Seven reasons from seven rounds to .500: Third round

Karl Walter

Pittsburgh saw a mass exodus of third round picks taken in the last six years. Of eight players, only two are on the roster, and one of those two (Sean Spence) has yet to see the field. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Sanders, Keenan Lewis, Mike Wallace and Kraig Urbik have all found themselves recipients of contract extensions elsewhere.

A draft is more about adding talent for the future than it is adding it to the present. The result of the Steelers' drafts since 2008 have been more negative than positive, but each round appears to have a different reason based on the decisions the team has made. We explore each round and get to the root problem of each one.
Read the first round analysis here.
Second round

Round 3 - Exodus

2008 - Bruce Davis

2009 - Keenan Lewis

2009 - Mike Wallace

2009 - Kraig Urbik

2010 - Emmanuel Sanders

2011 - Curtis Brown

2012 - Sean Spence

2013 - Markus Wheaton

There are two players from the eight the Steelers have drafted in the third round of since 2008 - wide receiver Markus Wheaton and linebacker Sean Spence - who will take snaps for the Steelers this season. And Spence isn't even a certainty.

Like any team, you have your busts (Bruce Davis) at a draft spot over a six-year period of time. Amazingly, the Steelers have both a multitude of picks and a very strong track record. Maybe even too strong.

After Davis's career came to an unceremonius end at some point, the Steelers' big 2009 third-round class signified a change in the direction of the franchise. The problem is, they cut Urbik out of camp (rumors behind why are numerous), Wallace and Lewis, childhood friends and high school teammates, both left via free agency in 2013, Sanders left via free agency in 2014 right after Brown was cut.

This mass exodus of young talent represents the missing generation currently in the Steelers' locker room. A franchise once known for developing outstanding talent that could, eventually, replace the aging players ahead of them on the depth chart dwindled down to nothing over the past two seasons.

Blame for this can simply be placed on the combination of younger players wanting to leave for financial windfall (Wallace scored a $60 million contract with Miami), or perhaps personal reasons (Lewis signed with his hometown Saints, although he would later say the Steelers never made him an offer). Some will blame a combination of stinginess on behalf of the Steelers as well as a lack of foresight, given their salary cap position in many ways wasn't flexible enough to have kept some of these players. Then of course there's Davis who simply should not have been drafted, and Brown, who's really just a special teams player.

No other round in the last six years is a better reflection of the height of the team's scouting prowess, but also no round typifies what appears to be the ramifications of keeping older, more expensive players on the roster. Wallace's deal would have grossly exceeded any other deal given to a wide receiver in team history, but Lewis's contract seemed reasonable, given the market. Perhaps the team wasn't confident in Lewis's ability to get that money and were preparing to make him an offer based on other moves that would have been made. Or maybe the team's mindset all along was let Lewis walk, and aim to sign Cortez Allen to an extension in 2015.

The Lost Generation of Steelers draft picks from that 2009 class hurt the team's depth over the last two seasons. It should not be considered a coincidence the two top positions of need in this coming draft are cornerback and wide receiver.

The front office just better be sure, come 2018, these are players that can be retained.

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