Steelers 2015 Undrafted Rookie Free Agent Class Top-Heavy with Offensive Lineman

With third day of the 2015 NFL Draft complete, the Pittsburgh Steelers staff sprang into action to complete the “fourth day” namely signing undrafted rookie free agents.

While additional changes might be forth coming the Steelers 2015 undrafted rookie free agent class includes 12 players, and after including no offensive lineman in their 2015 Draft class, the Steelers undrafted rookie free agent class is heavy on the offensive line.

Center, B.J. Finney, 6’4”, 318, from Kansas State
Guard, Miles Dieffenbach, 6’3”, 303, out of Penn State
Guard, Reese Dismukes, 6’3”, 296, who played for Auburn
Guard, Collin Rahrig, 6’2” 285, out of Indiana
Offensive Tackle, Kevin Whimpey, 6’5”, 295, of Utah State
Tight End, Cameron Clear, 6’11”, 277, from Texas A&M
Wide Receiver, Tyler Murphy, 6’2” 213, out of Boston College
Wide Receiver, Eli Rogers, 5’10”, 180, from Louisville
Running Back, Ross Scheuerman, 6’10”, 204, out of Lafayette (Pennsylvania)
Defensive End, Dominique Davis, 6’5”, 285,who played for Liberty
Defensive End, Brandon Prate, 6’4”, 285, from Illinois State
Defensive Tackle, Nigel Crawford, 6’5” 285, who played for St. Augustine University*

*ESPN is reporting the that the Steelers have signed Nigel Crawford, but other outlets are not.
That’s fully 5 offensive lineman, 1 tight end, two wide outs, a running back, and two defensive ends. Ask Kevin Colbert, and I am sure he will swear the Steelers were out there signing as many of the top-rated undrafted rookie free agents as they could.

But the Steelers 2015 undrafted rookie free agent class does seem to nicely cover roster needs left untouched by the Steelers 2015 draft class.

  • Surely that’s a coincidence.

Undrafted rookie free agents are the NFL’s equivalent of Rudy. They’re there to act as practice bodies during training camp. The main goal of an undrafted rookie free agent is to make it to St. Vincents in the first place.

Still, Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert has an uncanny knack with unrestricted rookie free agents. In fact the longest two plays in Super Bowl history were authored in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII by undrafted rookie free agents signed by Kevin Colbert, namely Willie Parker and James Harrison.

If nothing else, these young men will get a fair shake at a roster spot from the Steelers.

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Steelers Draft L.T. Walton in 6th round, Defensive Lineman out of Central Michigan

The Steelers drafted L.T. Walton, defensive tackle out of Central Michigan, with the first of their two 6th round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft.

L.T. Walton, whose full first name is Leterrius Walton but goes by “L.T.” much to John Mitchell’s delight, stands at 6’5”and weighs in at 319 pounds. During 4 seasons (plus 1 red shirt year), L.T. Walton played in 54 career games and made 30 starts. Walton recorded 146 tackles (110 solo), nine interceptions, a sack, four tackles for losses and 20 pass break-ups.

Video Highlights of L.T. Walton

Since he’s a defensive player and a late rounder, L.T. Walton doesn’t rate his own dazzling video highlights reel on YouTube. But he does have this from Central Michigan’s game vs. Kansas:

Clearly, Johnny Mitchell has some work to do, but he also has some talent at his disposal.

How L.T. Walton Fits into Steelers Plans

The Steelers have invested heavily the defensive line in recent drafts, and unlike much of the 00’s, they’ve managed to develop their defensive lineman. Cameron Heyward, Steve McClendon and Stephon Tuitt give the Steelers a strong front three, with Daniel McCullers showing a lot of promise as a rookie.

  • After that, the Steelers have next to nothing.

The Steelers did have two promising defensive ends on their practice squad, but Nic Williams and Josh Mauro are got poached. L.T. Williams will have a shot at making the Steelers 53 man roster, although to do so he’ll need to show enough to push Cam Thomas and Clifton Geathers off of the team.

Welcome to Steelers Nation L.T. Walton.

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Steelers Draft Anthony Chickillo in 6th Round, Linebacker Miami

The Steelers drafted Anthony Chickillo with their second 6th round compensatory pick. Chickillo played defensive end for the Miami Hurricanes, but the Steelers are projecting him as an outside linebacker, as evidenced by the fact that ourside linebackers coach Joey Porter, and not defensive line coach Johnny Mitchell addressed the press after the Steelers announced their pick.

