View Full Version : Steelers' 08 draft class could still blossom

12-19-2008, 06:43 AM

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Steelers' 08 draft class could still blossom

By Joe Starkey
Friday, December 19, 2008

It's a wonderful life for Patrick Bailey, who was elected Steelers' Rookie of the Year mostly because he ran unopposed (you didn't think the writers were going to vote for Mike Humpal, did you?).

Bailey has been very good on special teams, but a reserve linebacker winning this award wouldn't appear to reflect kindly on a draft class some are labeling the biggest bust since Ryan Leaf.

They shouldn't be so quick to judge.

As George Bailey (no relation to Patrick) might say, "Just a minute ... just a minute. Now hold on, Mr. Potter."

First of all, it's not like there were a bunch of open spots around here. The incumbents are doing fine, as the team's 11-3 record would attest.

Secondly, first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall didn't make it out of Week 4, courtesy of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

More than that, there is the simple lesson of recent Steelers' history, which says the first year might be the worst by which to judge a draft.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu looked lost for most of his rookie season. Barely made a play. Didn't start a game.

By Year 2, Polamalu was a star.

Now, in Year 6, he might be the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.

Or consider the Class of '07, which was so nondescript that a punter, Daniel Sepulveda, was elected the team's Rookie of Year.

That was before LaMarr Woodley became an elite pass rusher, before Lawrence Timmons became a game-changer, before William "Big Play" Gay made his mark in the secondary, before undrafted free agent Darnell Stapleton stepped in ably at right guard and before undrafted free-agent running back Gary Russell found a niche.

All of which mitigates the disappointing tenure of fourth-round pick Ryan "Steely" McBean, don't you think?

Throw in tight end Matt Spaeth, and you have five draftees, plus two undrafted free agents from 2007 playing significant roles.

What will become of this year's class? Well, Mendenhall showed flashes of big-time ability before he was injured and if he fulfills his promise, that alone might make this draft a winner.

Hitting a home run on Day 1 beats a "depth draft" any day. Give me one star over a bunch of contributors.

First-round picks such as Casey Hampton, Ben Roethlisberger, Alan Faneca and Polamalu win championships which is exactly what they did in 2005.

Take the draft of 2004, which netted only two players still on the roster - Max Starks and Roethlisberger. Even if it had been Big Ben and seven Alonzo Jacksons, it would have gone down as a monumentally successful, franchise-altering draft.

The rest of this year's crew includes second-round receiver Limas Sweed, third-round linebacker Bruce Davis, fourth-round tackle Tony Hills, fifth-round quarterback Dennis Dixon and sixth-rounders Humpal (linebacker) and Ryan Mundy (safety).

Though he has shown very little, Sweed could take heed in the story of Steve Smith, the Giants' second-round pick last season. Smith had all of eight catches during the regular season but delivered 14 more in the playoffs and has 52 this season.

One cannot foresee when a given player will suddenly "get it," or when opportunity will arise. For all we know, Dixon will be running a Wildcat package next season, and Hills will come alive to make an impact on the offensive line.

In the meantime, who's worried about next year?

At 11-3, it's a wonderful life for Steelers' fans.

Joe Starkey can be reached at jstarkey@tribweb.com or 412-320-7810.

(Good article. I get so tired of ignorant fans who start calling players a bust before they have a chance to contribute. - mesa)

12-19-2008, 07:39 AM
I still believe that this past draft is going to produce some very productive players for years to come. While the minimum being that our STs will be stocked for years to come with the likes of Bailey, Davis, Humpal, Woods, Mundy and Lewis. I believe we have future stars in Mendy and Sweed, while Dixon could become more than just a backup QB. I expect solid contributions from Clement, Hills, Mundy and possibly Lewis in the future. Overall, I think we'll look back at some point and find the transition from Cowhers team to Tomlins team was jumpstarted with solid personnel decisions early on in his tenure.

El-Gonzo Jackson
12-19-2008, 10:27 AM
I agree. Our draft class was NOT a bust. Steelers dont like to rush rookies into action anyways.

So true. Its funny how many are writing off Mendenhall and Sweed because they have no numbers worth talking about.

The guy that I am really worried about it Bruce Davis. He got a lot of sacks, but if you watch his college tape you see its not because he beat the OT's, but was just relentless and benefitted from "coverage sacks".

I would think that if a 3rd round selected LB had any motivation that he could be a worthy special team player. But, he looked lazy in the final preseason game of the year and hasnt looked like he wants to play. Bailey, Fox, Sweed, Madison, even Anthony Smith all look like they are working their butts off to cover kicks and Davis when he got a chance has looked like a floater.

12-19-2008, 11:09 AM
The guy that I am really worried about it Bruce Davis.

I would think that if a 3rd round selected LB had any motivation that he could be a worthy special team player.

Yea, I'm dissappointed with that fact right there. He was touted as such a STs demon coming out and has shown little. STs is all about 'want to' and like you said, it doesn't look to much like he wants to. That can change and much like the article states, give it time.

Dino 6 Rings
12-19-2008, 11:23 AM
I like to look at the draft classes their second season as well. Last year Timmons was called "a bust" all season long. Now, he's vital to spelling our LBs and makes great plays at key moments in the games. Int against the Pats, sack against the Ravens.

Timmons, Woodley, Spaeth, Gay, have all been key in some of our wins this year.

Sepulveda, was a ton better than Berger, so we obviously miss him.

McBean...not so much doing great.

Next year we'll reall see how Mendenhall, Sweed, and Davis all add to our team.

12-19-2008, 11:44 AM
I don't really see how you could've expected much different from this draft class. Nobody except Mendenhall was really expected to play very much because we already had good players. Hard to crack the starting lineup you've got that much talent.

Which is a good problem for a team to have, mind you. If we were the 49ers, our first five picks would probably be starting by now, including Dixon.

El-Gonzo Jackson
12-19-2008, 12:24 PM
That can change and much like the article states, give it time.

I'm all about giving young guys time to develop. I, like you would really like to see the "want to" in Davis and hope he makes big strides next season. I'm really optimistic of what Sweed, Mendenhall, Mundy and Roy Lewis are capable of. Tony Hills too looks to have the tools, but just needs to get stronger and healthy.

12-19-2008, 12:25 PM
shit if leftwich does leave after this yr and then dixon taking over as number 2.. B.A may talk up a big game bout the wildcat formation.. like he did w/ the pony backfield

12-19-2008, 12:46 PM
I really do like sweed but it seems that it takes him a second or two longer to get of the line then it does other receivers. I think in his first year he looks very "goofy" (for lack of better words) getting of the line and running his route.... I think that next year (hopefully in the playoffs thought) Sweed will come out and be a great receiver....... I think it takes WR longer to adjust to the speed of the game

12-19-2008, 12:51 PM
This draft will be fine. It will be a great draft if #1 and #2 are the studs we think they will be.

12-19-2008, 07:38 PM
No question in my mind our 2008 draft class will all be playing major roles in 2009 or 2010. Rashard Mendenhall will be a star and if he didn't get injured this year he would be putting up good numbers because he was starting to play really well. I think with an off season Limas Sweed will work hard and start making plays for this offense every single week in 2009. Patrick Bailey has already proved he can be a great special teams player. I still think Mike Humpal can be a very good special teams player as well and when he was playing the LB spot in preseason he was always around the ball. I also believe Roy Lewis can be a good player for this defense and if we would just dump TC finally Ryan Mundy could do some things.