The Steelers build the team through the draft. That has been known for a long time. It had been successful for a long time as well. However, if you go back and really look at the drafting that this team has done since 2007, I think we get a very clear picture of how we have gotten to where we are now. Here is a good link for all of our drafts:http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/pit/draft.htm
Patience is a virtue in Pittsburgh. There is a desire for stability and there have been quite a few veterans that retire from this team that were also drafted by us. However, even with that patience, we really expect results from players by their third year. We love when a player is productive in their rookie season, happy when they are productive in their second, expect results in their third, and if not by your fourth, get gone. So, to keep a team productive as a unit, you need to have some players from each draft that turn out well. Those are the players that get second contracts and help to build longevity, stability, and consistency.
So, with that said, we should be looking at guys from the 2008 and 2009 drafts as being the core of this team by now. They are the guys that should be playing on their second contracts and working their way towards becoming NFL legends and cashing in on huge paydays. Who are those guys for the Steelers?2008
- draft round, pick)Reshard Mendenhall
- 1,23: No longer with us he was a serviceable back for us, but never was great. He was kind of like Pegram, but without the Foster to make him as good.Limas Sweed
- 2,53: Head case, gone after two years. On with his life's work.Bruce Davis
- 3,88: He was with us for one year, then played for Oakland for two years. Never was a starter and is out of football.Tony Hills
- 4,130: Was with us for one year, then had a year each with Denver and Indy. Never was a starter and is out of football.Dennis Dixon
- 5,156: Was brought in to be a backup, but never really got to that level. Started three games in his career because all of the other QB's were hurt. Is now out of football.Mike Humpal
- 6,188: Who? Never even made the team.Ryan Mundy
- 6,194: For being our last pick, it should be surprising that he was the second best player we drafted in 2008.
2008 is one of the worst drafts we've had. Mendenhall was the only player that managed to become a starter in the league. Mendenhall and Mundy are the only two that are still in the league. I get missing on a guy late in the draft. But missing on just about everyone in the draft? That can leave a gap in a few years when you have to manage attrition.2009
- draft round, pick)Ziggy Hood
- 1,32: Good pickup. This is his third year as a starter. I'm sure it's debatable regarding how good he is relative to the round in which he was drafted, but looking at the rest of the names that I am typing in this post, we hit on Hood.Kraig Urbik
- 3,79: Third round pick, but only our second pick of the draft, Urbik never made the team. He has been with Buffalo since 2010. He's a starter, but I don't know anything about him. Either we missed in drafting him, or we missed by cutting him. Either way, it was a miss.Mike Wallace
- 3,84: Looked like he was going to be great for us, but his production fell off. He's better than a bust, but he's no longer with us, so that leaves a hole in the core of the team.Keenan Lewis
- 3,96: This was a good pick. Third round guy who was very productive by his fourth year with the team. However, we failed to keep him around and we currently have a lack of depth in the secondary, especially since Cortez is hurt.Joe Burnett
- 5,168: Joe Burnett was not Keenan Lewis. Only had one year in the NFL.Frank Summers
- 5,169: Journeyman running back that only plays for a team every other year.RaShon Harris
- 6,205: Another "who the hell was that" player. Played for two teams, but not in back to back seasons, and neither team was Pittsburgh.A.Q. Shipley
- 7,226: Thankfully we picked up Pouncey the next year. Shipley never played for the Steelers and has only two active seasons in the league.David Johnson
- 7,241: For a seventh round pick, I have to admit that I like Johnson. He fills his role with the team. But he's not part of the core. He's just a nice to have player that could be replaced by many TE's in the league. He does get an extra little note as having been a starter for one year when we decided that he was our FB under Arians.
While the 2009 draft was better than the 2008 version, we only have one player out of 16 (6.2%) that is now a starter on the team from either draft. Worse than that is the fact that only five of them became starters in the NFL at all. You expect players from the first three rounds to become starters eventually, so the real busts were Sweed and Davis who never did anything. Urbik may not be a bust for Buffalo, but he was certainly a waste of one of our picks, so... bust. Wallace, semi-bust... he did some good stuff here before he started worrying about money and business while he was on the field.
I think those two years are why we find ourselves where we are now. unfortunately, looking at the 2010 and 2011 drafts, I think we are really going to struggle to find our way out of this slump. I really believe that we need to put more attention on free agency over the next two years to fill gaps for the long term. In other words, we need to put money out there to pick up some quality players, not just stop gap players. I have always been a fan of the Steelers' ability to build through the draft and I never look for them to make a big splash in the free agency market, but unfortunately, I think now is the time.