Anthony Chickillo stands at 6’3” and weighs 267 pounds and is a Tampa Bay native. Chickillo played for three seasons at Miami, and recorded 64 tackles and 12 sacks.

Colbert’s comments would seem to indicate that the Steeler regard Chickillo as a work in progress.

Video Highlights of Anthony Chickillo

The University of Miami is one of the most prolific of the NCAA’s football programs, and in its heyday of the late 1980’s and 1990’s was often described as “almost like a pro team.” As such, all of their draft prospects (thankfully) have You Tube video highlight reels posted, which you can find enjoy here:

That’s some impressive film. But for all its legend and lore, doing it in college, even for a team like the Miami Hurricanes, isn’t the same as doing it in the NFL

How Anthony Chickillo Fits into the Steelers Plans

Anthony Chickillo will follow in the footsteps of so many other undersized college defensive ends drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers – he’ll be asked to learn a new position of outside 3-4 linebacker.

  • In doing so he’ll have one of the Steelers finest 3-4 outside linebackers there to coach him.

But even with Joey Porter’s mentoring, Chickillo faces an uphill battle to make the team, simply because of his status as a late round pick. And if the Steelers need at outside linebacker going into the 2015 NFL Draft was acute, Pittsburgh’s depth at outside linebacker is not as perilously thin as it was because of the selection of Bud Dupree.

Still, if he can contribute on special teams, then he has a chance at making the team, and unless he totally fumbles his opportunity at St. Vincents, Chickillo will have an almost certain slot on the practice squad.

Welcom to Steelers Nation Anthony Chickillo.

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Steelers Draft Gerod Holliman in 7th Round, Safety out of Louisville

The 2015 NFL Draft closed for Pittsburgh as the Steelers drafted Gerod Holliman, safety out of Louisville in the 7th round.

Gerod Holliman stands at 6’0” and weigh 219 pounds and had 14 interceptions for Lousiville in 2014. He’s also the third defensive back drafted by the Steelers in 2015.

Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert told Teresa Varley of Steelers Digest, “This kid has great instincts, great awareness, he is a film studier.” Colbert continued, “You see him making breaks on the ball before the quarterback throws it and he has the great hands to finish it. This kid is a ball hawk. He knows how to make interceptions.”

Video Highlights of Gerod Holliman

What a surprise it is when a 7th round defensive back has more and better YouTube highlights than a second round defensive back. But so it is with the case of Gerod Holliman and Senquez Golson.

The Steelers turnover has been turnover starved for years, so you can see why Pittsburgh used its final pick on Holliman.

How Gerod Holliman Fits into the Steelers Plans

The Steelers need good defensive backs, having lost 3 starters in this space so it’s logical that they drafted three more players. The training camp depth chart looks to have Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas holding down the two starting safety slots, with Will Allen and Robert Golden as backups.

While its not unknown for the Steelers to carry four safeties, last season the Steelers carried six, and Ross Ventrone will return to St. Vincents to make a push at establishing himself as a permanent part of the Steelers 53 man roster.

  • That means that Gerod Holliman likely arrives in Latrobe and finds himself in an immediate battle with Ross Ventrone for a shot at the Steelers 53 man roster.

The prospects of a safety drafted in the 7th round making an NFL roster are not great. But it has not only been done before, but in 1992 8th round pick Darren Perry won the starting job and made veteran Thomas Everett expendable.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Gerod Holliman.

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Steelers Draft Doran Grant in 4th round, Cornerback from Ohio State

Day 3 of the 2015 NFL Draft saw the Pittsburgh Steelers draft Doran Grant cornerback out of Ohio State. With the addition of Senquez Golson in the 2nd round, Doran Grant marks the second cornerback taken by the Steelers in this draft.

OSU is becoming a popular source of Steelers draftees, as indicated by Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Ed Bouchette:

In addition to Doran Grant, the Steelers drafted OSU products Ryan Shazier in 2014, Mike Adams in 2012, Cameron Heyward in 2011, and Thaddeus Gibson in 2010.

Like fellow cornerback Senquez Golson, Doran Grant made Steel City Insider Jim Wexell’s list of “ass kickers” who remained available to the Steelers after they drafted Bud Dupree in the first round. Wexell described Grant as “durable, a team captain, can support the run and went through the rigors of a national championship run.”

