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Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Round-by-Round Value in 2001 and 2002 NFL Drafts

The 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers roster included players from each of the last 13 NFL drafts.

Casey Hampton was drafted in 2001. Larry Foote and Brett Keisel were drafted in 2002.

Even the 2000 draft was represented when first-round pick Plaxico Burress rejoined the Steelers. The benefit of that class essentially was tapped out, however, when left tackle Marvel Smith was injured in Week 5 of the 2008 season.

Before the Steelers show Hampton and/or Foote the door, let’s start our analysis of the Steelers’ draft value with 2001. The Steelers made the playoffs that year after a three-year absence, and playoff appearances have been the standard in Pittsburgh every year since. That, as well as the opening of Heinz Field, makes 2001 a turning point in Steelers history.

For an explanation of the system used in this series, click here.

2001 DRAFT

First round

Casey Hampton, NT: Hampton made five Pro Bowls and has been a regular starter throughout his career. The only season he missed more than three games was 2004. He has anchored a Steelers run defense that has ranked in the top five in yards per attempt in eight of the 12 seasons he’s played. Value: 1 Differential: 0

Second round

Kendrell Bell, ILB: Bell made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season with nine sacks and was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’d normally get a value number of 1, but injuries cut short his career with the Steelers. His production diminished in 2002 and 2003. He missed most of 2004 and went to Kansas City in 2005. Value: 2: Differential: 0

Fourth round

Mathias Nkwenti, OT: Nkwenti appeared in two games, one in 2001 and one in 2003, with no starts. Value: 7 Differential: Minus-3

Fifth round

Chukky Okobi, C: Okobi appeared in 77 games, presumably on special teams for the most part, in six years with the Steelers with seven starts. Value: 4 Differential: Plus-1

Sixth round

Rodney Bailey, DE: Bailey played in 60 games with one start in four seasons (2001-2003 and 2005) for the Steelers. He had 9.5 career sacks. Value: 5 Differential: Plus-1

Sixth round

Roger Knight, LB: Knight never played for the Steelers but played four years for the Saints, so he’s considered someone who never made the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-2

Seventh round

Chris Taylor, WR: Taylor never made the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-1

Overall Differential: Minus-4

Overall Value Grade: B-plus

Conclusion: The Steelers got it right in the first two rounds, even if they didn’t get as many years as they would have liked out of Bell. In the later rounds, the Steelers found a couple of backups who stuck around for a few years.

2002 DRAFT

First round

Kendall Simmons, G: Simmons missed just four games in five seasons as a regular starter at right guard. He started all 16 games in the Steelers’ 2005 championship season. Value: 2 Differential: Minus-1

Second round

Antwaan Randle El, WR: Randle El was a multi-purpose player in his four years as a Steeler. He averaged 40 receptions per season, completed 16 of 18 passes for four touchdowns and returned four punts for touchdowns and one kickoff for a touchdown. His versatility made him well worth a second-round pick. Value: 2 Differential: 0

Third round

Chris Hope, S: If you didn’t realize that Hope is still in the NFL, you’re not alone. Hope started four games this season for the Falcons, but that’s just a side note and has no bearing on his value grade for the Steelers in the 2002 draft. It might be easy to forget Hope because the Steelers did a good job replacing him at free safety with Ryan Clark, but Hope was a key cog on the Steelers’ 2005 championship team. He started all 16 games for the 15-1 Steelers in 2004 as well as the Super Bowl XL-champion Steelers in 2005. He broke up five passes and forced one fumble in each of those seasons, according to Pro Football Reference. Value: 2 Differential: Plus-1

Fourth round

Larry Foote, ILB: Foote started every game from 2004 to 2008 and was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams. He went to Detroit in 2009, when the Steelers slumped to 9-7 and missed the playoffs. He returned in 2010, and the Steelers got back to the Super Bowl. After two years as a backup, Foote regained his starting job in 2012 and made 75 tackles. It was one short of his career high of 76, which he set in 2005. Value: 2 Differential: Plus-2

Fifth round

Verron Haynes, RB: Haynes was strictly a backup in six seasons with the Steelers. His best overall season was 2004, when he ran for 272 yards on 55 carries (4.9 yards per carry) and caught 18 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Value: 4 Differential: Plus-1

Sixth round

Lee Mays, WR: Mays had one start in four years with the Steelers. He caught 11 passes in his career. Value: 5 Differential: Plus-1

Seventh round

LaVar Glover, DB: Glover never played for the Steelers. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-1

Brett Keisel, DE: Keisel will enter his 11th season with the Steelers in 2013. He has 25 career sacks, including 4.5 in 2012. He also has 31 career passes defended, many of them coming on batted balls. Keisel has started since 2006 and made the Pro Bowl in 2010, helping the Steelers reach the Super Bowl. Value: 1 Differential: Plus-6

Overall Differential: Plus-9

Overall Value Grade: A-plus

Conclusion: The Steelers sure got a lot of bang for their buck in this draft. The first four rounds yielded solid contributors. The fifth and sixth rounds provided depth, and the Steelers got a steal in the seventh round.  Assuming Keisel is still around in 2013, the Steelers will continue to bear the fruits of this draft.

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