As a lead-in feature to the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft, we are going to examine all of Mike Tomlin's draft classes since being named the new head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the 2007 draft. With Tomlin's inaugural class already reviewed, it is time we move on to the class of 2008.
The 2008 draft class on paper looks pretty poor. From top-to-bottom there are players who simply scream 'bust', but look closer and you might see some players who were beaming with potential, as well as as some selections which made you simply shake your head and ask 'why'.
It was 2008 which saw the Steelers in desperate need of a star running back, and the team recognized it by selecting Rashard Mendenhall out of Illinois with their first round pick at No. 23. Mendenhall certainly is a player who has seen his share of criticism throughout his career. Whether it was his costly fumble in Super Bowl 45 against the Green Bay Packers, the heat he received for his comments after the reported death of Osama Bin Laden or his sudden retirement from football after spending the 2015 season with the Arizona Cardinals.
It isn't as if Mendenhall didn't perform for the Steelers. In his time with the team he collected 3,639 yards and 29 touchdowns, and all with a rookie season cut short after a devastating collision with Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis and a torn ACL later in his career.
Mendenhall's selection paid dividends for the Steelers, even for a brief time, but the second round pick in this year's draft has become a punch line for Steelers fans for years. In the second round the Steelers selected wide receiver from the University of Texas, Limas Sweed. Through Sweed's entire career, he played in 20 games, caught 7 passes for 69 yards. Those are career totals for the second round pick.
Sweed is mostly remembered for huge drops throughout his career, being diagnosed with astigmatism heading into his second season and his ultimate highlight possibly being the crippling block he through against the Ravens in the 2008 playoffs. Simply put, there weren't many players who didn't live up to their selection more than Sweed.
In the third round, the Steelers selected outside linebacker Bruce Davis. Davis played one season with the Steelers where he only played in 5 games and didn't register a tackle. He failed to make the team in 2009, but was picked up by the Oakland Raiders for the next two seasons where he had 4 total tackles in his stint with the team. Davis' career highlight very well could be his recent success on the small screen as he is the 'NFL Linebacker' who swears by the Copper Fit knee sleeve.
The Steelers selected Tony Hills, a tackle, in the fourth round. Hills played in 4 games with the Steelers his rookie season, but when failing to make the team in 2011, he played for the Denver Broncos before becoming a journeyman player who has spent time with the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. Regardless of scene, Hills has never played in more than 6 games throughout his career.
The Steelers went with a backup quarterback in the 5th round when they selected Dennis Dixon from Oregon. Some saw Dixon as the next Kordell Stewart, a mobile quarterback who's athletic prowess could be comparable at multiple positions. Although much leaner than Stewart, Dixon landed the No. 3 quarterback job behind Charlie Batch, and eventually the backup role. Dixon was called upon to start 3 games in his time with Pittsburgh. In those games, he was 2-1. After leaving Pittsburgh, Dixon played for the Ravens, the Buffalo Bills and - of course - he spent the 2014 season with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Steelers wrapped up their draft with two 6th round selections and zero 7th round picks. In the 6th round the team selected linebacker Mike Humpal and safety Ryan Mundy. Although Humpal never panned out in the NFL, Mundy spent 4 seasons with Pittsburgh before going to the New York Giants, and is still playing for the Chicago Bears. Mundy has played in every game of his 6 year career.
Looking at this draft class can make some fans cringe. After all, with high draft picks spent on players like Sweed and Davis, are the picks of Mendenhall, Dixon and Mundy enough to save this class from having the 'bust' label attached to it? Regardless of which label you place on this draft class, fans are looking at a group of players who are all either out of the NFL, or playing for other teams. Not one member of the 2008 draft class remains on the current team's roster. The Pittsburgh Steelers class of 2008. A total bust?