View Full Version : NFL Draftcountdown 2008 Steelers Draft review

05-31-2008, 01:08 AM

Scott Wright
President, NFL Draft Countdown

The Steelers were one of the feel-good stories of the 2007 season, bouncing back from a bit of a post-Super Bowl funk to reclaim their throne atop the AFC North. However, it's one thing to make the playoffs and another entirely to take that next step and actually win a Super Bowl. Can this draft class get Pittsburgh over that hurdle and help them regain their championship form in 2008 or is this team still a year(or two) away from truly contending?

The Steelers probably didn't plan on taking a running back with their first round pick this year but when Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois unexpectedly fell into their laps they simply deemed him too good to pass up. Most felt Mendenhall would come off the board in the mid-teens but concerns about his status as a one-year wonder pushed him down the draft board a bit. Still, you don't find many running backs that are 5-10 and 225 lbs. with legit 4.45 speed and it's a pretty safe assumption that Mendenhall's best football is still ahead of him. On the face running back wouldn't appear to be a need for the Steelers and some might view it as a "luxury pick" but even though Willie Parker is one of the best in the business he isn't built to be an every-down back. Mendenhall will compliment Parker, much like Jerome Bettis did when the Steelers won the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, and keep him fresh down the stretch and in the playoffs. Look for Mendenhall to supplant Najeh Davenport as Parker's primary backup and unless there is an injury he should see around 10 carries per game, including most of the goaline opportunities.

In round two the Steelers may have gotten a steal with Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed, who might have been a mid-first round pick if not for a wrist injury that prematurely ended his senior season. A huge target (6-4, 215) with great ball skills and a knack for making the big play, Sweed is exactly the type of weapon Ben Roethlisberger has been pleading for. As a rookie Big Ben loved to throw those deep jump balls to Plaxico Burress and Sweed will help him recreate that magic. For the time being Sweed will work as the #3 wideout behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes and while he may not rack up huge numbers when it comes to receptions and yards he will make the most of his opportunities. Look for Sweed to score a handful of touchdowns as a rookie and give the Steelers offense a dimension they have lacked since Burress bolted as a free agent in 2005. After getting excellent values with their first two picks the Steelers reached a bit for UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis in round three. An extremely productive pass rusher who compiled 42.5 TFL and 29.0 sacks during his college career, Davis will be making the move to outside linebacker at the next level and should be a good fit in the Steelers 3-4 scheme. With James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley entrenched as starters Davis will battle for a backup job and he would seem to be a logical replacement for Clark Haggans, who left as a free agent this offseason.

In round four Pittsburgh finally brought in some offensive line help when they chose Tony Hills of Texas. A great athlete with good size and a big frame who some considered a first round pick at one point early in the draft process, Hills dropped down draft boards due to his lack of a killer instinct and some major durability questions. With Marvel Smith entering the final year of his contract Hills could be groomed as the long-term solution at left tackle but he will begin his career battling Trai Essex for a backup job. In round five the Steelers brought in a developmental signal caller when they selected Dennis Dixon of Oregon. To say Dixon had a breakout senior year would be an understatement and at one point it looked like he was going to win the Heisman Trophy, lead the Ducks to the BCS Championship Game and solidify himself as a 2nd or 3rd round pick. It was not meant to be though and all of three of those dreams came to an abrupt end when Dixon tore his ACL in November. Dixon is still a better athlete than quarterback but he definitely has some physical tools to work with and while he will begin his pro career third on the depth chart the Steelers will likely groom him to replace Charlie Batch as Roethlisberger's backup. That is at least a few years off though because Dixon is still very much a major project who will need a lot of coaching and development.

With the first of two sixth round picks the Steelers added another linebacker when they chose Mike Humpal of Iowa. A relentless player who makes up for what he lacks in physical tools with top-notch intangibles, Humpal could play outside or inside at the pro level and that versatility could help him earn a roster spot. With their final selection Pittsburgh chose West Virginia safety Ryan Mundy to add some depth to their secondary. After playing four years for the Michigan Wolverines Mundy took advantage of a now defunct NCAA rule that allowed graduating players to use their last year of eligibility while in a graduate program at another college. A good all-around player who can be physical or play centerfield, Mundy could battle for a job as a backup but he might have to beat out an established veteran.