At 5’10” grant remains on the short side for a typical Steelers cornerback, but he does possess 4.44 speed and was ranked by Scout.com as the 13th best cornerback in the draft and 102nd best player overall. In fact, Jim Wexell was some what prophetic in his draft predictions suggesting:

The Steelers of course drafted both men.

Video Highlights of Doran Grant

I guess agents don’t go all out to put together YouTube video highlight packages of defensive players the way the do for offensive stars. Nonetheless, the magic of YouTube gives us this on Doran Grant from OSU’s 2014 matchup vs. Cincinnati.

The film shows an aggressive corner who can both cover down field and make plays closer to the line of scrimmage, which is something the Steelers need.

How Doran Grant Fits into Steelers Secondary

This is the Steelers second draft double dip at cornerback since they famously took Rod Woodson and Delton Hall in the first and second rounds of the 1987 NFL Draft. The last time the did a draft double dip at cornerback was in the 2011 NFL Draft when they took Curtis Brown in the third round and Cortez Allen in the fourth round.

  • Doran Grant looks to provide immediate depth at cornerback, and will have a chance to push for a slot in the team’s dime or perhaps even nickel defense.

He also might bring some additional position flexibility to the Steelers secondary.

Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake described Doran Grant as a solid physical cornerback with decent speed, and reminded reporters that Grant played as a true freshman, and then each year thereafter. When asked if the Steelers drafting 2 cornerbacks who are both shorter than 6’ tall, Carnell Lake denied any change in franchise philosophy, admitting that this was as much a case of availability.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Doran Grant.

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Steelers Draft Jesse James in 5th Round, Tight End from Penn State

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Jesse James in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and in taking the tight end from Penn State, they addressed one of the franchise’s overlooked need areas. James, who is from Pittsburgh, was elated to be picked by his hometown team

Standing at 6’7” and weighing 261 pounds, Jesse James ran the 40 in 4.83 seconds which is good for a man his size. James played for three years at Penn State, with his final season being his best as he grabbed 38 of 60 balls thrown to him and caught three touchdowns.

Scout.com’s Jamie Newberg described James as “This is a tight end with the perfect name for the way he plays – much like the legendary outlaw by the same name, this Nittany Lion is “one tough hombre” who received the nickname of ‘The Freak’.”

While James has measurable to make the mouth water, Neal Coolong of USA Today’s Steelers Wire described him as a “project.” Specifically Coolong took James to task for poor route running, an inability to cope with the speed of the game, and an unwillingness to block. Coolong did however praise James for the toughness he shows when catching in traffic.

Video Highlights of Jesse James Time at Penn State

Even 5th round tight end prospects get their own video collage on You Tube, which we’re happy to share here today:

Coolong offers his own film breakdown of James in other context. And while Coolong might be making salient points, its also clear that James gives the quarterback a large target to aim at, and he’s someone who knows how to catch.

How Jesse James Fits into the Steelers Plans

The first two slots on the Steelers depth charts are set – Heath Miller is the number 1 tight end and Matt Spaeth is the number two tight end. Rob Branchflower, 2014’s 7th round pick, also returns but will be forced to compete for the 3rd tight end spot with Jesse James.

The Steelers 2015 Draft Needs Matrix showed tight end as a position of Moderate High, meaning that Steelers needed immediate depth and/or a future starter there. It looks like James is has a shot at providing some depth, but projecting him as a starter is a long shot at this point.

  • But 5th round picks can and do blossom into starters, as William Gay proves.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Jesse James.

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Steelers Draft Senquez Golson in 2nd Round, Cornerback Ole Miss

It’s fitting that the Steelers designated NFL Hall of Famer Mel Blount to announce their second round pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, because they addressed what remained their most pressing need as the Steelers drafted Senquez Golson in the 2nd round, cornerback out of Ole Miss.

steelers draft, Senquez Golson, 2nd round, 2015 NFL Draft

Steelers draft Senquez Golson in 2nd Round

Standing at only 5’9” Senquez Golson breaks the mold of the prototype big Steelers corner, but Golson is also known for his excellent ball skills, having recorded a best in the nation 10 interceptions. Golson is a superb athlete, who once turned down a 1.1 million dollar contract to play baseball for the Boston Red Sox.

  • Going into Day 2 of the draft, Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell rated him as the 4th best “ass kicker” remaining on the board.

