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What happened to the Steelers’ 2005 draft class?

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft in April, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos Photo by Rob Leiter via Getty Images

The 2021 NFL draft is three months away. Each week leading up to the draft, we are going to dive into an NFL draft class starting with the Steelers 2004 NFL draft. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers will be highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. As we get to more recent years, some will be combined as many of those draft choices are still with the Steelers.

Part 2 of 15 will highlight the Steelers 2005 NFL draft.

So let’s take a look at the eight players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2005 NFL draft:

Heath Miller

Tight end, Virginia

Round 1
Pick 30

The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers managed to go 15-1 and reach the AFC Championship Game despite not having a tight end with double-digit receptions on the season. Drafting at the bottom of the 2005 NFL draft, the Steelers found their answer in tight end Heath Miller out of Virginia. With 39 receptions and six touchdowns his rookie season, Miller played 11 years in Pittsburgh and earned two Pro Bowls. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Miller still holds the Steelers’ record of touchdowns by a tight end in a season with eight. Ben Roethlisberger’s safety net for the majority of his career, Miller retired following the 2015 season as arguably the greatest tight end in Steelers history with 49 career touchdowns and over 7,000 receiving yards.

Bryant McFadden

Defensive back, Florida St.

Round 2
Pick 62

The story of Bryant McFadden it’s quite interesting when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. After being drafted in the second round in 2005, McFadden played with the Steelers for four seasons where he started 18 games while appearing in 51. With seven interceptions in his four years, one of which was returned for a touchdown, McFadden left for the Arizona Cardinals following his rookie contract and the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII victory. Starting every game while in a Cardinals uniform, McFadden was traded back to Pittsburgh during the 2010 NFL draft. The Cardinals acquired the Steelers fifth-round pick and drafted quarterback John Skelton while sending their sixth-round selection and McFadden to the Steel City. Interestingly enough, the Steelers selected Antonio Brown with this draft pick.

In two more years with the Steelers, McFadden started 17 games while appearing in 29 and grabbed two more interceptions. McFadden was released following the 2011 NFL season which ended up being his last.

Trai Essex

Tackle, Northwestern

Round 3
Pick 93

Playing every spot along the offensive line at some point in his career, Trey Essex served as a reserve lineman for the Steelers in his first four seasons. Following the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII victory, Essex earned the starting job at right guard in 2009 and started all 16 games. In 2010, an early injury had Essex in and out of the starting lineup before Ramon Foster ended up securing the position. In his final start of his NFL career, Essex filled in for injured center Doug Legursky for one game at the end of the 2011 season. After failing to make the Steelers for the 2012 season, Essex played two games with the Indianapolis Colts to finish out his NFL career.

Fred Gibson

Wide receiver, Georgia

Round 4
Pick 131

As much as the Pittsburgh Steelers have hit home runs in drafting wide receivers, the occasional dud still happens. Enter Fred Gibson, who failed to make the Steelers 53-man roster his rookie season after being drafted in the fourth round. Gibson spent two seasons on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad after failing to make the Steelers. Signed by the Falcons the following offseason, Gibson was released early during training camp after reportedly missing a team meeting. Gibson joined the St. Louis Rams shortly after for their training camp but did not make their 53-man roster. Instead, Gibson landed on the practice squad of the New York Giants but did not even last a week. The next spring, Gibson was drafted in the 10th round of the NBA D-league and played 45 games with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds.

Rian Wallace

Linebacker, Temple

Round 5
Pick 166

Only playing for the Steelers for two seasons, Rian Wallace appeared in 16 games and had 11 tackles. A member of the Steelers Super Bowl XL team, Wallace appeared in both the Divisional Round and Conference Championship Game of the 2005 playoffs but not in the Super Bowl itself. His career highlight was a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown in Week 6 of the 2006 season against the Kansas City Chiefs, the first game in which Wallace appeared that season. With the Steelers leading 38-7 late in the fourth quarter, Wallace intercepted Chiefs’ backup quarterback Brody Croyle. After spending some time with the Washington Redskins franchise in 2008, Wallace did not appear in a game. Wallace went on to play with the New York Sentinels of the UFL and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League.

Chris Kemoeatu

Guard, Utah

Round 6
Pick 204

The second offensive lineman taken by the Steelers in the 2005 draft, Kemoeatu made the 53-man roster as a rookie but never saw the field as he was inactive for all but one game. In 2006, Kemoeatu made two spot starts in three games. After appearing in 16 games with no starts in 2007, Kemoeatu started at left guard for the Steelers in every game of the 2008 season as well as the playoffs and Super Bowl XLIII. In all, Kemoeatu started 53-regular season games for the Steelers as well as seven more in the postseason, two of which were Super Bowls. Kemoeatu was released following the 2011 NFL season which was his last in the NFL.

Shaun Nua

Defensive end, BYU

Round 7
Pick 228

Failing to make the Steelers roster as a rookie, Shaun Nua spent three seasons on the Steelers practice squad. Signing a Reserve/Future contract with the Buffalo Bills following the 2007 season, Nua did not make the team and was out of the NFL without ever appearing in a regular season game. Nua immediately went on to a collegiate coaching career where he is currently the defensivef line coach at the University of Michigan.

Noah Herron

Running Back, Northwestern

Round 7
Pick 244

In his rookie year, Noah Herron made the Steelers 53-man roster initially and appeared in their first two games of the season where he had three rushing attempts for 2 yards. Demoted to the practice squad, Herron was signed by the Green Bay Packers during the 2005 season where he appeared in five games where he rushed for 121 yards on 45 attempts and had two rushing touchdowns. Herron also played for the Packers in 2006 where he appeared in all 16 games and rushed for 150 yards on 37 carries and a touchdown while adding 211 receiving yards on 29 receptions and two more touchdowns. Herron landed on the Reserve/Injured List just prior to the 2007 season and missed the entire year. Failing to make the Packers team in 2008, he was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in November but was released less than a month later. After being briefly signed in the offseason by the New York Jets, Herron ended up in training camp with the Cleveland Browns but did not make the final roster. Instead, Herron landed with the New York Sentinels and Hartford Colonials of the UFL.