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Cowher vs Tomlin: Draft comparison, the early years

Seems like all we hear about these days is Mike Wallace, the salary cap, and the constant over analyzing of every restricted and unrestricted free agent on the Steelers.  Before that it was Haley vs Roethlisberger, or the power struggle in Pittsburgh that never was.  You can only beat those topics so much before it becomes out of control. We’ve more than covered all of that and then some here on SA and when more news happens we’ll be on top of it like always.   In the mean time though let’s look at something different for a change.

NFL front offices like the Steelers are busy in draft day preparation as much as they are trying to figure out the salary cap and how to work their strategy for free agency.  All the data that Kevin Colbert and the rest of the Steelers staff that was on hand at the combine will be used to start really getting the war room draft boards organized. Over the next nearly 2 months, there will be meetings, player workouts, interviews, phone calls, and brain storming sessions about who will best fit the Steelers organization.

Drafting is an art form, it takes an extreme attention to detail and years of experience in assessing player personalities and character traits as well as physical abilities. The Steelers have been blessed with good front office personnel who know what it means to find the right player to fit into the Pittsburgh persona. Even with all that knowledge and experience it’s still impossible to hit the big time on every draft pick every year.  Which got me thinking on how the Steelers have drafted in the first years of Bill Cowher’s tenure vs the first years of Mike Tomlin’s regime.

We put together a chart that shows the draft picks under Cowher from 1992-1996 and Tomlin from 2007-2011. A few things to keep in mind though; prior to the mid 90’s the draft lasted much longer than 7 rounds.  It goes without saying that the head coach isn’t the only one that decides who gets drafted.  It’s a collaberative effort between scouts, assistant coaches, the owner, general manager, team doctors, and other personnel. Therefore neither Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin can be attributed with all the credit or blame for any draftees. Having said that, the head coach usually has the final say unless there is a unique situation where the owner or general manager feels very strongly about one player or another.

I think it’s interesting to look at the players over the years that these coaches have drafted and how some years are more successful than others. For example, the first year each coaches’ draft was quite successful. Three of first four draft picks for  Tomlin ended up starting (Matt Spaeth saw significant action in the backup role behind Heath Miller). For Cowher, all 4 of his original draftees ended up starting.

I gotta say I still miss seeing big old Levon Kirkland out there patrolling the middle of the Steelers defense. I digress though, or we could be here for a novel length article reminiscing about the Steeler greats of the past. So anyway, I hope you enjoy the look back comparison of how the most recent coaches for the Steelers have started out their careers. You can draw your own conclusions…

Tomlin: 2007-2011 Cowher: 1992-1996
2011 1996
Rnd Name College Rnd Name College
1 Cameron Heyward Ohio State 1 Jamain Stephens North Carolina A&T
2 Marcus Gilbert Florida 3 Steven Conley Arkansas
3 Curtis Brown Texas 3 Jon Witman Penn State
4 Cortez Allen Citadel 4 Earl Holmes Florida A&M
5 Chris Carter Fresno State 4 Jahine Arnold Fresno State
7 Baron Batch Texas Tech 5 Israel Raybon North Alabama
6 Orpheus Roye Florida State
6 Spence Fischer Duke
7 Carlos Emmons Arkansas State
2010 1995
Rnd Name College Rnd Name College
1 Maurkice Pouncey Florida 1 Mark Bruener Washington
2 Jason Worilds Virginia Tech 2 Kordell Stewart Colorado
3 Emmanuel Sanders SMU 3 Brenden Stai Nebraska
4 Thaddeus Gibson Ohio State 4 Oliver Gibson Notre Dame
5 Chris Scott Tennessee 4 Donta Jones Nebraska
5 Crezdon Butler Clemson 5 Lethon Flowers Georgia Tech
5 Stevenson Sylvester Utah 5 Lance Brown Indiana
6 Jonathan Dwyer Georgia Tech 6 Barron Miles Nebraska
6 Antonio Brown Central Michigan 7 Henry Bailey UNLV
7 Doug Worthington Ohio State 7 Cole Ford USC
2009 1994
Rnd Name College Rnd Name College
1 Evander Hood Missouri 1 Charles Johnson Colorado
3 Kraig Urbik Wisconsin 2 Brentson Buckner Clemson
3 Mike Wallace Mississippi 3 Jason Gildon Oklahoma State
3 Keenan Lewis Oregon State 3 Bam Morris Texas Tech
5 Joe Burnett Central Florida 4 Taase Faumui Hawaii
5 Frank Summers UNLV 5 Myron Bell Michigan State
6 Ra’Shon Harris Oregon 5 Gary Brown Georgia Tech
7 A.Q. Shipley Penn State 6 Jim Miller Michigan State
7 David Johnson Arkansas State 6 Eric Ravotti Penn State
7 Brice Abrams Michigan State
2008 1993
Rnd Name College Rnd Name College
1 Rashard Mendenhall Illinois 1 Deon Figures Colorado
2 Limas Sweed Texas 2 Chad Brown Colorado
3 Bruce Davis UCLA 3 Andre Hastings Georgia
4 Tony Hills Texas 4 Kevin Henry Mississippi State
5 Dennis Dixon Oregon 5 Lonnie Palelei UNLV
6 Mike Humpal Iowa 5 Marc Woodard Mississippi State
6 Ryan Mundy West Virginia 6 Willie Williams Western Carolina
7 Jeff Zgonina Purdue
7 Craig Keith Lenoir-Rhyne
8 Alex Van Pelt Pittsburgh
2007 1992
Rnd Name College Rnd Name College
1 Lawrence Timmons Florida State 1 Leon Searcy Miami (FL)
2 LaMarr Woodley Michigan 2 Levon Kirkland Clemson
3 Matt Spaeth Minnesota 3 Joel Steed Colorado
4 Daniel Sepulveda Baylor 4 Charles Davenport North Carolina State
4 Ryan McBean Oklahoma State 5 Alan Haller Michigan State
5 Cameron Stephenson Rutgers 7 Russ Campbell Kansas State
5 William Gay Louisville 7 Scottie Graham Ohio State
7 Dallas Baker Florida 8 Darren Perry Penn State
8 Hesham Ismail Florida
8 Nate Williams Mississippi State
9 Elnardo Webster Rutgers
10 Mike Saunders Iowa
11 Kendall Gammon Pittsburg State (KS)
12 Cornelius Benton Connecticut


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