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Grading the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Round-by-Round Value in the 2005 and 2006 NFL Drafts

Remember 2005 and 2006?

More people were using MySpace than Facebook, banks didn’t need bailouts and Bill Cowher was still the Pittsburgh Steelers coach.

The 2005 and 2006 NFL drafts were the Steelers’ last two under Cowher, and they continued to stock their roster with players who would contribute to Super Bowl teams.

Three months after winning Super Bowl XL, the Steelers drafted the MVP of their next Super Bowl victory. Cowher’s last draft, however, wasn’t exactly his best.

For an explanation of our grading system, click here.

2005 DRAFT

First Round

Heath Miller, TE: Miller earned Pro Bowl honors in 2009 and 2012. He had a career-high 76 receptions in 2009, and had 71 before tearing multiple knee ligaments in the second-to-last game of the 2012 season. Miller is third on the Steelers’ all-time list with 408 career receptions, behind only Hines Ward and John Stallworth. Miller’s 39 receiving touchdowns ties him with Louis Lipps for fifth all-time in franchise history. Miller made an immediate impact as a rookie and has started at least 14 games every year. He was a crucial part of the Steelers’ 2005 and 2008 championship teams. Value: 1 Differential: 0

Second Round

Bryant McFadden, CB: McFadden was an on-again, off-again starter in six seasons with the Steelers (he played in Arizona in 2009). He started all 16 games in 2010, when the Steelers reached Super Bowl XLV, but didn’t start more than nine games for the Steelers in any other season. McFadden made nine career interceptions for the Steelers. Value: 3 Differential: Minus-1

Third Round

Trai Essex, OL: Essex’ biggest contribution in Pittsburgh was his versatility. He could play all four guard and tackle positions. Essex played in 75 games for the Steelers with 28 starts from 2005 to 2011. He started every game at right tackle in 2009. Unfortunately, Essex was emblematic of the offensive line’s mediocrity. Seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum made Essex expendable in 2012. Value: 4 Differential: Minus-1

Fourth Round

Fred Gibson, WR: Did not make the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-4

Fifth Round

Rian Wallace, LB: Wallace appeared in 16 games in 2005 and 2006 and made one interception. Value: 5 Differential: 0

Sixth Round

Chris Kemoeatu, OG: Kemoeatu isn’t remembered all that fondly in Pittsburgh because of all the penalties he committed in 2011. Kemoeatu’s rapid decline overshadows his three solid years as a starter at left guard for the Steelers. He missed just five starts from 2008 to 2010, so the Steelers got good value for a sixth-round pick. Value: 3 Differential: Plus-3

Seventh Round

Shaun Nua, DE: Did not make the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-1

Noah Herron, RB: Herron appeared in two games for the Steelers. Value: 7 Differential: 0

Overall Differential: Minus-4

Overall Value Grade: B-plus

Conclusion: The Steelers knocked it out of the park with Miller in the first round. McFadden and Essex never could consistently hold down a starting job, but both played their roles well. The Steelers did well in the sixth round with Kemoeatu.

2006 DRAFT

First Round

Santonio Holmes, WR: After taking Troy Polamalu three years earlier, this was the only other time since the turn of the century that the Steelers moved up in the first round.  The Steelers went from No. 32 to No. 25 to draft Holmes. Even though Holmes spent just four years in Pittsburgh, it’s a move they don’t regret. Holmes caught nine passes, including the game-winning touchdown, and was named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLIII. In the 2008 AFC Divisional Playoffs against the Chargers, the Steelers fell behind 7-0 before Holmes tied it with a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. Holmes had 49 catches as a rookie, 52 in 2007, 55 in 2008 and 79 in 2009. He also led the NFL with 18.1 yards per reception in 2007. The Steelers dumped Holmes for a fifth-round draft pick in 2010 because of his off-the-field behavior. Even though he never made a Pro Bowl, he gets a Pro Bowl grade because of his Super Bowl MVP performance. Value: 1 Differential: 0

Third Round

Anthony Smith, S: Smith made his mark in Pittsburgh for the wrong reasons. He’s best known for guaranteeing a win over the 16-0 New England Patriots during the 2007 season. Not only did the Patriots improve to 13-0 by defeating the Steelers 34-13 at Gillette Stadium, but Smith was targeted and burned multiple times. Smith’s career with the Steelers looked promising. He started the last four games of his rookie season and made two interceptions. He had two more interceptions in 2007, starting nine games. He didn’t start any games in 2008 and was not activated for any of the Steelers’ postseason games that year. Smith was gone after the season and played for the Rams, Jaguars, Packers and Titans from 2009 to 2011. Smith was the second player the Steelers drafted in 2006 since they didn’t have a second-round pick. They probably would have liked more than three years out of him, and they probably wish he kept his mouth shut before the Steelers played the Patriots. Value: 6 Differential: Minus-3

Willie Reid, WR: Reid played in seven games and caught four passes for the Steelers in 2006 and 2007. Value: 7 Differential: Minus-4

Fourth Round

Willie Colon, OL: Believe it or not, Colon used to be a durable starter for the Steelers. He started every game at right tackle from 2007 to 2009 and was regarded by some as the Steelers’ best offensive lineman. Colon played in just one game over the next two years because of injuries, then performed well in 11 games at guard last season before going down with another injury. Colon’s days in Pittsburgh are likely over, but he wasn’t a bad fourth-round pick. Value: 3 Differential: Plus-1

Orien Harris, DT: Harris played for the Browns and Bengals in his three years, but never the Steelers. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-4

Fifth Round

Omar Jacobs, QB: Did not make the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-3

Charles Davis, TE: Did not make the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-3

Sixth Round

Marvin Philip, C: Did not make the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-2

Seventh Round

Cedric Humes, RB: Did not make the team. Value: 8 Differential: Minus-1

Overall Differential: Minus-19

Overall Value Grade: F

Conclusion: The Steelers had nine picks in this draft, but only two players had any positive impact. One of those players was with the team for just four years and the other missed almost two full seasons with injuries. The Steelers reaped little value with their two third-round picks, then had five picks in the fourth through seventh rounds who were sent packing in training camp.

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