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2005 Draft: A Year Later...

Let's take a quick look at how the Steelers' 2005 draft picks fared in their rookie campaigns.

Heath Miller
1st Round, 30th Pick, TE, University of Virginia.

2005 Stats:
39   459   11.8   50   6

Miller was as good, if not better, than advertised in 2005.  He caught lots of big balls in traffic, blocked well, and is only going to get better as he learns how to consistently get open.  Miller was bigtime in the playoffs, especially in the Indianapolis game, where he caught 3 balls for 61 yards and a touchdown.  I actually though Mark Bruener would be missed before we got Miller.  I expect big things for years to come.

*Bryant McFadden
2nd Round, 62nd overall pick, CB, Florida State

McFadden emerged in 2005 as a steady backup and integral part of nickel and dime packages.  McFadden is a physical corner, who's strong enough to bump WRs off their routes. He's not exceptionally fast though. McFadden surpased the Steelers' 2nd Round pick, Ricarco Colclough, as the Nickel back by mid-season.  He finished the season with 17 tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception.  He made one of the bigger plays of the season against the Colts, when he made a great play against Reggie Wayne in the endzone, helping to secure the W.  The loss of Chris Hope to Tennessee means McFadden will have to play a much bigger role in 2006.

*Trai Essex
3rd Round, 93rd overall pick, OG, Northwestern.

Essex got the chance to start three games in 2005 when Marvel Smith got injured.  His first three games were against some of the better pass rushers in the league: Dwight Freeney, Alex Brown, and Terrell Suggs.  He held his own in all three starts.  Essex is pretty good in run blocking, but needs to work on his technique in pass protection. He was considered a project when the Steelers drafted him, and he needs to continue to improve under the tutelage of Offensive Line Coach Russ Grimm this offseason.

* Fred Gibson
4th Round, 131st Pick, WR, Georgia.

Gibson was cut by the Steelers prior to the beginning of the 2005 season.  Gibson was the highest-drafted player since Danny Farmer in 2000 to be released the same year he was drafted.  Gibson was acquired by the Miami Dolphins, but failed to see any action in 2005.

*Rian Wallace
5th Round, 166th Pick, OLB, Temple

Wallace, a product of the powerhouse football school Temple, managed to get in the game during week 10 against the Browns, but did not record a tackle.  He saw playing time against Denver in the Conference Championship game, making one tackle in the Steelers victory.  Wallace might see more time this year if one of the Steelers' primary LBs goes down.  He happens to be better against the run than the pass, so its unlikely he'll get extended playing time in 3rd down situations.  He made solid contributions on special teams when James Harrison and Andrew Frazier got hurt.  He'll likely fill a similar role in 2006, barring additional injuries to his teamates.

*Chris Kemoeatu
6th Round, 204th Overall Pick, OG, Utah

Kemoeatu is borderline overweight at 340+ lbs.  He's a massive presence, but is not extremely athletic or mobile. Kemoeatu didn't enter a game in 2005, but he was more than impressive at Utah, where he garnered 1st Team All-American Honors his senior year while not allowing a sack.  I still expect solid things from him, perhaps even a starter by 2007.  I think this was an extremely solid 6th Round pick.

*Chris Nua
7th Round, 228th Overall Pick, DE, BYU

Nua never dressed in 2005, remaining inactive the entire season. Like Polamalu, Nua is also Samoan.  That's about all he has in common with the hard hitting safety though.  We'll see if Nua contributes more this year with Kimo no longer a Steeler.

*Chris Herron
7th Round, 244th Overall Pick, FB, Northwestern

Herron was picked up the Packers and even had a couple of carries for them in Week 1.  I love Dan Kreider and have not once thought about what might have been with Herron.  Best of luck to him.

For the first time in three years, the Steelers did not make a deal to move up in the draft (they once again did so in 2006, trading up in the first round to secure Santonio Holmes).  The biggest pickup of the draft was, of course, Heath Miller, who seems primed to be a productive tight end for Pittsburgh for many years to come.  Had it not been for Miller's sports hernia injury prior to the draft, the Stelers might not have been able to get him where they did.  It was also somewhat surprising that McFadden stayed on the board for so long.  The Steelers carried their good fortune into Day 2 of the draft, picking up one of the bigger steals of the draft in Kemoeatu.  I know he didn't play in 2005, but this guy's big, physical, and talented.  

Overall Grade: A-