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'Tomlin doesn't draft well' myth or reality? Part 2

It is officially the off season for The Pittsburgh Steelers, and thus the BTSC community is in full draft mode (at least it is when not lampooning or defending the antics of one Mr Sherman anyway). Since we are entering this Winter/Spring of discontent, I have decided to spend my time addressing the much bandied around phrase "Mike Tomlin doesn’t draft well". This sentiment has become particularly prominent this season because the Steelers have parted ways with many veterans from the Bill Cowher, and the results from younger players have not been up to the standard expected by the Steelers organisation and fans alike, namely back to back 8-8 records and two post seasons at home

To address this phrase I aim to objectively review the success of players drafted during Tomlin’s stint as Head Coach. No consideration is given to whether the player remains on the Steelers roster, only their overall success found in the league relative to their draft slot. The first part, reviewing the 2007 and 2008 draft class can be found here.

So, to begin with, the 2009 Draft class…

2009 NFL DRAFT (32nd pick)

Player(s) Selected

Notable players available near draft slot

1st round

Evander "Ziggy" Hood (DE)

James Laurinits (ILB), Jairus Byrd (S)

2nd round

N/A

N/A

3rd round

Kraig Urbik (G), Mike Wallace (WR), Keenan Lewis (CB)

None

4th round

N/A

N/A

5th round

Joe Burnett (CB), Frank Summers (FB)

None

6th round

Ra’Shon Harris (DT)

None

7th round

A.Q Shipley (C), David Johnson (TE)

None

This was the year after the 2008 Super Bowl victory so the Steelers had the enviable task of picking last at no 32. Ziggy Hood has been a somewhat polarizing figure amongst Steelers nation, viewed at worst by some as a complete bust, or at best a serviceable starter by others. He has been a starter for a couple of years now until being replaced by Cameron Heyward this year after the Vikings game, only to be plugged back in when Brett keisel was injured. Hood has been a frustrating player for me to watch personally. I have repeatedly read he is one of the strongest on the team, and in great condition, and I have felt for a while that some sensational breakthrough has been tantalizingly close, but just out of reach. I also just quite like ZIggy Hood, don’t know why, just do. It’s probably his name. While he has been an average/ slightly above average starter for the Steelers, you expect more from your 1st round pick, even at 32nd. There were still some pretty good players on the board as well, like Rams ILB Laurinaitis or Bills Free safety Jairus Byrd.

Kraig Urbik remained inactive for most of his rookie season after losing out on the reserve role to fellow undrafted rookie (and current O-line unsung hero) Ramon Foster. He was then waived before the start of the 2010 season. However he was puck up by the Buffalo Bills, who have since signed him to a deal through to 2016. He has started 44 games for the Bills since, and from what I can gather has been pretty solid. A good solid player, a good solid pick by Tomlin, just a pity there wasn’t room for him at the Steelers.

Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins last off season for five years $60 million. That’s a fairly ringing endorsement of this draft choice, even if he was overpayed. He currently has around 300 receptions, 4,600 yards and 36 touchdowns for his career in five seasons as well as one pro bowl selection. That’s not bad by any standards. Even if he is a one trick pony, which I’m not saying he is, he does that one trick where he runs straight at lightening pace very well. A great pick in the 3rd round.

Keenan Lewis did not see much significant playing time until his third year, and became a starter in his 4th , where by all accounts he was had a pretty good year. His departure to the New Orleans Saints is still a sore point for much of Steelers nation including myself, but what d’ya gonna do? Rob Ryan called him the steal of the 2013 free agency, and he has played brilliantly for the Saints. Watching the difference in the defense after his departure in the Eagles playoff game is a good example. Another great pick in the 3rd round.

Joe Burnett made the 53 man roster his rookie year, but he was cut prior to the 2010 season. He bounced around a couple of teams and is now in the CFL. Just a swing a miss here in the 5th, not a great pick.

Frank Summers played two games in his rookie season at FB before being placed on injured reserve. He was cut prior to the 2010 season and placed on the practice squad where he was signed by those pesky Buffalo Bills, where he scored a rushing touchdown against the Jets this season. An ok pick, a FB is rarely ever going to blow anyone away and he has maintained a role in the NFL for 5 seasons.

Ra’Shon Harris did not make the final roster in his rookie season and was cut. He has bounced around team practice squads, including the Steelers three times, and is now a free agent. Obviously a failed pick in the 6th round but you can’t hit on them all.

The only notable thing about A. Q. Shipley is that his name rolls off the tongue delightfully, and he would sound right at home as a Victorian shopkeeper in a Dickens novel. He did not make the roster as a rookie, bounced around a few teams and is now on the Ravens providing depth. For a 7th round pick the fact he is still in the NFL on a team’s roster is a success, so an ok pick here, nothing special.

Tight End David Johnson has been with the Steelers for 5 years contributing fairly little, but has none the less filled out the depth chart and been a camp body, as well as catching a 1 yard TD catch against the Titans in 2011 bless his wee soul. He is a FA this year.

