As a team that typically isn’t very active in free agency, the NFL Draft is really the only true building tool for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert has the reputation as a draft guru, but paired with head coach Mike Tomlin, the decision making process of drafting talent has not been very good as of late as it seems as if that Colbert has been getting by on reputation.
You can directly attribute the current state of the Steelers and their lack of playmakers and overall depth right to failed drafts the past four years. Most of that can be attributed to swinging and missing on their first and second round picks over that time period.
Granted, with a veteran team it can be difficult to draft playmakers as there weren’t many jobs available, but the facts are that the Steelers have not drafted well.
Let’s start with the 2008 draft that saw the Steelers select Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed with their first two picks.
Mendenhall was productive, but he won’t be re-signed and teams should not be casting aside first-round picks after four years. Sweed was a complete bust. As of last season, only sixth round pick Ryan Mundy was still with the Steelers and to be fair, Mundy isn’t very good. In addition, picks were used on guys such as: Bruce Davis (third), Tony Hills (fourth), Dennis Dixon (fifth) and Mike Humpal (sixth).
The 2009 draft saw the Steelers have some success in the third round when they drafted both Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis, but they missed with the rest of the draft.
Ziggy Hood was the first round pick that year, and while he is serviceable at times, Hood certainly has proven not to be worth the high pick. The Steelers didn’t have a second round pick in 2009, but the rest of the draft saw names like Kraig Urbik (third), Joe Burnett (fifth), Frank Summers (fifth), Ra’Shon Harris (sixth), A.Q. Shipley (seventh) and David Johnson (seventh).
Johnson has at least stuck around, but they whiffed with everyone else.
The 2010 Draft is the exception, when the Steelers drafted Maurkice Pouncey in the first round and Jason Worilds in the second. Pouncey’s performance speaks for itself and while Worilds has not performed at a second-round level to date. He has been hurt some, but showed some signs of having talent in 2012, so they get a pass on Worilds for now.
But they were able to add some other serviceable parts in that draft including Emmanuel Sanders (third), Stevenson Sylvester (fifth), Jonathan Dwyer (sixth) and Antonio Brown (sixth).
The other four picks are not with the team.
The 2011 draft saw them add some depth pieces, but Cameron Heyward was the Steelers’ first round selection. He is serviceable, but not worthy of a first-round pick. Guys like this can be found later on in the draft.
Other picks in the draft included: Marcus Gilbert (second), Curtis Brown (third), Cortez Allen (fourth), Chris Carter (fifth) and Baron Batch (seventh). Gilbert is a starter, but there are likely no impact players to be found the rest of that draft.
Last season’s drat really can’t be judged yet. Especially since the top three picks: David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Sean Spence, were all injured at one time or another. Both Alameda Ta’amu (fourth) and Chris Rainey (fifth) got arrested, while two of the teams four seven round picks made the roster in David Paulson and Kelvin Beachum.
One thing greatly missing last season was impact players on both sides of the ball. You generally get them in the drafts first two rounds.
Sadly in the past five years, the Steelers only have Pouncey who is performing at a first or second round level right now.
Drafts are not an exact science. Sometimes you hit home runs and sometimes you swing and miss. Unfortunately the Steelers have been whiffing a lot as of late and it has caught up to them.
That is something that has to change and the Steelers can do so beginning with this upcoming draft.