Steelers Draft Countdown: Revisiting the class of 2007

Joe Sargent

Bill Cowher was out, former Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was in. A different draft mentality, perhaps, but after a disastrous 2006 season in which the defending champions failed to make the playoffs, the team needed an infusion of athleticism on the defensive side of the ball.

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 (15) Lawrence Timmons, LB, Florida State
2 (46) LaMarr Woodley, LB, Michigan
3 (77) Matt Spaeth, TE, Minnesota
4 (112) Daniel Sepulveda, P, Baylor
4 (132) Ryan McBean, DL, Oklahoma State
5 (156) Cameron Stephenson, OG, Rutgers
5 (170) William Gay, CB, Louisville
7 (227) Dallas Baker, WR, Florida

Background

The obvious choices for the next Steelers head coach were offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm. The actual choice was Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.

At 34 years of age at the time of his hire, he fit right in with the Steelers' mantra of hiring young head coaches and keeping them in place for a while. The first major hurdle he would have to clear, though, would be the 2007 NFL Draft.

Steelers Drafts: 2003 2004 2005 2006

With a talented team in place already, Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert still had some luxuries in the process of molding their roster. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was coming off a down year after a motorcycle accident and an eventual appendectomy cost him the first game of the 2006 season. He regressed in his second season but clearly showed he would be able to lead this team in the future.

Draft Day

The Steelers were rumored to have wanted the local product, Pitt cornerback Darrelle Revis, with the 15th overall pick. The Jets secured a trade with the Carolina Panthers to move one spot ahead of the Steelers to take the man who would later be known as Revis Island (and hold out multiple times due to contract issues).

The selection of Timmons, the unpolished but freakishly athletic 20-year-old with only one season of experience at Florida State, wasn't a surprise as much as it was a nod to Tomlin's desire to bring in athletes.

Timmons has been athletic, if not a bit slow to learn. While Timmons is emerging as one of the better linebackers in the game, he didn't get on the field right away, partially due to injury, partially due to comprehension.

The younger player motif is something the Steelers would stick with in the future, as well as their ability to convert college defensive ends into pro outside linebackers. LaMarr Woodley, the team's second round pick, barely played his first year, but had an outstanding run from 2008 on. While he's been struck down by lingering injuries the last two seasons, he has been among the most productive players at his position since being drafted.

In fact, Timmons and Woodley became the first pair of top Steelers picks to earn contract extensions since Mark Bruener and Kordell Stewart in 1995.

In a surprise move, the team traded up in the fourth round to net Baylor punter Daniel Sepulveda. Not a popular move, it never panned out to a higher level, largely due to two ACL tears he suffered in his time in Pittsburgh. He had torn an ACL in college as well.

Matt Spaeth left the Steelers after his rookie deal, only to return in 2013. Ryan McBean never made the Steelers but has remained in the league since being drafted.

The Steelers got value out of William Gay in the fifth round, another player who left Pittsburgh but will return in 2013. Gay covered the slot and started in Pittsburgh with varying results, but is a solid veteran who understands the system well.

Overall Grade

B+


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