Top 10 NFL Draft 'Busts' Of Kevin Colbert Era: No. 10 -- OG Kendall Simmons, 1st Round 2002

Happy Monday Steeler Nation! Hope everybody's weekends were safe and either lots of fun or very productive. Last week, we began our countdown of the top 10 draft 'successes' of the Kevin Colbert era. We'll resume those soon enough, but let's turn our attention to Colbert's picks this past decade that haven't panned out quite so swimmingly.

Before we get started, do you agree that it's fair to limit the 'busts' of the past decade to those guys taken in the first three or four rounds? You can't consistently whiff on your selections in rounds four through seven -- that's where invaluable glue-guys and inexpensive difference makers are found, the types of guys that differentiate the great teams from the pack in the hyper-competitive NFL.

For every Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith, Ike Taylor or Chris Kemoeatu though, there's a much bigger pool of guys who don't amount to much during their pro careers with the Steelers. Still, it's hard to call a young man selected in the fourth through seventh round a 'bust' just because he didn't wind up contributing much for the black and gold or elsewhere.  That's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes in this league. You've got to be good, and unless you've got a lot of money invested in you as an early round draft pick, you've also got to be damn lucky to find yourself in the right place at the right time before ever really getting your chance to ball. See: James Harrison.

Without further ado, our No. 10 draft 'bust' since 2000, Kendall Simmons, an offensive guard from Auburn University selected by the Steelers fin the first round as the 30th pick overall in the 2002 NFL Draft.

Seems a bit harsh, no? Yeah, most definitely, I agree. But don't be mad. Just be happy that we have so few 'busts' to discuss since Kevin Colbert took control of the Steelers' war room in 2000.  

Let's forget about the word 'bust' in this instance though. Nothing about Kendall Simmons's career was a bust. Disappointment is perhaps more fitting, but even that is an overstatement.

Look, I have to include at least one first round selection in this bunch. There may even be another one thrown in the mix. As I mentioned at the outset, it's just not really fair to label fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh round picks as 'busts', or to criticize the Steelers front office and scouting department for not finding vital contributors in the later rounds of each draft. More often than not, the numbers just don't work out in the young dude's favor, especially not with an organization like the Steelers. There's too many proven veterans, and until just recently, so few opportunities for young fringe talent to get their chance to make an impression when the lights are actually on in the regular season.

As a refresher, here are the first round selections taken by the Steelers under Colbert's watch:

 

Plaxico Burress (8th Overall), Casey Hampton (19th Overall), Kendall Simmons (30th Overall), Troy Polamalu (16th Overall), Ben Roethlisberger (11th Overall), Heath Miller (30th Overall), Santonio Holmes (25th Overall), Lawrence Timmons (15th Overall), Rashard Mendenhall (23rd Overall), Evander "Ziggy" Hood (32nd Overall), Maurkice Pouncey (18th Overall)

The players in bold are guys I think have a shot at one day being enshrined in Canton. Yes, it's absurdly premature to say that about Maurkice Pouncey if for no other reason than the game's just too violent to assume he'll even get five great years under his belt, let alone the 10-15 it takes to be considered for the Hall at a position like his. But let's just say his level of play in '10 puts him in the discussion early on, and he just so happens to have a lovely little narrative of carrying the torch of great Steelers centers if he so happens to play himself into the conversation much further down the road.

The other three guys -- Big Snack, Troy Polamalu, and Ben Roethlisberger -- don't really need much explanation. Hampton and Big Ben definitely face much longer odds as of now than the unanimously popular and well-respected Troy Polamalu. Pencil No. 43 in right now come to think of it, even though I'd argue his body of work is not quite complete. It will be though once he decides to call it quits.

The players in italics meanwhile represent multiple Pro Bowl type guys. Heath Miller, Santonio Holmes, Lawrence Timmons, Rashard Mendenhall -- all studs. Obviously a guy like Miller gets bonus points over a guy like Santonio Holmes for being locker room gold and someone everyone can count on every single day of the year. Nobody in Steeler Nation though denies what kind of talent Holmes is even if we're not at all distraught he was shipped out of town. Most of us, I think, are just glad he helped us capture Lombardi No. 6 before his immaturity derailed what could have been a legendary tenure in Pittsburgh.

I'll stop, but point is, all we're left with in terms of the first rounders is Plaxico Burress, Evander 'Ziggy' Hood, and Kendall Simmons. Frankly, I was tempted to italicize Ziggy, because I do think he has Pro Bowl potential. But let's wait another year or two before seeing if he's going to just be a totally acceptable B/B+ pick or an A-/A pick who helps ensure a smooth transition to a new era of defensive dominance in Pittsburgh.

