Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 NFL Draft Grades: Pittsburgh Steelers

Despite some weaknesses in their game and some mediocre performances from September through December, you can't really argue with the final result if you are a Steelers fan. For the second time in four years Pittsburgh hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, the franchise's sixth in their existence, most in the NFL. They did this despite losing their #1 draft pick - Rashard Mendenhall - for most of the season. They did this despite fielding a below average offensive line. They did this despite having a brutal schedule. Is there really any reason to think they can't do it again in 2009?

The Steelers were anything but prolific on offense. In fact, the offense was below average in all four major categories. Passing yards? 17th. Rushing yards? 23rd. Total yards? 22nd. Points scored? 20th. Yikes! Surely this wasn't a team that won more than six or seven games, right? Completely wrong. And all of the Steelers fans know why. As the old adage goes, defense wins championships. A defense can't get much better than this. First in passing yards, second in rushing yards, first in total yards, and first in points allowed per game. Of course this isn't anything new. Pittsburgh has not been outside of the Top 10 in total yards allowed per game since 1999 (they were 11th). Unfortunately for them they have some key defensive positions that are aging and/or could be gone after this upcoming season.

I'd say Mike Tomlin was a good choice as coach. In his second season he won a Super Bowl. He already has as many as previous coach Bill Cowher. How can anyone believe that Tomlin won't win at least one - or five - more? Tomlin knows what it takes and the organization and city will let him do it. This is possibly the best run franchise in all of football.

1/32/32 - Evander Hood, DT/DE, Missouri
3/15/79 - Kraig Urbik, OG, Wisconsin
3/20/84 - Mike Wallace, WR, Mississippi
3/32/96 - Keenan Lewis, CB, Oregon State
5/32/168 - Joe Burnett, CB, Central Florida
5/33/169 - Frank Summer, RB, UNLV
6/32/205 - Ra'Shon Harris, DT/DE, Oregon
7/17/226 - A.Q. Shipley, OC, Penn State
7/32/241 - David Johnson, TE, Arkansas State

  • OL - Check!
  • DL - Check!
  • CB - Check!
  • WR - Check!
The Steelers tackled their needs reasonably well. The general needs listed by were all filled; that's a good start. They didn't grab a tackle on either side of the ball - no OTs or NTs. Both collegiate DTs selected will play DE in their 3-4. That hurts a little but I can't second guess that defending Super Bowl champions too much.

GRADE: 90/100

Pick 1 - It was said that Hood had no interest in playing DE in a 3-4. Well, too earn his millions he's going to have to for the next four or five years. Hood has the prototypical size for the 3-4 DEs and also has enough quickness to help collapse the pocket. Because of the depth - which is rather old - he won't be relied on too much this first year. Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, and Travis Kirschke are all 30 or older so Hood's day will come sooner rather than later. He may be starting by 2010. Grade: 9

Pick 2 - Urbik possesses some versatility, always a good thing. He played primarily at guard at Wisconsin but scouts think he could play RT if needed. He'll learn both positions and most likely be the third guard before long. He could even push Darnell Stapleton from the start. Grade: 9

Pick 3 - And a reach by Pittsburgh. Of course the Steelers need dictated this type of WR, a speed guy suitable as a deep threat. Nate Washington is a goner so Wallace could be set to learn on the fly. Overall WR value though this pick wasn't as cgood as it could have been. Grade: 6

Pick 4 - Again, Lewis wasn't the best available at CB at this point. There were a few others, such as Donald Washington, Coye Francies, and D.J. Moore that had more value. Lewis was a four year starter and showed the necessary skills to become a great nickel back, with the possibility of being a good #2. He has some problems tackling though and that isn't acceptable in Pittsburgh. Grade: 6

Pick 5 - The Steelers had two consecutive picks in the fifth round and they reached on both of them. Burnett is an undersized corner with limited upside. It is doubtful he'll develop into anything more than a dime back. He'll have to beat out William Gay, Keiwan Ratliff, and Anthony Madison. Burnett may need up on the practice squad. Grade: 5

Pick 6 - Summers looks to be the replacement for Gary Russell and adds some flexibility to the roster. He has the size to play FB so Carey Davis, Ryan Powdrell, and Sean McHugh may have some competition. It's doubtful they'll keep more than three of these players so these guys are on notice. Flexibility is always a good thing so Summers (RB/FB) and McHugh (FB/TE) may be the best options. Summers was a bit of a reach but he was the only guy that provided the versatility the Steelers wanted. Grade: 5

Pick 7 - Another DE for their 3-4, though Harris needs more time to develop into a contributor. Someone like Myron Pryor, Vance Walker, and Darryl Richard would have been better value. But Harris plays a position of need and the Steelers didn't need to fill much else. A NT or OT would have been nice but what are you gonna do? Grade: 5

Pick 8 - Now here's a good pick, and not just because he was a Nittany Lion. The local product was expected to go in round five. The Steelers had been showing interest for months so it isn't a surprise that they eventually grabbed him. Shipley was Mike Mayock's favorite player in the draft. The Steelers get their possible center of the future. Shipley doesn't have great size but he has passion and commitment, something that can occasionally over come physical limitations. If he doesn't make the roster as a backup center, he'll be on the practice squad. Grade: 8

Pick 9 - Now if I were Sean McHugh I'd be a little nervous. Johnson is an H-back type of player just like him. Now if Pittsburgh wanted a pure TE I'd have gone Cameron Morrah, who would have been tremendous value here. With so few needs and them all pretty much filled by this point this was really a free pick. Grade: 5

GRADE: 58/90


That was a pretty successful draft. They didn't add a NT or OT but there they addressed the rest along each line. There were a few reaches and an odd pick or two, but what else do you really want? They won the Super Bowl. They should get a free pass for three years. As long as they keep winning a Super Bowl every 3-4 years, who cares?


WHY: If they ha taken an OT and a NT instead of hybrid players in the backfield, this could have been a borderline A-type class. Without them this is still a good class that may not contribute much in 2009 but could assume larger roles by 2010 and 2011. That is the point of a draft really; build the future, few players have the skills and knowledge to play at a high level right away.

NOTE: My "final grade" is weighted and is not a simple combination of "needs" and "talent".

Best Pick: Hood
Worst Pick: Burnett
Sleeper: Shipley
Instant Impact: Hood
Developmental: Harris

OTHER DRAFT GRADES - Pittsburgh Steelers
CBS Sports (Prisco): B
CBS Sports (Rang): B
ESPN (Kiper): B (Brooks): C+ (Fan's): B
Walter: A+

2009 NFL Draft Grades Review

Nothing! All done!

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