The Colbert Record: Revisiting the 2007 Draft

Steel Curtain Rising was launched in January 2008 and as such its inaugural edition of The Colbert Record didn’t have a very useful perspective for breaking down the 2007 draft, which was the first time Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin drafted together.

Time has given ample perspective both for analyzing the Steelers 2007 Draft and reviewing what little was said here about it.

What Was Said in 2008 about 2007…

The first thing that jumps out (aside from the typos) from my initial analysis of the 2007 draft was that only four players merited mention in April of 2008, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Matt Spaeth, and Daniel Sepulveda.

Here’s a sampling:

Sepulveda has shown he has to (sic) tools, now he needs to be consistent

Third round pick Matt Speath hasn’t done much more than catch touch downs (sic).

LaMarr Woodley recorded four sacks in limited playing time and added two more during the payoffs – so we know why the Steelers let Clark Haggans go.

No mention of William Gay at this point, nor the other members Steelers 2007 Draft who were still on the roster at that point.

2007, Then and Now

Those other members on the roster never got much mention for a reason. Later that spring, Mike Tomlin reported that wide out Dallas Baker had looked good in OTA’s but cautioned against reaching conclusions on “Football in shorts.”

Defensive lineman Ryan McBean also held a roster spot at that point, but he, like Baker, was cut in training camp. McBean sat out training camp, but latched on with and started in Denver in 2009, played in 2010-2011 as a backup there, and finished with Baltimore in 2012.

  • The Steelers may have been starved for defensive lineman, but McBean clearly wasn’t the answer.

Of greater interest of course are the ones who stayed. Mark Kabloy of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke with former Eagles, Browns, and Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah who fixed the goal of finding three starters in every draft. That’s an imperfect and imprecise metric, but one that is serviceable.

  • Judging purely by that quantitative measure, 2007 was a success for the Steelers.

LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons emerged as a full time starter and William Gay has developed into a starter if not quite a full time one, having started 48 of the 96 games he’s played in Pittsburgh. Strictly speaking, Spaeth too counts as a “starter” as he is listed as having started 41 of 64 games in Pittsburgh.

  • So using Daniel Jeremiah’s formula (which was also Art Rooney Jr.’s) the numbers say the Steelers 2007 draft was a success.

But if numbers don’t lie, they also sometimes fail to tell the full story.

Steelers 2007 Draft, Beyond the Numbers

Lawrence Timmons – Did not end up unseating either Larry Foote or James Farrior in 2008, although he did get a lot of playing time and looked to be a star in the making.

He started in 2009 and was shaky, but followed with a very underrated role on a strong 2010 Steelers defense. Yet, in 2011 Timmons played poorly only to bounce back in 2012 where he was the defenses best and most consistent player. Timmons wasn’t as strong in 2013, but he also had to compensate for the huge drop off in Vince Williams.

  • Overall, Timmons has lived up to his first round status, if unevenly at times.

LaMarr Woodley – Woodley stromed into the starting spot in 2008 and didn’t look back until his hamstrings gave out vs. New England in 2011. As Tony Defeo of Behind the Steel Curtain observed, Woodley amassed sacks during that period faster than any other defender in Steelers history. Yes, Woodley’s tenure ended in disappointment, but those disappointments came with his second contract.

  • From a pure draft evaluation stand point, Woodley was an excellent pick.

Mike Tomlin quipped in early 2007 that Matt Spaeth was a fantasy league superstar, netting 3 touchdowns in 5 catches. Spaeth picked up the slack nicely during Heath Miller’s absence in 2008, but since then his role has evolved to primarily that of a blocker. Spaeth has developed into a solid number 2 tight end in the NFL which is more than respectable.

  • Still, Spaeth hasn’t delivered the type of value you’d like to see from a third round pick.

Daniel Sepulveda finished 2008 on IR and again found himself on the list in 2010 and then again in 2011. In between those stints he showed himself to be a serviceable punter, but Sepulveda was never anything special.

  • Clearly the Steelers both missed on Sepulveda and never should have drafted him (or any punter) this high.

William Gay saw next to no time as a rookie. In 2008 he split starting chores with Bryant McFadden and Deshea Townsend. In 2009 he inherited the starting slot and struggled, but did fine covering the slot in 2010. By 2011 he was a “semi-starter” on first and second downs, moving to the slot on thirds.

Like McFadden he went out to Pittsburgh West and like McFadden Gay was back in a year. Unlike McFadden, and he improved upon returning, earning him the moniker Big Play Willie Gay.

  • Gay’s taken a lot of flak from the fans in his time, but he’s delivered phenomenal value for a fifth round pick.

Final World on the Steelers 2007 Draft

When the complete body of Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin’s collective draft work is finally know, the Steelers 2007 draft isn’t likely to be remembered as a great draft, but it certainly has earned the distinction as a good one.

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