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Former Steelers Draft Classes Revisited: 2003

cgodlen and I continue our collborative series examining recent draft classes with an entry on the 2003 draft. Compared to the success we had in 2002, this year was less impressive. We did select one of the more incredible, entertaining, recognizable and popular players in the NFL today in Round 1, and we got tremendous value in Round 4, but other than that, it wasn't Colbert & Co's finest day at the office.

-Blitz and cgolden-

Round 1 - Troy Polamalu

The Steelers traded up from the 27th to 16th slot to get their guy and it's hard to argue with the decision in retrospect. We're now five years into Troy's career, and he's already one of the most popular and recognizable Steelers, not just of recent years, but of all-time. He's been selected to the the Pro Bowl four years running and has been an All-Pro player in both years that he played a full season ('04 and '05) The only knock on Troy to this point would have to be the injury problem that has developed since we won the Super Bowl. He's missed eight combined games in the past two years, including five in '07. There have been a number of games where he's played, but not been near full strength as well.

When healthy he's one of the most dynamic defensive players in the league and one of the more entertaining players to watch perform his craft in any sport. Polamalu has totalled nearly 360 tackles, 7 sacks, and 10 interceptions during his career. For what it's worth the Chiefs drafted Larry Johnson after they traded down with the Steelers. Grade: A

Round 2 - Alonzo Jackson

The former Florida State Seminole is one of the biggest draft busts in recent Steelers memory. Jackson, a DE in college, was expected to make the transition to OLB in the pros. For reasons that seem impossible to comprehend now, the coaching staff fell in love with Jackson's potential versatility as both a pass rusher and LB. Think LaMarr Woodley and how he was projected to evolve from the college game to the pros. The Steelers made the common mitsake of becoming overly impressed by Jackson's measurables at the 2003 Combine. Jackson seemed to have a solid collegiate career, but they definitely were reaching when they took him 59th overall, as he wasn't projected to be a first day selection.

Jackson not only couldn't live up to his second round selection, he couldn't manage to get on the field at all.

Biggest 2nd-round waste in Steelers history? Possibly.

After a couple of seasons in which he played in nine games total and almost entirely on special teams, he was cut. He bounced around with a couple of teams during the '05 season and even started one game for the Giants. His career would last only three seasons and he totaled 24 tackles (only 8 of which came with the Steelers). He's still only 27 years old, so maybe he should be brought in to compete on special teams. Or not. Grade: F

Round 3 - No Selection. Pick lost to Kansas City in draft-day deal to move up in Round 1.

Round 4 - Ike Taylor

Ike was selected as the 125th overall pick in the 2003 draft out of Louisiana Lafayette. After two years as a reserve in '03 and '04, Taylor broke out in a huge way in 2005. That year, Taylor recorded a career best 91 tackles and established himself as one of the better run-stopping corners in the league. I had forgotten this, but Taylor also had two huge playoff INTs in '05. The first came against Denver in the AFC Championship game that helped us race out to a early lead. The other came in the Super Bowl on a Seahawks' drive that appeared to be leading to points.

It's easy to understand why Taylor was rewarded with a huge extension prior to the '06 season. 2006 was a tough year though for Ike, but as we've seen with Kendall Simmons, Troy P. and countless other around the league over the years, the season following a big extension often times are disappointing. I don't question Taylor's effort that year, but for a number of reasons, he seemed to regress significantly along with the rest of the pass defense.

Taylor's intense offseason regiments are one of the
reasons he's been so durable

Taylor had a solid rebound year in '07. He still has stones for hands and that's just probably not going to change...ever. That's unfortunate because he does such a great job putting himself in position to make plays on the football. Even though Taylor finished with three picks last year, he should have at least 6, maybe even more. He'll have a hard time garnering the respect he may deserve around the league unless he can get that statistic up. Taylor has been remarkably durable as a Steeler and should be considered one of the better selections we've made in recent years. At just 27 years of age, Taylor has at least five more years of good football left in him. I sure hope so, because he is, and will remain, one of the higher paid Steelers. Grade: A

Round 5 - Brian St. Pierre

The Boston College product was an interesting selection considering the Steelers already had Maddox and Batch on the depth chart at QB. St. Pierre never made a serious run at being anything more than a third string quarterback but as a fifth round selection the fact that he's been in the league for at least 5 years is somewhat of an accomplishment.

When called upon, St. Pierre holds a clipboard with the
best of them

For his career (almost entirely with the Steelers) he attempted one pass and four rushing attempts, all in the 2004 regular season finale. He was activated off the practice squad just two days before the game and took a bootleg for two yards on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory and a 15-1 season. Grade: C-

Round 6 - No Selection. Pick lost to Kansas City in draft-day deal to move up in Round 1.

Round 7 - JT Wall

Wall was a FB at the University of Georgia. Selected in the 7th round as the 242nd overall pick, Wall never made it in Pittsburgh, or anywhere for that matter, in his brief NFL career. Wall was cut before the '03 season, and then was not heard from until being signed by the Colts in '05. Wall never made the squad there though and for the life of me, I can't seem to find anything on what he has been up to since, be it minor-league ball or selling insurance. It's hard to complain about wasted picks in this round, but surely there have to be years when we're able to find talent in the late rounds. How do guys like Selvin Young, Fast Willie Parker, Priest Holmes, Rod Smith all go undrafted? Is there an incentive for teams to bypass them in the later rounds and sign them as an unrestricted free-agent afterwards? I'm not sure, maybe you guys have an idea. Grade: F

Overall Grade: ___?. Anytime you procure a player that will go down as one of the most popular players in Steelers history, and perhaps to the Hall of Fame if he can stay healthy for another 8 years somehow, you can't call that draft a bust by any means. We also got a legitimate starting CB in Ike Taylor that seems to be getting better, and has proven that he can stay healthy. Taylor really seemed to improve working with Tomlin a bit this year, so who knows if he's even reached his ceiling yet. However, the rest of this class is either non-existant, doesn't contribute except in the film room, or was lost in exchange for the rights to draft higher in Round 1. cgolden and myself disagreed a bit on how to evaluate this draft as a whole, so we'll just leave it open for you guys to fill in then share what we were thinking afterwards.