Mike Tomlin has taken a lot of heat recently, but could it be that he took a talent-stricken 8-8 team and elevated it to 10-6?
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review our year-by-year draft busts:
Too early to tell, but the verdict is out on Lawrence Timmons in Round 1. I keep reminding myself that Troy Polamalu looked like a bust in his rookie season.
Lamarr Woodley in Round 2 looks like the pick of our draft. He is projected to start at LOLB as his presence is allowing the team to let aging Clark Haggans walk.
Matt Spaeth was a head scratcher in Round 3 but posted a pretty good rookie campaign. He’s a nice No. 2 tight end and complement to Heath Miller.
Drafting Daniel Sepulveda in Round 4 will prove to be a great pick. Winning the field position battle can be the difference of winning one or two additional games per year.
That leaves us with Ryan McBean, Cameron Stephenson, William Gay and Dallas Baker.
Gay may be a diamond in the rough, but the other three seem to leave something to be desired.
Santonio Holmes in Round 1 looks like a great pick. He is a budding superstar.
Anthony Smith had a rough go of it this year, but I believe he’s still going to develop into a big playmaker in the secondary. I believe we can chalk this season up as a learning experience for Smith.
Willie Reid in Round 3 never lived up to expectations. It’s safe to call him a bust. He runs like Willie Reid but returns kicks like Andy Reid.
Willie Colon in Round 4 seems like a good pick. He did well with his first real opportunity to start.
Then, here comes our second fourth-round pick, two fifths, a sixth and a seventh in — Orien Harris, Omar Jacobs, Charles Davis, Marvin Philip and Cedric Humes. Wow. And you thought Brad Eldred struck out frequently! The Steelers draft gurus should be thankful they are not being managed by the Pirates front office.
Heath Miller in Round 1. Great pick. He is emerging as one of Pittsburgh’s best pass catchers. He is making more and more plays and is blocking much better than anyone expected. A steal at No. 30.
Bryant McFadden in Round 2. McFadden is beginning to show flashes of being able to cover some of the better receivers in the game. He should be starting opposite of Ike Taylor without a doubt next season. The jury is still out, but he seems to be a solid No. 2.
Trai Essex in Round 3. Hmmm. This is a weak Round 3 pick. Who was drafted after Essex? Dominique Foxworth (CB), Brandon Jones (WR), Nick Kaczur (T), Sean Considine (DB), Marion Barber (RB), Brandon Jacobs (RB), Kerry Rhodes (S), Chris Canty (DE) and Roydell Williams (WR), just to name a few.
That’s OK. We can miss one here and there. We can make it up with picks four through seven, right? We follow up with Fred Gibson, Rian Wallace, Chris Kemoeatu, Shaun Nua and Noah Herron. The verdict is still out on Kemo. Is he starting material? Maybe due to a lack of depth.
Ben Roethlisberger in Round 1. Enough said. Simply genius. Hard to believe he was the third QB picked in 2004.
Ricardo Colclough in Round 2. The only thing good about Ricardo is that if you sound out his name the way it is spelled, it rhymes with “coleslaw,” and coleslaw is a famous topping on Pittsburgh’s Primanti Bros. sandwiches.
Max Starks in Round 3. Not an amazing pick. However, based on the way we draft, I will consider this a success. Starks has played pretty well, despite losing his starting job last season. Let’s call this a bust, too. It’s much easier than trying to dig for gold in a coal mine.
Nathaniel Adibi in Round 4. Who? He was promptly removed from training camp after being mistaken for a janitor bothering the real players.
Bo Lacy in 5. Maybe we can improve with six through eight. Not a chance. Matt Kranchick, Drew Caylor and Eric Taylor followed. The Steelers drafted Caylor and Taylor in Rounds 6 and 7. Is it because they were the only two names on the draft board that rhymed?
The team had only five picks in 2003 because the Steelers traded up to draft Polamlau in Round 1. Amazing pick. One of the best safeties in Steeler history.
Alonzo Jackson in Round 2. He was Bill Cowher’s project child for a few years. After the team admitted they no longer possess the ability to draft players, they released the heralded second-round draft pick. Round 3 produced the likes of Lance Briggs, Jason Witten, Nate Burleson, Kevin Curtis and Ricky Manning. There are several other contributors in Round 3, but these guys stuck out.
Ike Taylor in Round 4. He’s been our best CB for a few years. If Taylor somehow, someway, learns how to catch, then we have a Top 10 CB and a sure Pro Bowler. Nice Round 4 pick.
Rounds 5 and 7 delivered Brian St. Pierre and J.T. Wall. So what.
This was the best draft year from 2002 to 2007. Seven out of eight drafted contributed significantly to the team.
In order, Kendall Simmons, Antwaan Randle El, Chris Hope, Larry Foote, Verron Haynes, Lee Mays, LaVar Glover and Brett Keisel. Glover is the only guy not to contribute, but this was definitely an A+ draft.
Justin Dunio resides in Altoona. This is his first submission to Voice of the Fan.