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Nothing certain about No. 15 pick's output heading into NFL draft

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 9:48 p.m.

Kevin Colbert won't call this a can't-miss pick, but he almost does.

If the Steelers stay at No. 15 in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday, they'll get a player comparable to a No. 7 or No. 8 selection in past drafts, according to their general manager.

When the Steelers' scouts and other football staff members began analyzing the class, Colbert said the reaction was, “We are going to be good. This is good. This is really working out good.”

“Afterwards, I'm saying there are like 19 guys that you could say, ‘Wow. We really feel good about getting him at No. 15,' ” Colbert said.

Of course, they felt the same way in 1991, one of only two previous times they were slotted at No. 15.

That pick? Florida linebacker-defensive end Huey Richardson, arguably their worst first-round selection in the last 40 years. He never started a game and was cut in training camp a year later.

The Steelers made a much better choice at No. 15 in 2007, coach Mike Tomlin's first draft with them — inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who has played on two Super Bowl teams.

But as they learned with Richardson, there are no guarantees the No. 15 pick will be a winner, even if it arrives before the midway point of the first round.

Four of the last six No. 15 picks have made at least one Pro Bowl appearance, but the 48 overall picks at that spot have combined for only 44 Pro Bowl appearances. Only one, defensive lineman Alan Page (1967) of the Vikings, made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he accounted for more than one-fifth of those Pro Bowl trips by himself.

Four No. 15 picks never started an NFL game, including Richardson, and two combined for three starts. Two No. 15 picks since 2003 were major busts: Rams defensive back Tye Hill (2006) and Eagles defensive end Jerome McDougle (2003).

No. 15 picks of recent vintage include Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (2011), Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (2010), Texans linebacker Brian Cushing (2009) and Chiefs guard Branden Albert (2008). All were selected for the Pro Bowl at least once. Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro of Texas was No. 15 last year.

Ten players chosen 15th started eight years or more in the league — but, perhaps surprisingly, the teams choosing one spot lower at No. 16 have fared better overall.

The No. 16 pick also yielded one Hall of Famer (Jerry Rice), a potential second in Troy Polamalu and 57 combined Pro Bowl appearances. And 12 started for eight years or more.

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

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