As for Plaxico, well, I'll spill the beans ever so slightly and say that he makes an appearance on this list real soon. I'll save my argument as to why he belongs a bit lower than Simmons despite turning in several very productive seasons at WR -- some of the better seasons in Steelers WR history to that point in fact -- before leaving via free agency.

As for Simmons...again, you're not going to find me blast away at the well-respected offensive guard. But he sneaks his way on to my list because of his first round status, even if he was the third to last pick (30th) of the '02 Draft. Simmons' career got off to a promising start.  He was named the Joe Greene Great Performance Award winner as the top performing Steelers rookie in '02.

In '03, Simmons started all 16 games of the Steelers disappointing 6-10 season. The Steelers were plagued by many things that year, the least of which being an identity crisis on offense that put undue pressure on the Steelers offensive line. Tommy Maddox was sacked 41 times that year. Sounds reasonable on the surface compared to the totals we've seen in recent years. But don't forget that Maddox was infinitely more willing to sling the ball away or to check down underneath than Ben Roethlisberger has ever been. Simmons was hardly to blame for the team's struggles that year -- he played fine and was on the right trajectory to becoming a very solid pro.

When the Steelers struck gold with Ben Roethlisberger in the 2004 Draft, and then caught a few breaks in terms of injuries and winning close games, the result was a remarkable 15-1 mark in '04. Simmons, however, wasn't a part of that historically dominant regular season, a year during which he was on schedule to make big strides. Simmons' career trajectory was temporarily derailed though, as he missed the entire season with an ACL injury.

Thankfully, Simmons returned healthy in '05 to start all 16 games on the Steelers' SB XL winning team. That was a special run by a special group, and Simmons was just as much a part of the glory as anyone else on that year's team. That year's team is now nostalgically considered a smash-mouth running team compared to recent years, but if you look at the numbers, you'll quickly confirm that the '05 team wasn't really all that great running the ball, they just adhered to the ground game religiously and established a run-first identity that they surprisingly turned upside down during the playoffs.

Simmons, like the rest of the team, let down a bit the following year in their defense of the Super Bowl. He started 14 games and played just fine. But he was 27 at the time and in his fourth year -- time for former first rounders to start mauling on a consistent basis. Again, Simmons didn't stink. But he never really stood out as a pillar of dominance or consistency either.

I feel a tad bit sick to my stomach even writing all of this. The man, after all, was diagnosed with adult diabetes after he joined the Steelers. And then he suffered a nasty ACL injury. Hard to really fault the man for that. But a list is a list, and the bottom line in my mind is that a hefty chunk of change was invested in him as a first rounder. And more importantly, he was given a 4-year $23.5 million dollar deal before the '07 season, $7.5 of which was guaranteed. I believe that move was a bit hasty, perhaps an overly hasty decision in the wake of it becoming clear that Alen Faneca would not be back in '08 once his contract expired.

Add it all up and you've got a player who was far from a bust, but also somewhat of a disappointment comparatively speaking. As I said before, aren't we lucky that solid contributors and decent guys are even part of this conversation?

Go Steelers!

**********

Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Successes'

No. 6: Willie Colon, OT, 4th Round 2006

No. 7: LB Larry Foote, 4th Round, 2002

No. 8: OG Chris Kemoeatu, 6th Round, 2005

No. 9: OT Marvel Smith, 2nd Round, 2000

No. 10: WR Antonio Brown -- 6th Round, 2010

**********

Are You Smarter Than The Experts?
Correctly predict the first 32 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft and you’ll win $10,000,000!
BEST ROUND EVER IN PRIMETIME
Enter at
facebook.com/BudLight
Here We Go

Enjoy Responsibly ©2011 Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Bud Light® Beer, St. Louis, MO. ©2011 NFL Properties LLC. All NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. No Purchase Necessary. Contest open to U.S. residents (except CA) 21+. Contest begins 12AM CDT on 4/1 and ends 5:59:59PM CDT on 4/28. See Official Rules for complete details. Void where prohibited.

 


Are You Smarter Than The Experts?
Correctly predict the first 32 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft and you’ll win $10,000,000!
BEST ROUND EVER IN PRIMETIME
Enter at
facebook.com/BudLight
Here We Go

Enjoy Responsibly ©2011 Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Bud Light® Beer, St. Louis, MO. ©2011 NFL Properties LLC. All NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. No Purchase Necessary. Contest open to U.S. residents (except CA) 21+. Contest begins 12AM CDT on 4/1 and ends 5:59:59PM CDT on 4/28. See Official Rules for complete details. Void where prohibited.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker