Pittsburgh Steeler's Have Excellent Track Record When Drafting Late
In 2000, Kevin Colbert signed on as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Director Of Football Operations, and in the 11 drafts since he was hired, he has not once missed on first round selection. All of his selections became starters on the team, and many of them have been bestowed with various NFL honors.
Colbert is the reason that Steelers’ fans never worry about the draft, and who the team will select, because they have learned to trust in the man calling the shots, there is little choice but to do so, when the man has a track record of success, after all.
Let’s take a look back at the selections made by Colbert since he started making the picks in Pittsburgh.
2000 NFL Draft: Plaxico Burress | WR | Michigan State | 8th Overall Selection
While Burress is currently sitting in a prison cell, during his five year career in Pittsburgh, he provided the offense with a perfect compliment to Hines Ward – a tall receiver with good hands, deadly in the red zone. Amassing over 4,000 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns in Pittsburgh. He started in eight of the 12 games that he played in during his rookie campaign, and five years later found himself playing lights out for the New York Giants.
2001 NFL Draft: Casey Hampton | DT | Texas | 19th Overall Selection
5 Pro Bowls
Hampton started in 11 games in his rookie season, and played in all 16, and ever since he has been a vital component to a Pittsburgh defensive unit that prides itself on leading the league nearly annually in stopping the rushing attack of opponents. He is a monstrous nose tackle that requires a minimum of two offensive linemen to keep him out of the play, and rarely gets the credit that he has truly earned. Number 98 is still standing tall as the starting nose tackle of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
2002 NFL Draft: Kendall Simmons | OG | Auburn | 30th Overall Selection
After being selected with the 30th pick, Simmons stepped directly into a starting position, holding it until an injury sidelined him in 2004. In 2005, he returned to his starting position, and helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl XL victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Three years later, he once again found himself on injured reserve, resulting in his being cut by the franchise. He started in every game he played in a Steelers uniform. Simmons is currently a free agent, but his signing with another team is highly unlikely.
2003 NFL Draft: Troy Polamalu | DB | USC | 16th Overall Selection
6 Pro Bowls
3 1st Team All Pro
2010 NFL Defensive Player Of The Year
In a rare move for the franchise, Colbert traded his 27th overall selection away, amongst other things, to secure the 16th overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft, and used it to select the man that finds himself being mentioned among all time Steelers’ greats. Polamalu played in all 16 games of his rookie season, and from there on has started in every game that he’s played in. Known as a do-it-all, rover of a safety, he can play the run and the pass equally well, and has a knack for making big plays in times of need. He was named the 2010 NFL Defensive Player Of The Year, en route to a Super Bowl XLV loss to the Green Bay Packers.
2004 NFL Draft: Ben Roethlisberger | QB | Miami (OH) | 11th Overall Selection
1 Pro Bowl
2004 NFL Offensive Rookie Of The Year
Roethlisberger was not slated to start immediately, but after an injury to then starting quarterback Tommy Maddox, the team gave him a shot – one that paid off quite well. He won 14 games in a row, before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, securing his selection as the 2004 NFL Rookie Of The Year. He has lead the team to three Super Bowls, winning two of them, and despite recent off-field issues, looks to become even better in the future. With his ability to create plays with his feet, his toughness, and his leadership ability, he reminds Steelers fans of old of four time Super Bowl champion quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, and in some fans’ eyes is even better than the latter.
2005 NFL Draft: Heath Miller | TE | Virginia | 30th Overall Selection
1 Pro Bowl
After addressing quarterback in the 2004 Draft, Colbert drafted that quarterback a safety net, a big, strong tight end with soft hands and an outstanding football intelligence. Miller isn’t recognized nearly as much as he should be, outside of Pittsburgh that is. He is the perfect compliment to a scrambling quarterback the likes of Roethlisberger – he can block well above average in tight end terms, and creates match up problems with the defense. In the 2006 opener, he caught an 87 yard touchdown pass, which is the longest in the history of Heinz Field, and was the longest by a tight end since 1974.
2006 NFL Draft: Santonio Holmes | WR | Ohio State | 25th Overall Selection
Super Bowl XLIII Most Valuable Player
Once more under Colbert, the Steelers traded, albeit not far from their original selection at number 32 and selected the Ohio State product. Holmes started four games in his rookie year, and from then on started every time he suited up for the Steelers (noticing a theme, yet?). Yet again a receiver that complimented Ward perfectly, with his lightning quick cuts and ability to stretch the field, he gave Roethlisberger a deep threat that could haul in spectacular catches when needed. He was traded to the New York Jets in the 2010 off-season, and is currently a free agent. There’s no question that he’ll find himself signing a contact, or re-signing with the Jets should the CBA be firmly set in place prior to next season.
2007 NFL Draft: Lawrence Timmons | LB | Florida State | 15th Overall Selection
Timmons didn’t crack the starting lineup as a regular until his third year in the league, due to two very good veteran inside linebackers – James Farrior and Larry Foote. But, he started making an impact in his second year, recording five sacks. He has the unique ability to be able to play any of the linebacker positions in the 3-4 defense, and has been seen sliding to outside linebacker on occasion, mostly during injuries to 2007 second round selection – LaMarr Woodley. He is currently the Steelers starting inside linebacker and had over 100 tackles this past season.
2008 NFL Draft: Rashard Mendenhall | RB | Illinois | 23rd Overall Selection
Although he played in only four games during his first year (starting one) he came back strong, surpassing 1,000 yards in each of the next two seasons. For a team that was in desperate need of a running back, Mendenhall has turned out too good to be true, possessing the ability to keep his legs churning and having a knack for making defenders miss. He has shown notable improvement from year to year, and the future looks bright for the young running back.
2009 NFL Draft: Evander Hood | DE | Missouri | 32nd Overall Selection
Hood was a head scratching pick to most Steelers fans, and after one year it appeared that the master had made a rare error, but after long time starter Aaron Smith once again found himself hurt, Hood took over the starting role and performed well above most fans’ expectations. He held the point of attack as firmly as any defensive end in the NFL in the 2010 season, and seemed very comfortable fitting into the Steelers defensive line rotation, like Mendenhall his future seems very bright.
2010 NFL Draft: Maurkice Pouncey | C | Florida | 18th Overall Selection
1 Pro Bowl
Stepping directly into the starting lineup from day number one, Pouncey answered the call and performed at an All Pro level, making a great case for himself as the NFL’s best center before his rookie season was even over. He has the ability to swivel his hips and pull with the best of them, while possessing the strength to take on multiple defenders at a time and the speed to get to the second level and lead the ball carrier to the end zone. Unfortunately for him his rookie season ended a bit prematurely, as he was injured just prior to the Super Bowl, missing the biggest game of his short career. He’ll return to the starting lineup next season, and with luck, help lead the Steelers to the promised land once more.
On this list, you’ll find a Super Bowl MVP, an Offensive Rookie Of The Year, a Defensive Player of The Year, 14 Pro Bowls, and three First Team All Pro players. All but three are currently on the Steelers roster, and all became starters for the franchise.
As expected, there has been a lot of speculation on who the Steelers will spend their 31st overall pick on this year, and while we all have our preferences Colbert’s track record of consistently picking winners stands tall, and rest assured, when he makes the selection, it will be the right one.