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Seven reasons from seven rounds to .500: Sixth round

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The Steelers have had more success finding capable players in the sixth round than many other rounds, highlighted by All-Pro WR Antonio Brown.

Geoff Burke

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.
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
Round 4
Round 5

2008 - Ryan Mundy
2008 - Mike Humpal
2009 - Ra'Shon Harris
2010 - Antonio Brown
2010 - Jonathan Dwyer
2011 - Keith Williams
2013 - Vince Williams
2013 - Justin Brown

It's a misleading stat, but dating all the way back to 2005, the Steelers have had at least one former sixth-round pick on their active roster. Offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu was joined by Mundy in 2008 making it two late-round picks suiting up each game.

The positive way to view that is the Steelers are somehow able to land talent consistently in the sixth round. That's especially evident when viewing the gold mine they struck in 2010, when they landed 2013 All Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, and serviceable running back Jonathan Dwyer.

Nothing new can be said about Brown - arguably the fastest player in and out of breaks among all receivers in the NFL. He broke the franchise's single-season receiving yards mark with 1,499 in 2013, and doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon. He could end up challenging franchise career marks by the time his career is over.

More realistically, Dwyer is a good example of the value the team finds. He was an on-again, off-again starter for the team since 2012, and was not signed back by the Steelers for 2014. He was cut in training camp in 2013, only to be re-signed later.

Mundy, also a back-up, was a spot-starter for both Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, and contributed for five seasons (four seasons on his rookie contract and one as a restricted free agent), and left for the Giants in 2013. He's now with the Chicago Bears.

The most recent example of his run of relative success is Vince Williams. He filled in for Larry Foote in 2013, and while he had his ups and downs, he'll go down as the first player not selected in the first round to start consistently for a Steelers team under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, and only the second player to do so (Jarvis Jones and Williams both started Pittsburgh's Week 2 game against Chicago in 2013).

Williams is a key player to watch in 2014; a level of improvement from him could be what the defense needs to rebound from a rough season. It could also be an indication the Steelers are again able to replenish their depth as well as find quality starters late in the draft.

His fellow 2013 sixth-round draft classmate, Justin Brown, is another player to watch this year. The tall, possession receiver will have an opportunity to make the roster after spending the 2013 season on the practice squad. He is, perhaps, the tall receiver Ben Roethlisberger has been hoping for the last few seasons.

Depending on how you want to define "success" in a draft, a round that has produced an All-Pro player and a few guys who turned out to be at least solid back-ups if not starters is impressive. Based on value, it's the team's most successful drafted round outside of the first since 2008.