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Steelers Draft Class Revisited: 2000

Blitz and I continue our look back at previous Steelers draft classes with a review of the 2000 Draft. It should first be noted that this was year one of the Kevin Colbert era. Following Mr. Donahoe, Colbert certainly had big shoes to fill. Most of us feel he's done so admirably, but the 2000 draft, despite not being terrible by any stretch, is probably not included in Colbert's top-ten career achievements. If you missed it and would like to do so, check back at our 1998 and 1999 revisits.

-Blitz and cgolden-

1st Round, 8th pick - Plaxico Burress WR Michigan State
Plaxico, the eighth overall choice in 2000, spent five seasons in Pittsburgh before being allowed to walk in free agency. He's a pretty polarizing figure for Steelers fans. Many see him as guy who couldn't adjust to not being the focal point in the offense and simply wasn't a team player. Others think he just got a bad wrap. No matter what you think of him, it's hard to argue with his talent. With so many first round busts from recent wide receivers, Burress has proved that play-making wide receivers can still be worth an early pick. In his eight seasons, he's started 113 games, had four seasons with over 1,000 yards, and four seasons with at least seven touchdowns. In the end though, most Steelers fans with remember Plax for things like this:

"It's Pittsburgh, which speaks for itself. They're not going to change," Burress said of the Steelers' run-heavy offense. "I'm not going to change. Three or four balls just doesn't suit me very well."

Better suited for the bright lights of the Big
Apple than the lunch-pail mentality of the 'Burgh

I'm sure Plax will say he's much happier in New York, but the fact is, his single greatest season as a pro, both in terms of yards and receptions, came in Pittsburgh in 2002 when caught 78 passes for 1,325 yards. It's not the pass-happy nature of New York that Plax prefers. It's the money and the cameras. Nevertheless, Plax served us well while here. If you have talent, you have the opportunity to make big bucks after your rookie contract expires. Burress did just that, and that's just fine. Grade: B+

2nd Round, 38th pick - Marvel Smith, OT Arizona State
Marvel has started 103 games for the Steelers in his eight seasons and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2005. Even though he'll never get mentioned among the league's best at left tackle, Smith has still had a solid career. He's equally good at pass and run blocking and has been a team player as evidenced by him restructuring his contract twice since 2003. The only knock you can make on Smith's career could be that he's missed a fair number of games in recent years. He hasn't played back-to-back full seasons since '02-'03 and has missed a total of 18 games the past five seasons. He's been an integral member of O-lines that have paved the way for some of the league's best rushing attacks, and up until the past few years, he's done his part in limiting sacks on Steelers QBs. 2007 was a disappointment because the collective play of the line was poor, but Smith's tricky back injury probably played a role in his mediocre campaign. In fact, before he was shut down for the year, I believe he gave up 5 sacks in one game, something that's unheard of for any tackle, let alone a Pro-Bowler. 2008 is a huge season for Smith's financial future, considering he'll turn 30 years old and is entering the final year of his contract. He'll also be playing for first time in his career without Alan Faneca by his side. His health should go a long way to determining his future. Grade: A-

The health of Marvel's back is one of the more
significant question marks heading into '08.

3rd Round, 72nd pick - Kendrick Clancy, DT Mississippi
Clancy spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, but only started four games (played in 44) totaling just 22 tackles and zero sacks. To his credit though Clancy has managed to bounce around to three different teams the past three years and has started 28 games over that time while playing in 41 total. Clancy might have had a better future in Steel Town if Casey Hampton hadn't been drafted in 2001. Then again, had Clancy shown more promise or if the Steelers believed in his ability more, they probably wouldn't have used their first round pick on Big Snack the following year. Clancy can thank Hampton for giving him a second chance though because Kendrick was actually cut prior to the 2004 season and was resigned off the street after Hampton tore his ACL eight games into the season. Grade: C+

