clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Boom or bust: What usually becomes of Pittsburgh Steelers third-round draft picks?

New, comments

Kick returner Dri Archer is no longer with the Steelers, cut after Week 8. Third-round picks aren't exactly a stab in the dark. Let's take a look at the third-round picks during the Mike Tomlin era.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut kick returner Dri Archer after Week 8, replacing him with Jacoby Jones, most recently of the San Diego Chargers and formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. While many armchair coaches were dissatisfied with Archer’s performance, he is still ranked 8th in the league in yards-per-return. Archer seems even more competent in hindsight as Jones has made questionable decisions, had limited productivity, and made dreadful mistakes, including a fumble in the Week 10 game against the Cleveland Browns.

Archer’s story is noteworthy not just because the team is stuck with an inferior player, but also because Archer was a third-round pick in the 2014 draft, had showed signs of promise, and then was unceremoniously cut even though much of his poor performance could be blamed on other factors (such as dismal special teams blocking.)

If Archer recently tried out with the New York Jets. It is impossible to predict if he will have a successful career with a new team. It is possible, however, to look at previous draft picks the Steelers terminated early in their careers. How have other third-round picks fared with the Steelers during the Mike Tomlin era?

2007- Matt Spaeth, TE, Minnesota

Mike Tomlin's first draft was a successful one. The Steelers picked up LB Lawrence Timmons, LB LaMarr Woodley, TE Matt Spaeth, P Daniel Sepulveda, and William Gay, all of whom contributed to the Steelers for several years. Timmons is still an active member of the Steelers, while Woodley, whose performance declined tremendously after he signed a big-time contract, had limited productivity for the Oakland Raiders in 2014 and is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals where his level of play pales in comparison to the peak of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Matt Spaeth played his first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before spending 2011 and 2012 with the Chicago Bears. He is now back with the Steelers. Spaeth has been a reliable tight end, mostly known for his blocking.

2008- Bruce Davis, LB, UCLA

The 2008 draft was the year that brought WR Limas Sweed to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round. As fans know, he did not amount to much with the team and has become somewhat of a symbol of a disappointing draft pick. First-round pick running back Rashard Mendenhall was a mainstay on the team's offense. He played five seasons with the Steelers and finished his career with the Arizona Cardinals.

Pittsburgh-native SS Ryan Mundy was the seventh-round pick this year, and stayed with the Steelers for four seasons. He played for the Giants in 2013 and the Bears in 2014. While with the Bears, he totaled six passes defensed and four interceptions along with 103 tackles, a sack, and a touchdown. Mundy is still with the Bears, but he is on injured reserve for the 2015 season.

Third-round pick Bruce Davis had a short, unproductive career. He was with the Steelers in 2008 and then the Oakland Raiders in 2010 and 2011. He did not see much playing time during his short stint in the NFL.

2009- Kraig Urbick, T, Wisconsin; Mike Wallace, WR, Mississippi; Keenan Lewis, DB, Oregon State

In 2009, the Steelers drafted DT Ziggy Hood in the first round and OT Kraig Urbik, WR Mike Wallace, and CB Keenan Lewis in the third round. Urbik did not see much playing time at all with the Steelers. Ramon Foster was chosen instead of him as the backup guard. Since 2010 when he was waived, he has played with the Buffalo Bills where he is the starting right guard.

Mike Wallace left the Steelers in 2012. He had two mediocre years with the Miami Dolphins (relative to the peak of his career with the Steelers) and has had limited productivity with the Minnesota Vikings so far this year. The Steelers bet on Antonio Brown, and that gamble paid off.

Keenan Lewis played with the Steelers through 2012. That season, he had 23 passes defensed, a forced fumble, and 56 tackles. Lewis is now with the New Orleans Saints where he has not matched his productivity with the Steelers. A reason for his poor productivity could be the incompetence of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan who was recently fired. So far this season, he has six tackles and two passes defensed. He has only played in six games so far this season.

2010- Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Southern Methodist

2010 was the year of C Maurkice Pouncey, LB Jason Worilds, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and WR Antonio Brown.

Worilds retired after the 2014 season, even though he was at the peak of his career. Sanders is now enjoying a productive career with the Broncos, though, again, the Steelers made the right choice by betting on Antonio Brown as the future of the franchise at the wide receiver position.

2011- Curtis Brown, DB, Texas

DE Cameron Heyward, OT Marcus Gilbert, and DB Cortez Allen were all drafted in 2011. Gilbert and Heyward are still strong contributors to the team, while Cortez Allen was not the defensive back the Steelers hoped he would be. This season, he is on injured reserve. Fifth-round pick Chris Carter has continued his career with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Third-round pick DB Curtis Brown played three years with the Steelers, ending his career in 2013. He, obviously, was not the savior of the Steelers secondary, though it was evident from the Brown and Allen picks that the team was at least attempting to address needs in the secondary.

2012- Sean Spence, LB, Miami

In 2012, the Steelers draft picks included David Decastro, OT Mike Adams, LB Sean Spence, DT Alameda Ta'amu, RB Chris Rainey, and OT Kelvin Beachum. Of the players who moved on, non had careers so successful that the Steelers would have second guessed their decisions.

Third-round pick Sean Spence is by no means the team's best linebacker, but he is reliable enough on defense and special teams. Spence, along with teammate Vince Williams, stepped in in Ryan Shazier's absence. During that time, he had 24 tackles and a sack.

2013- Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State

The 2013 draft brought the team OLB Jarvis Jones, RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Markus Wheaton, SS Shamarko Thomas, QB Landry Jones, and ILB Vince Williams. Fourth-round pick Shamarko Thomas hasn't been as productive as the Steelers hoped, while Jarvis Jones is currently finding himself in a make-or-break year this season.

Third-round pick Markus Wheaton has lurked in the shadows of Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, but he definitely has enough talent and potential to develop into a star wide receiver. With the Steelers, however, he will not have as many opportunities to shine since Brown, Bryant, and Miller tend to be favored by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Todd Haley offense.

2014- Dri Archer, RB, Kent State

In 2014 the Steelers acquisitions included OLB Ryan Shazier, DT Stephon Tuitt, RB Dri Archer, WR Martavis Bryant, and DT Dan McCullers. Archer is no longer with the team, but other picks Shazier, Tuitt, Bryant, and McCullers are still reliable contributors on the field.

2015- Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn

First-round pick Bud Dupree has definitely been playing like a first-round pick. Second-round pick Senquez Golson was sidelined with injury before the season even started. The team has not utilized third-round pick Sammie Coates much at all, while CB Doran Grant is yet another example of a draft pick to help the secondary who has yet to end up contributing.