Let's continue our countdown of the Top 10 Draft Successes in the Kevin Colbert with my No. 7 pick, linebacker Larry Foote. For those seeing the list for the first time, take note that I'm excluding first round picks from my list of 'successes'.
Back to Foote. Reunited with the Steelers after a lone season away in Detroit, Foote joined the Steelers as a fourth round selection (128th overall) in the 2002 NFL Draft. The former Michigan Wolverines backer contributed mostly on special teams during his first two years before taking over as the 'buck' inside linebacker in Dick LeBeau's system in 2004. All he did was rattle off 80 consecutive regular season starts without missing a game between '04 and '08. He also started all twelve of the Steelers' postseason games during that time span, most notably in the team's two Super Bowl runs in '05 and '08. In his eight seasons in the black and gold, he's totaled 454 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 16 passes defended and 7 forced fumbles.
In '10, Foote admirably took a backseat to Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior, chipping in on special teams instead while waiting for the infrequent chance to see the field on defense. When I asked Foote at the Super Bowl about his new role on the team, he showed his professionalism and his self-confidence. He said he was just happy to be back in Pittsburgh with his guys, and was happy doing whatever he could to help. But he also said he's got that itch to be on the field regularly making plays for the league's best defense. And why wouldn't he? He's not yet 31 years old and he's used to playing nearly every snap of every season since breaking into the starting lineup in '04.
Will he get an opportunity to scratch that itch in Pittsburgh either in '11 or '12 before his contract is up? Who knows, injuries certainly can't be predicted, and perhaps this will finally be the year that Farrior's play deteriorates to the point where he's too much of a liability to continue starting. There's also the possibility that the Steelers try to save some money by releasing Foote and his $2-plus million dollar contract.
None of that matters though for now. This is a celebration of what the big dividends Foote has already paid to the organization on and off the field. And it's a tip of the cap to Kevin Colbert for drafting a high-character, productive linebacker in the middle rounds of the '02 Draft.
Kevin Colbert's Top 10 Draft 'Successes'
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