The biggest knock against Golson is his size. Per NFL.com, 3 of the 4 touchdowns that Golson allowed last year came against receivers who were 6’4” or taller.

Video Highlight of Senquez Golson

No, that’s not a typo. There isn’t much out there (at least that’s embeddable) on Senquez Golson.

The quality isn’t excellent, but it looks like Senquez Golson made a good play…

How Senquez Golson Fits in with the Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers needed to beef up their cornerback crops in the 2015 NFL Draft. That much was evident. The Steelers initially however looked to trade up to grab tight end Maxx Williams, but the Baltimore Ravens beat them to the punch.

Instead, the night two of the 2015 NFL Draft saw the Steelers draft Senquez Golson in the second round, whom Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake described as “a ball hawking type corner.” When challenged that Golson didn’t fit the Steelers traditional mold at corner, Lake explained:

We are looking for someone with exceptional skills. Senquez has exceptional ball skills. Every year at Mississippi, he had an interception. His last year, he had 10… He did an outstanding job tracking the football. Anytime you can get a guy like that who can pluck the ball out of the air, he has real value in the league.

Senequez Golson joins a thin Steelers secondary and one that only boasts veteran William Gay as its only proven player. While slot cornerback Antown Blake would be the logical person for Golson to challenge for playing time, Cortez Allen represents a major reclamation project for the Steelers, and should Allen falter, Golson could have a shot at the starting cornerback position.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Senquez Golson.

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Steelers Draft Sammie Coates in 3rd Round, Wide Receiver Auburn

Entering the 2015 NFL Draft Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert promised that the Steelers would not draft for need. So far he’s made good on his word, after drafting outside linebacker Bud Dupree in the first round, and attempting to trade up to get tight end Maxx Williams before drafting cornerback Senquez Golson in the second round.

  • Next, the Steelers drafted Sammie Coates wide receiver out of Auburn in the third round, a move that clearly was not aimed at any pressing need on the depth chart.

In drafting Sammie Coates in the third round, the Steelers also continued a franchise tradition.

steelers, third round, 3rd round, wide receiver, Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Sammie Coates

Sammie Coates is the latest in a string if Steelers 3rd Round Wide Receiver picks

 

Hines Ward, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders, leave a tough act to follow, but his production in college makes it easy to understand that the Steelers draft Sammie Coates as early as the third round.

Sammie Coates stands at 6’2” and weighs 215 pounds and was ranked by the Scout.com website as the 13th best receiver in the draft. Last year he 34 passes for 741 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Tigers. Coats could have returned to Auburn and played one final season as a 5th year senior, but instead he chose to finish his degree in public administration and graduated in December.

Video Highlights on Sammie Coates

Unlike Senquez Golson there’s are ample embeddable video highlights on the internet of Sammie Coats, which we’re happy to share with you today thanks to the magic of YouTube:

Clearly, Sammie Coates likes going deep, but Coates’ highlight reel also shows solid after the catch ability.

How Sammie Coats Fits into the Steelers Plans

Wide receiver was not one of the Steelers more pressing  draft needs by any reasonable measure – which does not mean picking him in the third round was a mistake. A year ago, however, the Steelers depth chat at wide receiver had at least three if not four spots open.

  • Now the top three spots on the Steelers wide receiver depth chart are filled, even if the order isnt’set.

No one is pushing Antoino Brown for the top spot, but there will be competition between Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant for the number two slot. The loser will inherit the number 3 slot.

That leaves the number four slot for Coates, where his only competition is Darrius Heyward-Bey. While Hewyard-Bey isn’t expected to give Coates much competition, Steelers wide reciever’s coach Richard Mann knows that Sammie Coates is far from a finished product, and pulled no punches in his assessment of the Steelers third round pick:

We got a guy that needs some work but is a great athlete. He has some problems straight ahead catching a football, but that’s why we have drills. With a chance to coach him up, we feel we can make that better.

When assessing the more subjective side of Coates game, Mann was even more blunt:

They didn’t play him every down, a lot of personnel groupings. What happens is he disappears. He’s back in there. He disappears. He’s back in there. A lot of times, in my opinion, players have a tendency to lose concentration simply because they weren’t involved and then you bring them back in the heat of battle. That’s not an excuse for him. That’s what I saw. I’ve been around a lot of players, If you’re not using them, they lose focus. I think that might have been some of it.

