Let's continue with the top ten draft 'successes' and 'busts' of the Kevin Colbert era with the No. 5 'bust', WR Willie Reid. If you're encountering the list for the first time, you can find the full list at the end of this post. In fact, I might encourage you to read those first to get a better sense of the framework of the lists, other folks' reactions to my approach, and to see who's already been included.
After winning 'one for the thumb' in 2005, Florida State WR/PR Willie Reid was taken in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft (95th overall). Reid appeared in just one game as a rookie before being put on injured reserve in I believe October. Enter Mike Tomlin and a new set of coaches the following year in '07. Reid made the squad and dressed in six games, but his impact on offense and special teams was minimal. Once it was crystal clear that the Steelers had a keeper Santonio Holmes and that Hines Ward still had some gas left in the tank, there was very little reason to see what Reid could do. Clearly he didn't stand out in practice enough to earn opportunities to play either. Once Sweed was drafted the following spring in the '08 draft, Reid's days were numbered in Pittsburgh. He was released in the late August of '08.
My biggest issue of the pick is it came just months after Plaxico Burress' departure to the New York Giants via free agency. Since then, the Steelers have unsuccessfully tried to land a tall wide receiver that was a big-play deep threat, redzone asset, and a different type of weapon on the perimeter than the top two options on the depth chart (Ward and '06 first round pick, S. Holmes). Those types of guys don't grow on trees, but this one prospect by the name of Brandon Marshall just so happened to be available when Reid was selected. And you may not have known this, but Marshall is a Pittsburgh native. Who knows though, maybe Colbert said no way am I rolling the dice on a guy like him after recently parting ways with Burress. I kind of think though that Marshall isn't quite the egomaniac some people might think he is. Do you blame him for wanting out of Denver??? That organization has been a total mess -- resembling a sorority more than an NFL franchise -- in recent years. The Dolphins struggled during Marshall's first year in Miami. But we didn't really hear much from the mercurially talented WR in '10.
There's dozens of guys each year though that are overlooked that turn out to be great players. I just wish that the Steelers had maybe taken a chance on a taller WR with that pick rather than a diminutive one-trick pony type of prospect like Reid.
Also out the door after the '05 Super Bowl triumph was Antwaan Randle El. One of the stars of Super Bowl XL, Randle El wisely robbed Daniel Snyder blind while his star was high during free agency in '06. Perhaps El's departure was a deciding factor when Colbert made his decision in the third round. Even if Reid didn't contribute tons as a WR, so long as he proved to be a dangerous threat as a punt/kick returner, then the pick would be well worth it. Holmes was drafted in the first round to help replace the production void created by Burress' departure.
To be fair, it must have been hard to ignore Reid's accomplishments as a punt returner while at Florida State. The young man dethroned the legendary Deion Sanders in single-season punt return yardage (555) as a junior in '04 after all. And the final impression he left on people was his 87-yard TD against Penn State in the 2006 Orange Bowl, a record that still stands to this day.
Still, Reid showed very little as a pass-catching threat at FSU. He caught 50 balls his senior season, with considerably fewer in each of his first three years (four if you include his redshirt year). That's the other thing I don't love about the pick while I'm on the subject -- Reid was 24 as a rookie, which isn't really all that old necessarily. But Santonio Holmes, also drafted that year, was 22 was a rook. Mike Wallace, also a third rounder, was 23 for comparison's. Again, not a huge deal, but I personally prefer picks that are either in the 20-22 range or possess incredible natural athletic ability (see: Randle El, Antonio Brown -- both former QBs with awesome instincts, god-given leadership abilities, through the roof self-confidence, and soft hands).
Really, after writing all that, I think this is the first entry on the list where I think Colbert and his staff can't be blamed too much for the pick not panning out. Things just didn't work out, and that's part of the random game that is the NFL Draft. Thankfully for us in Steeler Nation, we're treated to far more picks that work out than just about every last team in the league.
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Busts'
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Successes'
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