We’d all rather be talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers in the postseason unfortunately though, we are left with talk about the salary cap and the draft. The 2013 NFL Draft will be Mike Tomlin’s seventh as Head Coach of the Steelers and he has been pretty up and down to this point with his picks.
Tomlin’s first draft in 2007 started out with two eventual defensive starters in Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in the first and second round respectively. The only picks of note from that draft were TE Matt Spaeth 3rd round, P Daniel Sepulveda 4th round and CB William Gay 5th round. Spaeth started out well as a rookie and then never developed into anything other than an average, backup. Sepulveda was actually a really good punter however, he could never stay healthy and was finally not brought back in 2012. William Gay looked like he would become a decent third corner and would become a starter until showing that he couldn’t cover anything that moved and left as a free agent in the 2012 offseason.
The 2008 draft was probably the worst in Tomlin’s tenure in Pittsburgh and it is possible that no player will be left from that class after this offseason. I hated the pick of Rashard Mendenhall during that draft, mostly because I was a huge Willie Parker fan, but when he became a starter I full supported the decision. After a disappointing 2011 season and a disastrous 2012 there is no doubt that Mendenhall has played his last game for the Steelers. The only other pick from this draft that contributed anything to the team was S Ryan Mundy, a backup and unrestricted free agent this offseason, who was taken in the 7th round. Other than disappointment, Steelers fans didn’t get anything from Limas Sweed 2nd round, Bruce Davis 3rd round, Tony Hills 4th round, Dennis Dixon 5th round or Mike Humpal 6th round.
The fate of the 2009 draft really hinges on what happens this offseason with the teams’ two third round picks Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis. If I had to choose I’d rather keep Lewis long term but honestly I hope the team can find a way to keep both players. Ziggy Hood 1st round, has been a solid player to this point although he still needs to become better against the run. David Johnson would have been in competition for the starting FB spot this year if he didn’t blow out his knee in camp and will probably not be back. In the 2nd round the Steelers took Kraig Urbik and while he did nothing as a Steeler, he has been a starter for the Buffalo Bills and just received a big contract from the team.
In 2010 the Steelers took ten players and it’s possible that five of those players could be starters in 2013. Maurkice Pouncey has started since day one since being selected in the first round and Antonio Brown has become a great find in the 6th round. With Mike Wallace set to test free agency this offseason, that would mean that 3rd round pick Emmanuel Sanders would become the starter opposite Brown next season. There is a ton of speculation that James Harrison could be cut which would mean 2nd round pick Jason Worilds would be the projected starter at outside linebacker and the other 6th rounder Jonathan Dwyer has the inside track to being the starting running back for the team. Although there were some expectations for Stevenson Sylvester to become a starter at ILB, I would say the 2010 draft was a pretty good success.
Coming off of that 2010 draft, I believe 2011 was even better and six of the seven draft picks are currently on the roster. Cameron Heyward looks to be a starter in waiting at DE, Marcus Gilbert will compete for one of the starting tackle spots and Cortez Allen looked like a potential playmaking corner for the future. I didn’t even mention the corner the Steelers took ahead of Allen in Curtis Brown, who is still developing, Chris Carter, who started this season when injuries decimated the position, or Baron Batch, who will compete to be the third down back on the team. Did anyone even remember the Steelers missed in the 6th round with G Keith Williams?
There has been a lot of criticism of the Steelers latest draft because of injury and off the field problems but I still don’t think we can really judge the 2012 class. David DeCastro will turn out to be a great pick going forward but he missed most of the season with a knee injury and 3rd round pick Sean Spence missed the entire year with his own knee injury. Mike Adams got some good experience this season before being injured and will compete with Marcus Gilbert to become either the starting LT or RT. David Paulson and Kelvin Beachum were both taken in the 7th round and both ended up starting games down the stretch because of multiple injuries to the team. Anything you can get out of a 7th round pick is just extra in my opinion and both could be major contributors next season as well. Alameda Ta’amu and Chris Rainey are probably the biggest disappointments of this draft class with Ta’amu facing felony charges and Rainey already released because of being charged with battery, although the charges were later dropped.
Going into the 2013 draft, there has been a ton of debate already about what direction the Steelers should go in. Personally, I like Alabama G Chance Warmack, BYU DE/OLB Ezekial Ansah and Georgia DT Jonathan Jenkins, just to name a few.
Regardless of the direction the Steelers decide to go early in the draft there is no question they cannot miss in any of the first few rounds. The team is about to undergo a major roster change with more veterans being cut and the possible departure of the aforementioned Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis. Whoever the Steelers choose are going to be expected to contribute earlier than the team normally likes for their rookies however, with all the changes there really is no way around it.
To be able to just reload instead of rebuild, Mike Tomlin needs to hit a homerun in the 2013 NFL Draft.