Which isn’t to say that Mann was down on Coates, but it rather shows that Mann is unusually frank for an position coach speaking on draft day. In fact Mann went at great lengths to praise Coates athletic skills, and his toughness, particularly after the catch and in plays such as screen passes, which force wide receivers to lower their shoulders and get physical.

Richard Mann is someone who has been around a long time, someone whom Mike Tomlin had to bring out of retirement after Scottie Montgomery returned/was forced back to Duke. This is a man who has been around long enough to coach for the Baltimore Colts, the original Cleveland Browns, and the Baltimore Ravens.

  • Richard Mann exudes a “Been there, done that” ethos.

In short, he’s the perfect mentor for a young player like Coates. Welcome to Steelers Nation Sammie Coates.

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Steelers Draft Bud Dupree in First Round of Draft, Outside Linebacker from Kentucky

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Bud Dupree, outside linebacker from Kentucky in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Dupree, whose real name is Alvin Dupree, stands at 6’4” and weighs 269 pounds. Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell ranked him as the third outside linebacker in the draft behind, Dante Flower and Vic Beasley.

  • Jamie Newberg of the Scout.com website, suggested that Dupree “could turn out to be the steal of the first round.”

Bud Dupree is very athletic, having been recruited by Kentucky to play tight end, and is known for his ability to shift direction rapidly in pursuit of the quarterback, and for his excellent acceleration in turning the corner.

In 2014, Dupree made 74 tackles, recorded 7.5 sacks, and over a dozen 12.5 tackles for a loss for the Wildcats. Dupree also excelled in pre-draft workouts where his forty time was clocked at 4.56 seconds, he posted a vertical jump of 42-inches and a broad jump of 138-inches.

Video Highlights of Bud Dupree

In this day an age, no draft article is complete without video, and though the magic of You Tube, Steel Curtain Rising is happy to present you with them here.

Those are some impressive highlights. Of course Dupree won’t be able to toss NFL offensive lineman around like rag dolls the way he did in college, but the Steelers are in need of a real “butt kicker” to use Jim Wexell’s term, and at least based on those college highlights, Bud Dupree would appear to fit the bill.

How Bud Dupree Fits in with the Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was ecstatic over landing Bud Dupree admitting that Dupree was the best player left on the Steelers draft board, explaining “This is a gift for us to be able to get this guy at 22.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was equally effusive in his praise of Dupree, sharing:

Versatility is something that should be highlighted. He has done a lot for that defense over the course of the last four years. He has been an edge rusher, played in space. He is a versatile and smart athlete. You could characterize him as a football junkie, a football historian.

It is not yet known whether Bud Dupree will play on the strong side or weak side for the Steelers, but he has been described as an ideal SAM linebacker in a 3-4 system, which would put him on the strong side. The position is currently held down by Arthur Moats, although the franchise never looked at him as a full time starter.

In addition to Moats, Bud Dupree will compete with returning veteran James Harrison and 2013’s first round pick Jarvis Jones for playing time at outside linebacker.

While most pre-draft mock had the Steelers taking any number of cornerbacks, Pittsburgh’s need at outside linebacker is just as great, so its no surprise to see the Steelers draft Bud Dupree with their first pick.

Welcome to Steelers Nation Bud Dupree.

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The Colbert Record: Steelers Third Round Draft History Under Kevin Colbert

Steel Curtain Rising’s annual installment of the Colbert Record began this morning with our evaluation of Kevin Colbert’s performance in the the Steelers 2010 Draft.

Now that the Steelers have drafted Bud Dupree with their first pick, focus shifts to day two of the 2015 NFL Draft which brings us to the third round. Accordingly, Steel Curtain Rising shines a light on Kevin Colbert’s draft record with third round picks.

steelers, draft, grades, evaluations, bust, Kevin Colbert

True NFL Draft grades only come with years of hindsight

Tom Donahoe Leaves Kevin Colbert Tough Third Round Act to Follow

The NFL Draft’s third round is often called “the value round” as that is the spot in the draft where you still have a high probability of finding and impact player, yet the risk associated with missing on a third rounder is lower than the first and second rounds.

  • The NFL Draft’s third round was the Steelers money round during Tom Donahoe’s tenure.

Colbert’s predecessor simply excelled in the third round drafting Joey Porter, Hines Ward, Amos Zereoue, Mike Vrable, Jon Witman, Brenden Stai, Jason Gildon, Bam Morris, Andre Hastings, and Joel Steed.

