts (4 of 5 players)

OG/C: 30+ starts (6 of 7 players)

DE: 20+ starts (7 of 8 players)

OLB: 25+ starts (7 of 8 players)

ILB: 20+ starts (6 of 7 players)

CB: 30+ starts (8 of 11 players)

We aren’t, unfortunately, learning a ton here. The thresholds for most positions are pretty mild. Of the nine we’re looking at, seven are 25 or fewer, something that can basically be accomplished in two seasons. Only interior line play and corner seems to suggest a higher scrutiny. Corner shouldn’t be that much of a surprise since Dave Bryan told us the Steelers have only drafted senior prospects under Kevin Colbert.

Let’s look at the data in a couple different ways.

– The average number of starts by a Steelers’ first round pick is 31. Seven of the nine have had at least 25 while five have 30+. So let’s put the benchmark at 25.

– The most individual starts? Kelvin Beachum’s 52. Fewest? Baron Batch’s 11.

– Of all the team’s 75 picks, only six of them have had fewer than 15 starts. Two of those were first rounders, Rashard Mendenhall and Lawrence Timmons, coming in Tomlin’s first two years in Pittsburgh. They make up 20% of the total class.

– There has never been more than one sub-15 game starter in a class. But there has been one in the last two years.

– If you’re creating a mock, it’d be wise to fill it with at least three prospects who have started at least 30 games. That’s happened in eight of the nine classes. 38 total players in all, or 50.7% of the entire draft pool. 2008 was the only exception with just two meeting that mark. Of course, that was also the worst Tomlin/Colbert class.

If you don’t want to do the math, year-by-year, the number of players with at least 30 starts: 6, 3, 4, 5, 3, 7, 5, 2, 3

Final Thoughts

I’m not going to go through every single player and see who does/doesn’t fit. If anyone is up for that and can show it in the comments, I’ll tack it onto this post. Like I said, probably didn’t learn as much as I would have liked but those are the breaks. Still picked up on a couple notes and in an overall theory, starting experience might not matter as much to Pittsburgh than to other teams.

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