Harris: Lackluster drafts costing Steelers
Harris: Lackluster drafts costing Steelers
By John Harris
Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Re-signing restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders to a one-year, $2.5 million contract is out of character for the Steelers, and not just because fellow receiver Antonio Brown thinks so.
“I don't think that they really like guys that don't do things their way,” Brown said Friday on Sirius XM NFL Radio, two days before the Steelers matched the New England Patriots' $2.5 million offer to Sanders. “There's a certain professional way that they go about their business, and I don't think that they make decisions with guys that don't go about things in the way that they should. So in my opinion, I don't think he'll come back. It's just not smart to get a guy for one year at a price that you can get a guy for four years.”
Brown was fooled, along with the rest of us. It's a mistake to assume we know how the Steelers operate, because we don't anymore.
These are desperate times for the Steelers, who never engaged in bidding wars for their own players until, apparently, now.
Because of a lack of depth at receiver and repeated misfires in the draft, the Steelers need Sanders.
Agent Jordan Woy tweeted that Sanders is the NFL's first restricted free agent in three years to receive a contract offer.
It makes you wonder why they didn't sign Sanders to a new deal instead of allowing the Patriots to establish the market for the Steelers' own player.
If the Steelers value Sanders so highly, why did they give him a low tender, which would have resulted in them receiving a third-round draft pick instead of a second-round tender? Making New England hand over a second-round pick would have lessened the chances of the Patriots signing Sanders to an offer sheet.
Instead, the Steelers were in the unfamiliar position of overpaying to retain a receiver they had undervalued.
Why the rush to judgment for the Steelers? Bad draft picks forced the team's hand.
Coach Mike Tomlin's first draft in 2007 yielded Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Matt Spaeth and William Gay. None remain from the '08 draft, and only Ziggy Hood and David Johnson remain from '09.
In 2010, which was probably Tomlin's deepest draft, the Steelers plucked Maurkice Pouncey, Brown, Sanders, Jason Worilds, Jonathan Dwyer and Stevenson Sylvester.
It's too early to assess the Steelers' 2011 selections of Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen, Chris Carter and Baron Batch, or 2012 picks David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Sean Spence, Alameda Ta'amu, David Paulson and Kelvin Beachum.
Dave-Te' Thomas of Scouting Services Inc. provides in-depth scouting reports for NFL teams — he recently completed a 200-page report detailing West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith for the Oakland Raiders — and is familiar with the Steelers' draft strategy.
“Pathetic,” Thomas said recently on TribLive Radio.
“Look at last year,” Thomas said. He cited the Steelers' release of 2012 fifth-round pick Chris Rainey after he was charged with simple battery, and Ta'amu, a fourth-round selection who didn't dress for a single game as a rookie, receiving 18 months probation after pleading guilty to reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and drunk driving. “Did anybody ever check character ratings on some of those guys? Look at Rainey. Look at (Ta'amu). Both of those guys had long track records off the field.”
Three draft picks who experienced varied levels of success with the Steelers — Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall and Keenan Lewis — were not retained by the team, despite entering 2013 in the prime of their careers.
Mendenhall was a first-round pick in 2008. Wallace and Lewis were third-round selections in 2009.
Historically, the Steelers have always retained their talented draft picks, particularly talented players younger than 30. Yet, in a surprising turn of events, the Steelers didn't keep Wallace, Lewis or Mendenhall, and didn't mourn their departures.
At the owners meetings last month, Tomlin addressed the issue of the Steelers becoming a tougher football team, both mentally and physically. While he didn't name players, Tomlin emphasized he wants to change the Steelers' culture — one that players said resulted in a “fractured” locker room last season.
“It's more a mentality than anything else,” Tomlin said. “We understand that there is going to be confrontation, and we are not running away from it.”
Re-signing Sanders is a step in the right direction for the Steelers, but not if it compromises their ability to sign draft picks and replenish their talent base.
The holes on Steelers roster? Blame them on the Class of 2008
April 21, 2013
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Running back Rashard Mendenhall wasn't quite a bust, but he was the centerpiece of the 2008 draft and now he's no longer a Steeler.
In the true sense of the word "infamous," the 2008 class stands alone among a generation of Steelers drafts. It disappeared from their roster faster than any previous class back to 1985.
