Steelers' draft successes have outweighed blunders

Kevin Colbert's first No. 1 pick as general manager, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, was probably his best.
Kevin Colbert's first No. 1 pick as general manager, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, was probably his best.
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| Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said he's never walked out of his office following the final day of one of the 13 drafts he's overseen and wasn't happy.

Most of the time, for good reason, too.

“All we try to do every year is add as many good players as we can,” Colbert said. “It's not real scientific.”

Like every team, there have been some bad picks — Ricardo Colclough and Alonzo Jackson were second-round megabusts in successive seasons — but there were enough good picks to help produce three Super Bowl teams.

And two of his first-rounders — Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu — could wind up becoming Hall of Famers.

Here's a ranking of the baker's dozen worth of Colbert's drafts, from first to worst. Bill Cowher was the coach for the first seven; this week's draft will be Mike Tomlin's seventh:

1 — 2004. First-round pick: Ben Roethlisberger. Starters: Roethlisberger (1), OT Max Starks (3). Bad pick: CB Colclough (2). There wasn't much in this draft besides Big Ben and Big Max. There didn't need to be. The Steelers won the Super Bowl a season later, and another three years after that. That's what the right pick can mean to a franchise.

2 — 2002. First-round pick: G Kendall Simmons. Starters: Simmons (1), WR Antwaan Randle El (2), S Chris Hope (3), LB Larry Foote (4), DE Brett Keisel (7). Simmons didn't turn out to be a star, but the depth made this class. FB Verron Haynes helped, too.

3 — 2003. First-round pick: S Troy Polamalu. Starters: Polamalu (1), CB Ike Taylor (4). Bad pick: LB Jackson (2). Just as they would a year later, the Steelers picked a superstar in the first round and a dud in the second. Not that it mattered. Polamalu ranks among the best picks in team history, and Colbert deftly traded up from No. 27 to No. 16 to get him. Think the Chiefs still aren't second-guessing that deal?

4 — 2007. First-round pick: LB Lawrence Timmons. Starters: Timmons (1), LB LaMarr Woodley (2), P Daniel Sepulveda (4), CB William Gay (5). Timmons took a while, but Woodley didn't. Another Super Bowl win followed a season later.

5 — 2010. First-round pick: C Maurkice Pouncey. Starters: Pouncey (1), LB Jason Worilds (2), WR Emmanuel Sanders (3), WR Antonio Brown (6). If Worilds and Sanders produce (they're listed as starters based on the assumption they start this season), this class could rank higher in a few years. RB Jonathan Dwyer started six times in 2012.

6. — 2009. First-round pick: DE Ziggy Hood. Starters: Hood (1), WR Mike Wallace (3), CB Keenan Lewis (3). Hood has been a disappointment. But what a third round — even if it's gone now.

7 — 2000. First-round pick: WR Plaxico Burress. Starters: Burress (1), OL Marvel Smith (2), LB Clark Haggans (5). Bad pick: QB Tee Martin (5). Burress is back, 13 years later. Colbert had only a couple of months to prepare for this draft but got three solid players out of it.

8 — 2005. First-round pick: TE Heath Miller. Starters: Miller (1), CB Bryant McFadden (2), OL Trai Essex (3), G Chris Kemoeatu (6). Bad pick: WR Fred Gibson (4). Four starters, but only Miller was an impact player. Gibson didn't even make it out of training camp.

9 — 2001. First-round pick: NT Casey Hampton. Starters: Hampton (1), LB Kendrell Bell (2). Bell was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of Year only to decline. Hampton started on three Super Bowl teams. But the draft was a washout after the second round.

10 — 2012. First-round pick: G David DeCastro. Starters: DeCastro (1), T Mike Adams (2). Too early to tell about this class, but T Kelvin Beachum could wind up being the best seventh-round steal since Keisel.

11— 2006. First-round pick: WR Santonio Holmes. Starters: Holmes (1), OL Willie Colon (4). Bad picks: S Anthony Smith (2), WR Willie Reid (3). Holmes made a Super Bowl-winning catch but wound up being dealt to the Jets following some off-field issue. Smith proved there are no guarantees even with a second-round pick.

12 — 2011. First-round pick: DE Cameron Heyward. Starters: T Marcus Gilbert (2). CB Cortez Allen (4) is projected to start this season. Heyward is the only Colbert first-rounder to not become a starter, though he's played only two years.

13 — 2008. First-round pick: RB Rashard Mendenhall. Starters: Mendenhall (1). Bad picks: WR Limas Sweed (2), LB Bruce Davis (3), OL Tony Hills (4). They're all gone. Mendenhall was a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, but picks 2-4 rank among Colbert's worst, and they came all in a row.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter arobinson_Trib.

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