Not much in Pittsburgh gets criticized more than Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert's draft classes, and in some cases the blame is rightfully deserved. In a new series here at BTSC, we will be analyzing draft classes of the past, looking at the players selected and giving the class an overall grade. This could get ugly at times, so buckle up and we will begin with Tomlin's first draft class being the class of 2007.
2007 Draft Class:
1st Round: 15th Selection - ILB Lawrence Timmons
2nd Round: 46th Selection - OLB LaMarr Woodley
3rd Round: 77th Selection - TE Matt Spaeth
4th Round: 112th Selection - P Daniel Sepulveda
4th Round: 132nd Selection - DT Ryan McBean
5th Round: 156th Selection - G Cameron Stephenson
5th Round: 170th Selection - CB William Gay
7th Round: 227th Selection - WR Dallas Baker
Upon further review, although Tomlin might get criticized for his first draft class, the merit of such might be a bit off. Looking over the selections, Tomlin and company hit a home run with Lawrence Timmons. Timmons has been the leader on the defense the past 3 seasons, is still on the current roster and has been an impenetrable force on the inside for the majority of his career. If Tomlin is to hang his hat on any selection he has made in the early rounds since taking over the reigns with the Steelers, it would be Timmons.
Tough to really argue with the second round selection as well. Sure, Woodley's tenure didn't end well with the Steelers, but his time in the black and gold brought the team their 6th Lombardi trophy. Woodley did more than just produce, he and James Harrison made up the most feared outside linebacker duo in all of football in 2008. When both were on, the tandem was nearly unstoppable, just ask Joe Flacco. Woodley is still in the NFL, now recently signing with the Arizona Cardinals for the 2015 season after a one-year stint with the Oakland Raiders.
The third round pick of tight end Matt Spaeth isn't a pretty one, but it certainly gets the job done. Spaeth has played the majority of his career, after a brief stint with the Chicago Bears, with the Steelers and recently signed a 2-year contract to remain with the team. Spaeth isn't a pass catching tight end, but an old fashioned blocker who can help set the edge and open holes for running backs.
The Steelers had two 4th round selections in 2007, and the first still makes many, including myself, scratch their head. The Steelers selected punter Daniel Sepulveda with their first 4th round pick, and their second 4th round selection on defensive tackle Ryan McBean - no, not Steely McBean. Sepulveda played 4 seasons with the Steelers until repeated knee injuries forced the team to release him. McBean played his rookie year in Pittsburgh before going to the Denver Broncos for a short stint and eventually exiting the NFL after a failed venture with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Steelers also got a pair of draft picks in the 5th round of this draft, and the latter of the two is still paying dividends for the Steelers today. Their first 5th round pick was guard Cameron Stephenson out of Rutgers who didn't make the roster and never officially played a down in the NFL. The second 5th round pick was a cornerback out of Louisville named William Gay. Gay spent 7 of his 8 years in the NFL with the Steelers, after a one-year stint with the Cardinals and has earned the moniker "Big Play" Willie Gay from fans and teammates. Gay continues to be a steady force in the Steelers' secondary leading into the 2015 season.
With no 6th round selection in 2007, the Steelers selected WR Dallas Baker in the 7th round. Baker played 8 games for the Steelers in 2008 and after failing to make the team the following season didn't play another snap in the NFL.
Tomlin's first draft had it's ups and downs. Timmons, Woodley, Spaeth and Gay save this draft from being a bust, but fans must remember not every draft pick can be a home run. Sometimes you strike out, and the Steelers certainly did that with selections of McBean and Sepulveda in the 4th round.