This was an interesting draft for the Steelers and unless there is an injury nobody from this class will start as a rookie. That's not to say there won't be a lot of contributors though and while guys like Mendenhall and Sweed won't start they will certainly play key roles for Pittsburgh in 2008. However, after you get past their top two picks there really isn't a lot to get excited about with this class and it's hard to envision anyone else earning a starting job in either the near or long-term future. This was already a playoff team to begin with though so it's not like the Steelers had a bunch of glaring holes to fill so while they may not have added a bunch of instant starters they did a solid job of supplementing their roster with a couple of talented players who will play important, albeit specialized, roles for a contender.


I think the question posed in the first paragraph is spot on.

I dont think this draft class gets the steelers to the championship this year, but it goes a long way to getting them closer to contending in a couple of years.

Personally I am still waiting for that next draft class that lands instant stars in the first 2 rounds and also hits a few home runs in the lower rounds.

05-31-2008, 05:12 AM
Aussie_steeler my friend, I think that this draft could be the one that gets us back to the super bowl myself. We get a good if not great RB to take some heat off Willie Parker and gives us a goalline back as well. We get a WR in the 2nd that could be starting by year 3 and he can be a great no.3 til then. I think that Bruce Davis will prove to be a steal in this draft. I also think that Humpal and Mundy could also make this team or atleast on the practice squad in year one. Humpal sounds like a steal in the late rounds because he can play outside and inside and that means that special teams could keep him around long enough to have a chance.

06-01-2008, 05:37 AM
I see the only successful path through this years schedule is through a relentless run D. I have no concerns or fears on the O side of the ball is Hartwig steps us.

If Casey or Aaron Smith go down I think the run D drops off significantly. Our linebackers are awesome but they will not contain the run at the line of scrimmage.
I will have your optimism when we have a bit more talent and depth on the D line.

Free safety always worries me at the critical moments but I would invest in D line first.

06-01-2008, 05:48 AM

If Casey or Aaron Smith go down I think the run D drops off significantly. Our linebackers are awesome but they will not contain the run at the line of scrimmage.
I will have your optimism when we have a bit more talent and depth on the D line.

I agree. Like last year, an injury or two at certain positions could REALLY hurt us....

Free safety always worries me at the critical moments but I would invest in D line first.

Well said.

Galax Steeler
06-01-2008, 07:41 AM
If we can stay healthy then I can see us making a strong run into the playoffs.

06-05-2008, 01:37 PM

We have depth at O line... but we don't know how good that depth is. This year we will find out.

If the O line works (Lord let it be so), then we can get some depth at D line next year.

One thing I have learned over the last two years though... You simply can't predict a Mike Tomlin Draft.

06-05-2008, 09:01 PM
I think Limas Sweed was a steal in the draft. What do you guys think?
:hatsoff: I 2nd That Thought!

06-08-2008, 02:07 PM
Reading the posts, most are concerned about the lines. If that were the case why was only the center addressed? Not only that who of any importance was released? As I watched the games I saw a few weaknesses that caused most of the problems. Not one of the WRs ever got open. Even when Ben threw it was into a crowd. Randle El was one that got open often. You also can't have a one back offense. Everyone knows where it's going. Maybe and thats a big maybe BA will get a little more intovative and create some problems for the defense. Even I knew where the ball was going. Defensively if you take one or two players out of any defense it's going to suffer. I'm not a fan of the back ups but no one was replaced in fact I believe both were resigned. I think the draft was a gift and all in the right places. Now just a little luck.

Rhee Rhee
06-10-2008, 06:56 PM
Free safety always worries me at the critical moments but I would invest in D line first.

i agree and disagree... but am leaning on the disagree side...

i agree because our d-line is what stops the opposing teams' running game (plug up the holes and let the LBers fly through them)... we are getting older at key positions but i feel we can squeeze a couple more years out of guys like hampton, smith and eventually someone can take over keisel...


seeing as though the NFL is becoming a much more pass-oriented leagu (sells tickets and scores points), and seeing as how the patriots and dallas and indy (e.g the more successful teams in the NFL) are using the pass to set up the run, i think that having a freesafety that can make the open field tackle yet also can play centerfield is key... i personally don't think anthony smith is the answer but i just hope ryan clark can recover and be a stop-gap solution until we find a stud FS