The Pittsburgh Steelers have had multiple picks in 21 rounds of the NFL draft since 2000, when Kevin Colbert became director of football operations.
Picking multiple players in a single round is almost like having a mini-draft. Sometimes, however, these multiple-pick rounds turn into multiple disappointments.
In assessing the Steelers’ five worst multiple-pick draft rounds of the Colbert era, earlier rounds are under more of a microscope. It’s more forgivable to miss on seventh-rounders than it is to miss on fifth-rounders or third-rounders. So this list is weighted by round.
Before we get into the list, let’s talk about rounds that don’t make the list.
Ryan Mundy might have induced a few bleep-able words from the mouths of Steelers fans, but he provided the team with four years of service as a backup safety. That’s enough to keep the sixth round of the 2008 draft off this list, even if linebacker Mike Humpal never played a game for the Steelers after hurting his neck in training camp as a rookie.
It might be tempting to put the fifth round of the 2006 draft on this list. The Steelers selected quarterback Omar Jacobs with the 164th overall pick and tight end Charles Davis three spots later. Jacobs was cut from the practice squad early in the season and Davis never even made it to the practice squad.
The Steelers get a pass on that round because it’s not like they needed a quarterback and a tight end. Ben Roethlisberger had just led them to the Super Bowl XL title, and Heath Miller caught 39 passes, six for touchdowns, as a rookie.
5. 2004 Sixth Round
Sixth-round picks can be a crapshoot, but when a team has three of them in the same draft, at least one has to contribute. That didn’t happen in 2004. Offensive tackle Bo Lacy, taken with the 177th pick, had a brief stay on the practice squad. Tight end Matt Kranchick, the 194th pick, dressed for six games and became a speck in Steelers history by catching one pass in 2005. Center Drew Caylor, picked at 197, never made it past the practice squad.
4. 2009 Fifth Round
Cornerback Joe Burnett and running back Frank “The Tank” Summers were chosen back-to-back at Nos. 168 and 169. Burnett played in 15 games as a rookie, but literally dropped the ball when the spotlight shined on him. In a 27-24 home loss to the Oakland Raiders, Burnett dropped an interception with 41 seconds left on the Raiders’ game-winning drive. That was the fourth of five straight losses that season, and Burnett’s bungled interception makes him a culprit in the Steelers’ colossal collapse that year. The 5’10”, 240-pound Summers was supposed to be a bowling-ball of a fullback, but played in just two games. Neither Burnett nor Summers hung on with the Steelers beyond 2009.
3. 2010 Fifth Round
The Steelers’ 2010 draft yielded Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. This is currently a thumbs-up draft despite three fifth-round duds. Guard Chris Scott, chosen with the 151st pick, dressed for two games for the Steelers in 2011 and is currently a Buffalo Bill. Cornerback Crezdon Butler, taken at 164, was active for four games in 2010. He played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2011 and the Bills, Cardinals and Washington Redskins last season. The Steelers have two strikes against them for this round, but there’s still a chance for inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester to prevent a strikeout. The 166th pick has made an occasional splash on special teams, but hasn’t proven that he can play from scrimmage. He’ll have to fight in training camp to keep his roster spot.
2. 2006 Third Round
Safety Anthony Smith lives in infamy for guaranteeing a Steelers win over the undefeated New England Patriots in 2007, then getting burned multiple times in the Patriots’ 34-13 win. The 83rd overall pick played three seasons in Pittsburgh, intercepting two passes in each of the first two. Wide receiver Willie Reid, taken 12 spots later, caught four passes for the Steelers in 2007. There’s no denying that Smith and Reid were busts, but this isn’t the Steelers’ worst multiple-pick round since 2000 because despite Smith’s big mouth the Steelers at least got a little something out of both players.
1. 2007 Fourth Round
It’s not like a pair of fourth-round failures will hamstring a franchise for years to come, but this is the Steelers’ worst multiple-pick round since the turn of the century because of their strategy as much as the production of the players selected.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers traded away their sixth-round pick to move up seven spots in the fourth round and draft punter Daniel Sepulveda with the 112th pick. The Steelers took defensive tackle Ryan McBean 20 picks later. McBean dressed for one game for the Steelers as a rookie, then spent three years with the Denver Broncos, starting in 21 games from 2009 to 2011. Then he spent last year on injured reserve for the Baltimore Ravens. In grading the Steelers for McBean as a draft pick, all that counts is what he did or didn’t do as a Steeler.
Sepulveda stayed around for five years, but only played two full seasons. He missed the entire 2008 season, and the Steelers didn’t miss him because they won the Super Bowl. Sepulveda also sat out the last four games of 2010 and the last eight games of 2011 with injuries. The Steelers essentially wasted a mid-round pick to fill a position that doesn’t merit draft consideration until at least the seventh round.