Steelers Draft Countdown: Revisiting the class of 2006

Jared Wickerham

Opportunity was there in 2006 and the Steelers worked to make something happen. While they picked up a player who will be forever etched in Steelers history, they didn't get much long-term return on their investment, or other moves made in the 2006 NFL Draft.

A feature series highlighting the last 10 Steelers drafts 10 days before the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Behind the Steel Curtain managing editor Neal Coolong will evaluate the impact of each of the last 10 Steelers draft classes.

Selections

1 (25): Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State
3 (83): Anthony Smith, S, Syracuse
3 (95): Willie Reid, WR, Florida State
4 (131): Willie Colon, OL, Hofstra
4 (133): Orien Harris, DL, Miami
5 (164): Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green
5 (167): Charles Davis, TE, Purdue
6 (201): Marvin Phillip, C, Cal
7 (240): Cedric Humes, RB, Virginia Tech

Background

Fresh off the One For The Thumb, the Steelers had a spoil of riches in terms of their roster. While they were set to lose free safety Chris Hope (a solid, not spectacular free safety) and Antwaan Randle El (special teams contributor and probably third-best receiving option), the team was looking to bolster its playmaking abilities in the increasingly important passing game.

While the Steelers had stayed true to its smashmouth reputation throughout the 2005 season, it was largely Roethlisberger's arm that carried them through two upset playoff wins over Indianapolis and Denver, and a 75-yard touchdown run along with a gadget play in the Super Bowl that accented the unprecedented playoff run.

With Roethlisberger raising his game more with each passing week, the Steelers did something they don't historically do; they traded up in the first round.

Their target was Ohio State's playmaking wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

Draft Day

There were some character issues with Holmes, and those would eventually lead to his fall out of favor with Pittsburgh, but considering the relatively barren level of playmakers available from the last pick in the first round, they packaged their third and fourth picks to move from 32 to 25 to take Holmes.

They weren't done. In one of the more aggressive drafts the Steelers have had in terms of transactions, they also dealt their second round pick to Minnesota for two third round picks from the Vikings. They had two fourth-round compensatory picks as well.

And they missed on three of those four, selecting Willie Reid, who played in seven career games, Orien Harris, who appeared in 20 and Anthony Smith, who was actually once in a position "battle" with newly signed free agent Ryan Clark for the starting free safety spot Chris Hope vacated.

Willie Colon, a fourth round pick out of Hofstra, saved the middle of a missed opportunity draft.

While Holmes would go on to make one of the biggest plays in NFL history just three seasons later, his appeal in Pittsburgh would eventually fizzle out. The Steelers would end up trading him to the Jets before the 2010 season for a fifth round pick, making him the first - and as of now, only - Steelers first round pick under general manager Kevin Colbert to not play out his rookie contract with the Steelers.

Colon was one of the better tackles in the game by the 2009 season, but injuries ran down his career, and was released this offseason. He was signed, incidentally, by the Jets.

None of the Steelers' 2006 draft class is on the Steelers' roster and only Holmes and Colon played in the NFL in 2012.

Holmes and WR Plaxico Burress are the only two Steelers first round draft picks to not have received an extension when their rookie contracts were up. Burress has since re-signed with the Steelers in the twilight of his career.

The opportunity the Steelers had in getting two third round picks from the Vikings in exchange for Tarvaris Jackson was blown. Smith angered defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau after showboating his way off the field after an interception his rookie season, and comments made before the Steelers took on the New England Patriots in 2007 suggesting he was "guaranteeing" a victory (his comments were taken somewhat out of context, but few were surprised Smith wasn't able to avoid the situation) led to more distractions.

Colon's massive injury history, not a lack of talent, held him back, but outside of he and Holmes - who only played four years in Pittsburgh - the Steelers got nothing of value in this draft.

Overall grade

B


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