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Steelers Spin: Pittsburgh’s Third Round Picks – A Historical Perspective

Up until this moment, the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 NFL draft was one of the most frustrating I had remembered enduring.

Terrell Edmunds in the first round? Okay…maybe a position of need. Perhaps an excellent player. But a blue chipper? A sure fire starter?

Ummm no.

And wide receiver James Washington in the second?

Very solid selection. But ain’t nobody popping a champagne cork yet.

And then he slipped, and he slipped, and he surprisingly slipped. All of the way to the Steelers who wisely moved up ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals who had back-to-back third rounders ready to burn.

Quarterback Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State.

This was the only time in the draft when I rose a fist to the sky and shouted, “Yes!”

I would have taken him in the first round. Not because he is necessarily better than Edmunds or Washington. But, it’s because he is a quarterback and we need to start seriously planning for the Ben Roethlisberger-less future.

In normal draft classes, that aren’t so rich in quarterbacks, Rudolph is the type of player you would have to trade up to the 10-15 position in the first round to secure.

This year he came cheap…very cheap in the third round.

There are two ridiculous statements most associated with the drafting of Rudolph. One is this:

“It’s a waste to burn a draft pick on a quarterback when Big Ben has at least two or three more years to play. Draft one when Ben retires.”

Yeah…getting a franchise quarterback doesn’t work like that, my friend. There isn’t some vending machine at the NFL Combine where you slot in a few quarters, pull on the crank and Johnny Unitas comes tumbling out.

Think Vinny Testaverde, Jeff George, Tim Couch, Michael Vick and JaMarcus Russell. Those were quarterbacks chosen with the number one overall selection in the draft that didn’t pan out.

The chances of being successful at drafting a franchise player at this position drop dramatically the further you go down the rounds.

Which leads us to the other crazy statement:

“Mason Rudolph was drafted to be the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger.”

For all of the reasons above, we don’t know that. Maybe Josh Dobbs has something to say about that in his sophomore season.

But, if you want a chance at hitting a home run, you’ve got a take a swing. And Mason Rudolph is the best swing we’ve taken since Big Ben turned out to be a Grand Slam for the franchise.

And the selection of offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor later in the third? Let’s be honest, we were too busy drinking champagne at that point to be too concerned.

“Chuks” is certainly a “project” pick in the third round. But in Mike Munchak we trust, so we’ll give the Steelers a pass on this one.

How does this duo of third round picks compare with General Manager Kevin Colbert’s greatest selections since arriving at Pittsburgh? Let’s see:

Pittsburgh Steelers Greatest Draft Hits From 2000 | Third Round

RANK NAME POSITION YEAR DRAFTED COLLEGE
1 Mike Wallace WR 2009 Mississippi
2 Emmanuel Sanders WR 2010 SMU
3 Max Starks T 2004 Florida
4 Keenan Lewis DB 2009 Oregon State
5 Chris Hope DB 2002 Florida State

NEXT UP: Javon Hargrave (2016) Matt Spaeth (2007)

HISTORY SAYS: Selections certainly get more speculative in the third round of the draft and Colbert’s wizardry is no exception. After all, his recent third rounders include Cameron Sutton, Sammie Coates…and Dri Archer. Will the Steelers strike gold with either Rudolph or Okorafor? Flip a coin, based on Colbert’s win percentage in this slot in the draft.

THE SPIN: If you had to assign one of the two third round picks to be a sensation and the other to be a flop, how would you choose? Uhh…easily. You would want Rudolph to be the runaway winner, and our next great quarterback after Big Ben. And that’s the whole point. The quarterback is such a critical position that the team needs to keep swinging the pickaxe until we strike gold. Rudolph is a heck of a swing, and that selection whether it pans out or not, saved the Steelers draft this year from being mediocre at best.

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