After months of discussions, guessing games, and hundreds of mock drafts, The 2009 NFL Draft finally came this past Saturday. For teams in the National Football League, the draft is the first step to building a championship football team. Whether a team is rebuilding, retooling, or just adding depth at specific positions, the NFL Draft holds important significance to every origination. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the draft was used to get the team the pieces needed to defend their Super Bowl crown in 2009.
In the first round, with the 32nd overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose defensive tackle, Evander “Ziggy” Hood from Missouri. Hood is 6’3” and weighs in at 300 lbs. He plays with high intensity and has plenty of strength. In his last two seasons at Missouri, Hood recorded a total of ten sacks, and in 2008, he recorded 61 tackles. Hood will add some youth to the aging defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Due to his high energy type of play, Hood has the potential of being a very productive player and may have an immediate impact playing under Dick Lebeau’s 3-4 defense. Ziggy will surely be a player to watch in the seasons to come.
The Steelers’ next draft pick came on day two of the NFL Draft, after trading out of the second round with the Denver Broncos. In round three, and with the 79th overall pick, the Steelers selected offensive tackle, Kraig Urbik out of the University of Wisconsin. Urbik stands at 6’5” and weighs 328 lbs. The strength in Urbik’s game is his run-blocking ability. During his four year college career, Urbik had a total of 43 blocks that resulted in a rushing touchdown. With the Steelers, expect Urbik to be used early on in short yardage situations and running formations.
The Steelers’ next pick in the third round came at number 84 overall through their trade earlier with the Denver Broncos. Here, the Steelers drafted wide receiver, Mike Wallace from Mississippi. Wallace is 6’0, 199 lbs. What Mike Wallace lacks in size, he makes up for in speed. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Wallace ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, which was the second-fastest time at this year’s Combine. During his senior season at Mississippi, Wallace averaged just over 20 yards per catch, while catching seven touchdowns. Wallace will definitely be a deep threat target for Ben Roethlisberger every time he steps on the field. It will be interesting to see who wins the battle for the number three receiver spot between Mike Wallace and Limas Sweed.
The Steelers selected two cornerbacks with their next two draft picks. In the third round, with the 96th pick overall, the Steelers drafted Kennan Lewis from Oregon State. Lewis is 6’0 and weighs in at 208 lbs. Lewis is a solid cover man who can close on the ball very quickly, and he can also be quite physical on the line of scrimmage. Last season, Lewis recorded an impressive 35 tackles, nine pass deflections, and four interceptions. The fifth saw the Pittsburgh taking another cornerback with the 168th overall pick, Joe Burnett out of Central Florida. Burnett stands at 5’9” and is 192 lbs. Burnett is more of a ball hawk, when it comes to comparing his style of play with Keenan Lewis. During his career at Central Florida, Burnett had a total of 16 interceptions. Besides being a corner, Burnett may be used by the Steelers in the return game. While in college, he returned three punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. Both of these corners have good upside, and could have bright futures with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Immediately following the selection of Joe Burnett in the fifth round, the Steelers selected again with the 169th pick overall. It was at this pick that the Steelers selected halfback, Frank Summers from UNLV. Summers is 5’9”, 241 lbs. Summers is small but has a great deal of strength which makes him difficult to bring down. He has great vision and surprisingly has a good amount of quickness; he also knows how to find the end zone. In his two seasons at UNLV, Summers had a total of fifteen rushing touchdowns. He should be a nice fit for the Steelers in goal line and short yardage situations.
The next draft pick for the Steelers came in the sixth round at the 205th overall pick, when they chose Ra'Shon Harris. Harris specializes in his ability to stop the run. He is a solid tackler, and is good in pursuit of the ball carrier. A defensive tackle out of Oregon, Harris is 6’4” and weighs 298 lbs. Last season, Harris had 47 tackles and three sacks. In time, Harris could become a solid run-stopper, for the Steelers’ defensive line.
The Steelers’ final two picks were in the seventh round. With the 226th pick overall, they chose local Pennsylvania product center, A.Q. Shipley from Penn State University. Standing at 6’1” and weighing 304 lbs, Shipley is considered undersized, but you can’t measure his toughness or determination. Shipley plays his position and at very high level, and is always physical. He will be right at home with the Pittsburgh crowd. The Steelers’ final pick of the 2009 was tight end, David Johnson, with the 241st overall pick. Johnson has great size at 6’2” and weighing 260lbs. He is quick on his feet, and has the ability to catch the football. Johnson is also skilled in blocking, whether he is in open space or in tight. The Steelers may use him in some red zone formations, as he will be another target for Ben Roethlisberger.
Only time will tell until the Steelers’ 2009 Draft Class will be considered a success or a “bust”. That determination will depend upon the players selected this past weekend. Will they go on to be the NFL superstars of tomorrow? Or will they be out of the league in four years? We will all have to wait and see.
Michael C. Smith