4th Round, 77th Overall: Hank Poteat, CB Pittsburgh
Poteat, a Philadelphia native who played his ball in Pittsburgh, spent the first three years of his 8-year career with Pittsburgh. Though he played some DB here, he mainly earned his paycheck as a punt and kick returner. As a kick returner, he was only decent, averaging 19.4, 15.6 and 20.6 yards per return in his first three years. He was fairly solid as a punt returner though, especially during his rookie season, when he took one the distance and finished the year with a healthy 13 yards per return average. Compare that with Rossum's 6.4 yards per return in '07 and you can understand why we thought we maybe had something in Poteat. Poteat's contributions on special teams weren't enough to keep him around though. Since 2002, he has joined three other teams in the past five years, most recently for the Jets in '07. During that time he's played in 81 games, starting 17, and totaling 122 tackles and 2 interceptions. Poteat was cut by the Steelers before the 2003 season but was signed by the Buccaneers. He played in just one game during that season before getting cut halfway through. It appeared he might be out of football until he was signed by the Patriots right before the 2004 season's playoffs. He would play in each of their playoff games and ended with a championship ring and 3 tackles. Poteat stayed on with New England until he was cut midway through the 2006 season and was signed by the Jets just one day later. 2007 was actually Poteet's best season as a pro when he started 9 games and totaled 37 tackles, while recording his first two interceptions. Grade: B-

Hank Poteat joined Mike Vrabel as former
Steelers who joined the Evil Empire

4th Round, 103rd pick pick - Danny Farmer, WR UCLA
Farmer not only didn't play a game in the Black and Gold, he never even broke camp with the team. He was among the final cuts in training camp in 2000 and was picked up by the Bengals before the Steelers could sign him to the practice squad. Farmer played three seasons in Cincy and ended his career with just 4 starts (33 games total) totaling 43 receptions for 611 yards and one touchdown. Grade: D

5th Round, 137th pick: Clark Haggans, LB Colorado State
The Colorado State product started 61 games over his eight year career with the Steelers and has been the primary starter for the past four seasons. Haggans didn't have his best year in 2007 but his contributions the past eight seasons shouldn't be overlooked. He's had four seasons with at least six sacks and three seasons with at least 50 tackles. He also started and recorded a sack in the Super Bowl. Not bad for a fifth round pick.

Haggans averaged 6 1/4 sacks a year in his
final four years in Pittsburgh

Haggans was good enough to contribute when he was younger and had more lively legs, but now that he's on the downhill part of his career, he doesn't have the size, speed or strength to really be a force in a defense that aims to be atop the league standings each year. That may be a bit harsh and overstated, as Haggans has averaged 5 sacks and 45 tackles per year the past two seasons. But if nothing else, Haggans is now expendable with LaMarr Woodley in the mix for a fraction of the price.  Grade: B

5th Round, 163rd pick: Tee Martin, QB Tennessee
After the Kordell Stewart soap-opera, it's somewhat odd that the Steelers felt compelled to roll the dice on another slightly undersized QB who made his mark in college running the option. Martin's career stats include 3 games (1 with Pitt, 2 with Oakland) with 6 completions on 16 attempts for 69 yards. He threw one interception and zero touchdowns and also added 36 yards on 6 attempts. Martin lasted just two seasons with the Steelers (1 game, 1 rushing attempt) and he got one other chance in Oakland during the 2003 season when he played in two games. He also played one season in NFL Europe and one season in the Canadian football league.  Martin continues to be involved in football though as he owns Playmakers Sports, an organization devoted to combine training, as well as QB and skill position development camps. It's nice to see that even though his NFL career wasn't successful, he is still successful in life. Grade: D

Though he wasn't a standout player, Tee's
making a name for himself as a coach/trainer.

6th Round, 173rd pick: Chris Combs, DE Duke
Combs hung on in the NFL for just three seasons, playing in 10 games and totaling one tackle. He was cut by the Steelers before the 2002 season when he was beat out by seventh round pick, Brett Keisel. He was signed by Jacksonville for the 2003 season but played in just two games and didn't register a tackle. Note to the Steelers' front office: we trust the decisions you make, but try to avoid any and all football players that come out of Duke. Cool? Grade: D-

6th Round, 204th pick: Jason Gavadza, TE Ken State
Gavadza never broke camp with the Steelers and bounced around several NFL teams including St. Louis, Carolina and Baltimore (on their practice squad their SB year). He played one season in NFL Europe and as recently as 2005 was playing in the CFL for the BC Lions. Grade: D-

Overall: There ya have it. Following '98 and '99's deep draft classes, 2000 was less of an overwhelming success. The only real value we found on the 2nd day was Clark Haggans, who may be leaving on a sour note, but still shouldn't be dismissed as irrelevant in our success this decade.  We did have an explosive aerial attack with Plax for several years, Marvel Smith (despite his uncertain status in '08 and beyond) has become a proven commodity along the line, and Clark Haggans helped us win a Super Bowl before his acerbic departure this offseason.