Donahoe and Bill Cowher’s Steelers did draft a few busts in the third round – Kris Farris, Chris Conrad, Steven Conley and Paul Wiggins all come to mind, but looking look across the 8 Donahoe-Cowher drafts  and you’ll literally cannot find a year in which the third round was a total loss for the Steelers.

How well has Kevin Colbert done by comparison? Time to find out.

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Steelers 2000 3rd Round Draft Picks – Kendrick Clancy and Hank Poeat

Joel Steed remains an overlooked key to the 90’s Blitzburgh defenses, but his abrupt in January 2000 left newly arrived Kevin Colbert with a gaping hole to fill in the Steelers defense. First Colbert’s signed Kimo von Oelhoffen and second he drafted Kendrick Clancy in the third round of the 2000 NFL Draft.

Clancy played in nine games as a rookie. In 2001 he actually kept Casey Hampton on the bench – for three games, before yielding the starting spot. Clancy never started another game in Pittsburgh, but he played in 15 games in 2000 and 17 games in 2002 and 2003. The Steelers cut him in 2004, but brought him back after Hampton torn his ACL. Clancy went on to play – and start, for the Giants, Cardinals, and Saints, playing all the way until 2009.

It’s hard to call a guy a “bust” because he couldn’t beat out Casey Hampton and Kendrick Clancy certainly wasn’t a bad pick. But still you expect more from a third rounder. Grade: Serviceable Pickup

Kevin Colbert used his second third round pick in 2000 on Hank Poeat, a cornerback from Pitt. Yet Poeat’s primary contribution in Pittsburgh was as a kick returner, where he excelled as a rookie, returning a punt for a touchdown in the Steelers final game at Three Rivers Stadium.

But Poeat’s fortunes as a return man declined after 2000, and he never made an impact as a corner. The Steelers let him go after 2003, but Poteat played for Tampa Bay, New England, the New York Jets, and the Cleveland Browns until retiring in 2009. Grade: Disappointment

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Steelers 2001 3rd Round Draft Pick – Forfeited

When the Steelers signed Will Wolford to play guard in 1996 his contract contained a stipulating that Wolford got an extra $500,000 if he got switched to tackle. The page of paper that that clause was typed on (yes, typed) got lost, but Dan Rooney remembered it, and the Steelers honored their word to Wolford.

Unfortunately, paying that extra $500,000 resulted in a salary cap violation, which the Steelers turned themselves in for. As a result, they lost their third round pick in 2001.

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Steelers 2002 3rd Round Draft Pick – Chris Hope

The Steelers drafted Chris Hope in 2002 with an eye towards replacing Bret Alexander, who was turning 31. Hope neither started as a rookie nor as a sophomore, but earned a starting slot by his 3rd year, which was 2004 the year the Steelers went 15-1 and had the NFL’s number 1 defense.

Hope returned to start 16 regular season games in 2005 and started throughout the playoffs, playing his last game for the Steelers in Super Bowl XL. The Steelers never really felt that Hope was a long-term answer at safety – and Ryan Clark represented an upgrade there – but he did what a third round pick should do – develop into a reliable starter. Grade: Quality Value Pick

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Steelers 2003 3rd Round Draft Pick – Traded to Kansas City

The Steelers didn’t have a third round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft because Kevin Colbert traded it to Kansas City, as part of moving up to take Troy Polamalu….

…That was perhaps his wisest draft day decision.

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Steelers 2004 3rd Round Draft Pick – Max Starks

Kevin Colbert’s third round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Max Starks, has perhaps the most colorful history of any in the group.

Max Starks gets knocked around a lot. He even had doubters on both Bill Cowher’s final coaching staff in 2006, which carried over to Mike Tomlin’s initial staff in 2007. The Steelers front office disagreed, making Starks their transition player in 2008. The coaching staff was unmoved, starting the season with Starks on the bench in 2008, and even giving Trai Essex the initial nod when Marvel Smith went down in the critical Steelers 2008 road win over Jacksonville.

It says here that Max Starks saved the Steelers season in 2008. Arguably, he did it again in 2011 and one can shudder to think of what would have happened had the Steelers not brought him back in 2012. Max Starks started 2 in Super Bowl XL and again in Super Bowl XLIII. Can you really ask more of a third round pick? Grade: Quality Value Pick

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Steelers 2005 3rd Round Draft Pick – Trai Essex

Kevin Colbert again went the tackle round in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, this time picking Trai Essex.

