The picks are in. The number 1 jerseys have been printed and proudly displayed. Roger Goodell has been summarily booed. The press conferences have been held….
- …And now its time to grade the Pittsburgh Steelers Draft, the Steelers 2011 Draft Class.
Yes, the 2016 NFL Draft was just a few days ago while the 2011 NFL Draft is a foggy memory after all. But day-after NFL draft grades are about as valuable as the bridge in Brooklyn that your new best friend salesman can get you a really good price on.
It takes several years to evaluate the impact of an NFL Draft Class and, as Steel Curtain Rising will indicate shortly, in our next post, the Steelers 2011 Draft Class shows it does take 5 years to grade an NFL drat class.
Steelers 2011 1st round pick – Cam Heyward, Defensive End, Ohio State
All NFL coaches and general managers are required to proclaim their love for their draft picks as soon as they’re announced, and especially 1st round draft picks. The Steelers are no example.
- But Kevin Colbert declaration that drafting Cam Heyward in 2011 represented a “Historic day for the franchise” was out of character
And Kevin Colbert was right.
Cameron Heyward is every bit the ass kicker on the defensive line that the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him to be. Cam Heyward brings it on every down. He stuff the run. He tackles backs behind the line of scrimmage (and then some). He rushes the passer. He routinely makes difference-making plays that fail to appear on the stat sheet. He leads both on the field and off it. Grade: Quality Performer (projects to Grand Slam before he’s done)
Steelers 2011 2nd round pick – Marcus Gilbert, Guard, Florida
When the Steelers picked Marcus Gilbert in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the plan was to give him an apprentice year behind Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott. That changed after the Debacle in Baltimore sidelined Willie Colon for the season. Flozell Adams made it be known his severices were available…. For a price.
- The Steelers declined, and instead turned to Marcus Gilbert.
Gilbert did well enough in 2011 that the Steelers could finally move Willie Colon to guard, as it had been rumored they’d long wished to do. Marcus Gilbert’s tenure as the Steelers right offensive tackle hasn’t been without its rocky stretches, but since the Steelers said “Thanks, but no thanks” to Flozell, Marcus Gilbert has been the Steelers right tackle. Grade: Over Performer
Steelers 2011 3rd round pick – Curtis Brown, Cornerback, University of Texas
As far back as 2011, fans and the press were calling on the Steelers to invest a first round pick in a cornerback. That year, they had to wait until the 3rd round when the Steelers drafted Curtis Brown out of Texas.
Pro Football Reference tells us that Curtis Brown stuck around with the Steelers four 3 seasons, and appeared in 34 games, mostly on special teams. The truth is that Brown is most memorable for getting his first extended playing time in the San Diego Chargers shocking upset of the Steelers in 2012.
Brown struggled with injuries, appeared in 7 games in 2013, and was out of football after that. Grade: Bust
Steelers 2011 4th round pick – Cortez Allen, Cornerback, The Citadel
In mid-2011 Dick LeBeau turned to rookie Cortez Allen to help upset the New England Patriots. At the end of 2012, Cortez Allen made his first starts, and looked like his name really should have been Ike Woodson Blount, causing 5 turnovers in two games. Injuries and below-the-line play slowed got Allen off to a slow start in 2013, but he finished with a bang.
The Steelers extended his contract, and Allen’s career promptly derailed. Perhaps there’s another side to the Cortez Allen story that Steelers Nation will someday learn. Perhaps not. Either way his grade remains unchanged. Grade: Disappointment
Steelers 2011 5th Round pick – Chris Carter, Linebacker, Fresno State
While the Steelers were at St. Vincents during the summer of 2011, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gerry Dulac said to readers that Chris Carter would become the steal of the 2011 NFL Draft (provided he bulked up.)
- And no one can say the Steelers didn’t give Carter the chance to shine.
When James Harrison was recovering from an injury in early 2012, the Steelers actually started Chris Carter over Jason Worilds, as Carter made 3 starts and appeared in 8 games. Carter even made a start in 2013. Alas, he had little to show for it in terms of “Splash plays.”
The Steelers parted ways with Carter after 2013, and he’s appeared in 19 games for the Bengals, Colts and Ravens, but never seeing anything but has yet to bring down a quarterback…. Grade: Disappointment
Steelers 2011 6th Round Pick – Keith Williams, Guard, Nebraska
The Steelers used their 6th round pick in 2011 on Guard Keith Williams, who didn’t make the team. He did make appearances in two games for the Buffalo Bills in 2012. Grade: Bust
2011 7th Round Pick – Baron Batch, Running Back, Texas Tech
Has there ever been a Steelers 7th round pick who created more of a buzz than Baron Batch? Perhaps there has, but you’d be hard pressed to uncover him. The Steelers drafted Batch at the bottom of the 7th round, but the pick drew positive reviews.
- The early returns were good in training camp.
Then disaster struck, as Batch tore his ACL. Batch returned in 2012, but per observations made by Tony Defeo who’d seen him the previous summer, he lacked the spark he’d shown as a rookie. Batch did do well enough to qualify for a roster spot, but only saw spot duty, and did not do particularly well when his number was called, although this young man can tell his grandchildren that he scored a touchdown in the Steelers loss to the Titans.
The Steelers brought Baron Batch back to training camp in 2013, but he was cut. Grade: Disappointment
Final Grade on the Steelers 2011 NFL Draft
While this logic might not be universally accepted, conventional wisdom holds that picking 3 starters makes a draft a success.
- By that measure, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin came up short with the Steelers 2011 Draft Class.
The Steelers struck gold with Cameron Heyward and Marcus Gilbert in rounds 1 and 2, looked like they had something in Cortez Allen, but their other 5 picks amount to 3 Disappointments and 2 outright busts. Overall Grade for Steelers 2011 Draft: C+