Free agency had something to do with this one, whereas there was no such system in place for players to leave 28 years ago -- they left on demerit rather than being lured by other teams. In comparison, the draft of 1985 was much worse for many reasons and it included 13 players while there were just seven in 2008.
Still, hoist a glass to the fast disappearing '08 Seven! Without them, the Steelers would not have so many holes to try to fill in this week's draft. The last to go went via free agency in March, Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Mundy, neither a bust, but gone nevertheless.
"Let me say it this way," said Gil Brandt, an NFL.com senior analyst after a 29-year career as personnel man for the Dallas Cowboys: "Guys who are left on teams from the '08 draft, those are the guys who play for playoff contenders now."
Ouch. The not-so-great of 2008 had a mixed start because while they quickly disappeared, many of them picked up Super Bowl rings before they left. Even their two biggest busts, second-rounder Limas Sweed and third-rounder Bruce Davis, made it through their Super Bowl-winning season as rookies.
Davis was cut before the 2009 season and Sweed has become a punchline in Pittsburgh, gone after two seasons of seven catches, perhaps as many drops, two fumbles and just as many injuries. He never stuck with another team, joining some of the Steelers' more infamous second-round picks that go way back to the late 1970s and by the 1980s became known as their "jinx" pick.
Davis had 25 1/2 sacks in his final two seasons at UCLA and looked like a bargain in the third round. He remains a reason they're still looking for that outside linebacker.
"I remember Bruce Davis,'' said NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang, laughing at his recollection. "UCLA. I watched him and I didn't like him that much."
Same with Brandt.
"I wasn't a big fan of Limas Sweed or Bruce Davis -- I thought he looked stiff. I remember Sweed being a one-stride kind of a guy. He was tall, could run, but I didn't see a lot of fluidity out of his breaks. ... I want a guy more versatile than that."
Tackle Tony Hills, their fourth-round pick, hung around the practice squad and was on the roster in 2010 and played some in Denver and Indianapolis after that. The Colts turned him into a tight end last season, but he's a free agent now.
Quarterback Dennis Dixon, their fifth-round pick, had some promise but after four seasons as a backup with the Steelers, he's now on the roster of the Philadelphia Eagles.
They had two sixth-rounders: Linebacker Mike Humpal never played a down, and Mundy was a good special teams player and backup safety until he signed with the New York Giants in March.
As for Mendenhall, he was a success after his broken shoulder early in his rookie season. He rushed for 1,108 yards in 2009 and 1,273 in 2010. He wasn't as productive in 2011 with 928 yards and then his ACL was torn in the season finale. The Steelers let him walk in free agency this year to sign with Arizona after yet another injury last season combined with him walking out on the team for a game.
Had their top three picks been productive and signed second contracts, the Steelers might not be looking so desperately now for a starting halfback, a wide receiver or an outside linebacker. Still, that draft class looks like 1974 compared to their 1985 picks, the last time one of their entire draft classes vanished after five years.
The only one from that 1985 class that even lasted five years was punter Harry Newsome, an eighth-round choice who actually earned the team's rookie of the year because of the dreadful picks around him.
Those picks included perhaps their worst ever combined in the first three rounds -- defensive end Darryl Sims, tackle Mark Behning and cornerback Liffort Hobley, the latter cut before training camp ended. They included tight end Oliver White, who quit the team during camp.
The Steelers did find one big success in that 1985 draft. Linebacker Greg Carr played four seasons and then quit to pursue a more noble career, to become a medical doctor. He is now an orthopedic surgeon in his native Birmingham, Ala.
Perhaps one of the '08 Seven will some day make their mark off the field as well.
Anyone think the media is just setting us up for these pundits grading the Steelers draft a D this year?
Maybe a "bad" grade right after the draft will work out better then a good grade has? In 2008 I was like the rich keep getting richer. But it was a total busted draft as of now.
Originally Posted by flippy
Hall of Famer
The coaching staff did a poor job of developing some of the talent in the 2008 class or utilizing them effectively. Otherwise, the that dreaft would look better. Some of the "talent" did not fit the word (Davis). Humpal got injured badly.
Humpal got hurt yes. But the rest of the "talent" could not even catch on another NFL team. Will spindy even be a starter? Dixon might float around for a few as a back up still. But no "talent" really. Mendy should not have been a first rd pick in my opinion. The rest were BLAH. Was there even any UDFA from 08 that we picked up and did anything in the NFL?
Originally Posted by DukieBoy