Essex never developed into a full time starter at tackle, nor could he hold down the starting job at guard. But Trai Essex became a valuable 6th lineman who was able to back up at all five positions on the line. While that’s commendable, you do expect a third round pick to become a starter. Essex never quite fit that bill. Grade: Serviceable Pickup

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Steelers 2006 3rd Round Draft Picks — Anthony Smith, Willie Reid

Bill Cowher’s last draft left a lot to be desired particularly in the third round. First the Steelers drafted Anthony Smith. Smith was a hard hitter.

But he was an even bigger prima donna, showboating after a big play in 2006, and then moronically guaranteeing victory prior to the Steelers game vs. New England in 2007, only to have Tom Brady torch him with relish. He also injured a player in during the 2008 training camp, drawing Mike Tomlin’s ire. There’s a word for players like this. Grade: Bust

Willie Reid, the Steelers second 3rd round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, didn’t generate the ink that Anthony Smith did, but he was just as disappointing. He appeared in 1 game as a rookie returning 1 kick and 1 punt in a loss vs. San Diego. He returned six more kicks in 2007 and caught 4 passes in that season then was done. Grade: Bust

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Steelers 2007 3rd Round Draft Pick – Matt Spaeth

Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin surprised a lot of people when they picked Matt Spaeth in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. And since that time it has become clear that the Steelers picked Matt Spaeth too early. That’s not a knock on Spaeth per se. It’s not his fault he was drafted so early. But he really never delivered value commensurate with his status as a third round pick.

Certainly, the Steelers have a quality second tight end in Matt Spaeth. His blocking has been a critical element to Le’Veon Bell’s success. And he’s far underutilized in the passing game. But third round picks should perform at a higher level. Grade: Serviceable Pickup

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Steelers 2008 3rd Round Draft Pick – Bruce Davis

During training camp 2008, Jim Wexell reported in Steelers Digest that Mike Tomlin would pit Tony Hills and Bruce Davis together in one-on-ones while yelling, “I’m going to make a player out of one of you, I just don’t know which one yet.” The infamous Steelers 2008 Draft Class will go down as Colbert’s worst, with perhaps Bruce Davis serving as the poster boy.

  • As it turns out, Tomlin failed to make a player out of either man.

The Steelers drafted Bruce Davis as an outside linebacker, but he only played in 5 games on special teams, and he couldn’t cut it there. The Steelers wasted little time in cutting him in training camp the next summer. Davis resurfaced with the Raiders in 2010 and 2011 were he recorded 4 tackles in 10 games, and then Cincinnati in 2012 although he never played for the Bengals. Grade: Bust

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Steelers 2009 3rd Round Draft Picks – Kraig Urbik, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis

As a rookie Kraig Urbik didn’t play a down, but the Steelers had high hopes for him as they saw great progress in his second summer at St. Vincents. Word was that Urbik, a guard, skills as a back up center were part of what sent Justin Hartwig to the waiver wire. Alas, Byron Leftwich’s preseason injury forced the Steelers to keep Charlie Batch on the roster, and that meant Urbik had to go.

The Steelers wanted to sneak him onto the practice squad, but the Buffalo Bills had other ideas. Urbik has started 53 of 69 games for them since then…. Grade: Farm Team

The Steelers knew Hines Ward’s time was coming to an end by 2009, and drafted Mike Wallace with the second of their 3 third round picks. While the decision not to offer Mike Wallace a long-term deal was controversial at the time, the Steelers wisdom in choosing Antoinio Brown instead has been vindicated.

But that doesn’t alter the evaluation of Mike Wallace as a draft pick, because he it was an excellent pick. Wallace made an immediate impact as a rookie, posted in inhuman yards-per-catch average in his first season as starter, and was a legit home run threat on every play. The drop off in his play during his second two years does impact his overall grade, but clearly Colbert made the right pick here. Grade: Over Performer

With their final 3rd round pick in 2009 NFL Draft the Steelers picked Keenan Lewis. Lewis was a late bloomer, as injuries ruined and Joe Burnett kept him off the field. 2010 was little better, as Lewis disappointed. Carnell Lake personally oversaw his rehabilitation, and Lewis began to work himself into a quality corner in 2011 and established himself as the starter by 2012.