Review- From a quick glance the 2009 NFL draft did not appear to be particularly talent laden in general; however Mike Tomlin had a very solid/ pretty good draft here. He drafted a solid starter in DE Ziggy Hood, although perhaps his value in the 1st round was not great, and another in guard Kraig Urbik , even if the Bills are reaping the rewards. He struck gold twice in the third round with Pro Bowler Mike Wallace and above average starter Keenan Lewis, both of whom are key players for their franchises. From the 5th round onwards there were a couple of straight up busts and players who have filled out depth charts across the league, which although understandable, is not any Head Coaches idea of acceptable. Out of 10, I’d give the 2009 Draft Class a B+.

2010 NFL Draft (Pick 18)

Player(s) Selected

Notable players available near draft slot

1st round

Maurkice Pouncey (C)

Demaryius Thomas (WR), Dez Bryant (WR)

2nd round

Jason Worilds (OLB)

Sean Lee (ILB)

3rd round

Emmanuel Sanders (WR)

Erick Decker (WR), Jimmy Graham (TE), Navarrow Bowman (ILB)

4th round

Thaddeus Gibson (DE)

Kam Chancellor (S)

5th round

Chris Scott (OT), Crezdon Butler (CB), Stevenson Sylvester (ILB)

Greg Hardy (DE/OLB)

6th round

Jonathon Dwyer (RB), Antonio Brown (WR)

None

7th round

Doug Worthington (DT)

None

Dumb hats aside, Maurkice Pouncey has been the Steelers best offensive lineman virtually since he joined the team as a rookie. He is a three time All Pro and three time Pro Bowler. Any time you get that production out of a player it is a great success. Although I believe the hype with Pouncey is at times more than the product itself, there is no doubt he is a top tier Center in the league, and he is still only young. Just having a look at the reeling state of the o-line after his injury shows his importance to the unit and the team. He also gets more favourably judged because I love his twitter hash tag "BMS" (Big Man Swag), just awesome stuff.

Jason Worilds was a second round pick that could have been dangerously close to being viewed as a bust were it not for a break out this season. His rapid improvement after moving over the left side of the defense has been well documented, but it did help produce a career high in sacks, and Worilds looked dominant at times. And, although I don’t profess much ability in determining or evaluating this, by what I have read and seen his play against the run improved markedly. He looks to be on his way to becoming one of the better 3-4 OLB’s in the league, so for now this looks like a great pick in the 2nd round for Tomlin.

Emmanuel Sanders has been occasionally sacrificed at the altar of scapegoatyness this season (yes it’s a thing, seriously look it up if you don’t believe me) by some fans needing a target to blame for a few close losses. In reality, Sanders in his four year career has been a solid no 2/3 receiver for Ben Roethlisberger, who coincidentally clearly values Sanders after lobbying for his retention when them spy gate b***ards the New England Patriots tried to poach him away. He had 740 yards and 6 Td’s this season, pretty respectable numbers for a 3rd rounder. There is virtually no chance he is resigned by the Steelers so he will have a chance to put up bigger numbers elsewhere. When looking at who remained on the board at the time though, there were some pretty sensational players in Navarrow Bowman and Jimmy Graham still available.

Thaddeus Gibson was drafted to be a linebacker, and made the 53 man roster; however he had to be cut because a roster spot was needed for Steve Mclendon when a rash of injuries struck the Dline. He hasn’t caught on anywhere else after bouncing around the league. He is currently with the Dallas Cowboys. Apparently Tomlin was quite high on him but for all purposes this pick was a bust since Giboson has never contributed elsewhere. A bad pick in the 4th round.

Chris Scott was played in two games for the Steelers before being cut one month into his rookie season. He is on the Panthers roster now after bouncing around several teams practice squads. Very marginable contributions, another bad pick.

Who on earth drafts a player with the name Crezdon? In any case Butler was cut after a season on the Steelers roster. He has contributed on other teams, and is currently a member of the Chargers. It was not a bad pick considering he is still in the NFL and contributing, just not a good pick either.

Sly Sylvester made the Steelers team and has provided depth the last four years, getting cut briefly and then resigned this year. He is a free agent this year. He has never developed into a starter, but has played in some games for the Steelers. He played a lot of snaps against the Packers this season, setting the alight with his blazing mediocrity. Still, a good depth pick in the 5th round.

Jonathon Dwyer has infuriated Tomlin over the course of his career for poor condition and occasional bursts of lacklustre effort, but that was his reputation pre-draft so shouldn’t be much of a surprise. He has been a good short yardage back this season, but it is unlikely he’ll ever be anything more than that considering Ray Charles has better vision than him. Good draft choice in the 6th , solid complementary back.

Antonio Brown is a superstar. The fact he was drafted in the 6th round just makes it better. In 2010 he became the first player in history to amass 1,000 returning and receiving yards, leading to a Pro Bowl spot. This season he set an NFL record for consistency, broke the Steelers single season receiving record and became only the second Steelers receiver ever to reach triple digit receptions. He is still only 25. Tomlin can hang his hat on this one.

Doug Worthington did not make the roster in his rookie year. He is currently on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers injured reserve. Swing and a miss in the 7th round.

Review- This was a great draft under Tomlin. Brown and Pouncey have 4x All Pro selections and 6x Pro Bowl selections between them. Emmanuel Sanders has developed into a solid if unspectacular no 2 receiver. Jason Worilds looks to be on the cusp of being very good. Stevenson Sylvester, Crezdon Butler and Jonathon Dwyer are all solid/depth players. That leaves only two busts from 10 selections. Again, what a draft from Tomlin.


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