Look around the NFL, and you'll find rookie skill players making differences for their teams.
The Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons have better offensive units than they did last year, thanks in part to top draft picks Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, both quarterbacks.
Running back Darren McFadden has been a little banged up, but he still has made a strong contribution with the Oakland Raiders.
Felix Jones has added an element to the Dallas Cowboys offense, and running backs Jonathan Stewart and Chris Johnson are carrying the loads in Carolina and Tennessee, respectively, helping to get those teams off to strong starts.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, a second-round pick, has also been a huge difference maker in Philadelphia.
That's what makes Rashard Mendenhall's season-ending fractured shoulder even more devastating to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's bad enough to have a player with loads of potential virtually making no impact to the team, but it's compounded by the fact that other teams, including 2008 opponents, are benefiting from similar players.
Then, add in the fact that the Steelers are getting no production from any of their other draft picks - receiver Limas Sweed (No. 2) and tackle Tony Hills (No. 4) haven't even suited up for any games yet and linebacker Bruce Davis (No. 3) played his first game Monday and was only used on special teams - and you begin to wonder if the Steelers improved themselves over last season.
Fifth-round pick Dennis Dixon is currently being groomed for a career backup quarterback job, and late-round picks Mike Humpal and Ryan Mundy are on injured reserve. The rookies making the most contributions are rookie free agents Donovan Woods and Patrick Bailey on special teams.
Mendenhall slipped in the draft, and the Steelers were surprised he was still available when they selected him with the No. 23 pick. His season-ending injury and preseason fumble problems should at least have the Steelers starting to question why several teams passed on him.
The Steelers also picked Mendenhall instead of an offensive lineman, and it's pretty ironic that they lost a starting lineman - Kendall Simmons - on the same night they lost the rookie No. 1 pick.
It's way too early to judge the Steelers' 2008 draft. But when considering how much of an impact it's making on this season, so far it's been a disaster.
NFL Week No. 5
Game of the week: Washington at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. Sunday (FOX). Every NFC East divisional game will be a good one this season.
Upset special: Detroit (+2 1/2) at home vs. Chicago. The post-Matt Millen era may begin with a victory.
Fantasy tip: Don't waste a pickup on Najeh Davenport for the Steelers. The offensive line is not in good shape, they play a tough schedule, and Willie Parker will be back at some point.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His Web blog is at altoonamirror.com.