The Steelers did get some value out of Lewis before he left via free agency, but just a little short of what you’d expect and need as a third round pick. Had he stayed in Pittsburgh, his grade would be higher, but this draft evaluation only covers performance of players as Steelers. Grade: Serviceable Pickup

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Steelers 2010 3rd Round Draft Pick – Emmanuel Sanders

The third round pick in 2010 of Emmanuel Sanders got covered in our analysis of the Steelers 2010 NFL Draft. Emmanuel Sanders impressed coaches as a rookie, even keeping Antonio Brown on the bench early in the season, with Mike Tomlin invoking the “Two dogs one bone” metaphor. Sanders got hurt in Super Bowl XLV, and injury that Bruce Arians said hurt the team’s game plan.

Injuries limited Sanders in 2011 and then again in 2012, but he emerged as a full time starter in 2013 and made the most of his opportunity. The Steelers optned not to resign him, but Sanders was still a quality third round pickup. Grade: Quality Value Pick+

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Steelers 2011 3rd Round Draft Pick – Curtis Brown

Super Bowl XLV made it glaringly clear that the Steelers needed to improve at cornerback, and Kevin Colbert addressed the position in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft by picking Curtis Brown….

…And he undoubtedly regrets the pick to this very day.

As a rookie, Brown forced a fumble during an ugly Steelers loss vs. Houston. He apparently played well on special teams, but it was Cortez Allen who saw action at corner. Brown never started a game, but saw a lot of action as a nickel back vs. San Diego in 2012, which was one of the most horrific performances by the Steelers of the Tomlin era. Brown only played in 7 games in 2013 and the Steelers gave up on him after that. Grade: Bust

Steelers 2012 3rd Round Draft Pick – Sean Spence

The Steelers had already parted ways with James Farrior and were looking to groom a replacement for Larry Foote by the time the 2012 NFL Draft arrived. Kevin Colbert picked Sean Spence out of Miami. Early in preseason, Spence looked like a stud in the making. Then disaster struck, costing Spence not only his rookie year, but also his sophomore year.

Nonetheless, Spence returned for his third season, and started nine games splitting time with Vince Williams after Ryan Shazier’s injury. Spence helped force a fumble in the Steelers 2nd quarter explosion vs. Houston, and recorded a sack vs. Cincinnati. Any formal grade on Spence will need to wait, but he looks like a solid pick up on Colbert’s part. Grade: Too Early To Tell

Steelers 2013 3rd Round Draft Pick – Markus Wheaton

Kevin Colbert drafted Markus Wheaton in the 2013 NFL Draft with an eye towards replacing Mike Wallace and the soon to depart Emmanuel Sanders. Wheaton did next to nothing as a rookie, but he did earn the starting nod in 2014 and turned in a solid season.

Wheaton might not have gotten the ink that Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant get, but he made a lot of key catches. Again, one season as a starter is NOT enough to evaluate a player, but right now he has the look of a quality value pick, if not more. Grade: Too Early to Tell

Steelers 2014 3rd Round Draft Pick – Dri Archer

The Steelers traded their 2014 third round pick to get Shamarko Thomas in 2013, but got a compensatory pick for losing Mike Wallace. They used it on Dri Archer, who was the fastest man in the 2014 NFL Draft. The Steelers idea was to use Archer as a kick returner and utility back/wide receiver in the mold of Eric Metcalf (yes, I just dated myself!)….

It’s way, way too early to write off Dri Archer, but his rookie year can only be described as disappointing. Grade: Too Early to Tell

Conclusion – Kevin Colbert’s Checkered Third Round Record

The NFL Draft’s third round has not been as kind to Kevin Colbert as it was Tom Donahoe. Which is OK, as Colbert’s money round has been the first round of the NFL Draft.

Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, Steelers draft

Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin discuss the Steelers Draft

Still, Colbert is charged with making the right pick in each round, and the record shows that he’s done it several times for the Steelers, most notably with Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Hope, Mike Wallace and Keenan Lewis.

However, Colbert has had his share of under performing third round picks, and he’s picked more than one outright bust with both Cowher and Tomlin (see Willie Reid Davis and Curtis Brown.)

While its too early to tell on some of his later picks, the arrow does appear to be trending up for Colbert’s third round record, but for now his grade must reflect a balance between his 3rd round successes and 3rd round failures. Grade: C+

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