Editor’s note: This NFL draft will be the 20th under the eye of Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert. His two-decade tenure has produced two Super Bowls and a consistent playoff contender. Colbert’s drafts mostly reflect that. Like all NFL personnel men, though, he has had some picks he would like to have back. In conjunction with the Trib’s coverage leading up to the April 25 start of the draft, we will look back at Colbert’s three best — and three worst — picks in each round over the years.
Starting at the bottom and moving up in the draft in a round-by-round examination of Pittsburgh Steelers drafts over the past two decades, now comes territory where these picks are expected to be starters and significant contributors, with anything less viewed as a failure of sorts.
And while there are a couple of those among the 23 third-round picks taken under the stewardship of Kevin Colbert, there also have been some considerable success stories. Here’s a look at three of each:
***Three best third-round picks***
1. Mike Wallace, WR, 2009, 84th overall
Wallace did not have lasting star power, particularly when taking only his Steelers tenure into account. But he was a star rookie. He managed a decade-long NFL career that included a Pro Bowl berth and — in a sign of his stature at one point — received a $60 million contract that, at the time, made him one of the league’s best-paid receivers.
2. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 2010, 82nd overall
Sanders wasn’t even close to the Steelers’ best draft pick at his position during the 2010 draft (Antonio Brown went in the sixth round), and he is no better than the third-best player in his Steelers draft class (behind Brown and first-rounder Maurkice Pouncey). But Sanders has more than 7,000 career receiving yards and two Pro Bowl berths in nine NFL seasons (and counting).
3. Javon Hargrave, DT, 2016, 89th overall
A product of FCS South Carolina State, the Steelers took something of a risk in taking Hargrave. But he not only has proven to be a perfect nose tackle for the modern NFL, he also is versatile enough that he can play on pure passing downs.
***Three worst third-round picks***
1. Bruce Davis, OLB, 2014, 88th overall
The Steelers were enamored with Davis’ speed and athleticism off the edge, and they hoped he would turn into their next great edge rusher. But Davis was undersized, didn’t transition well from college defensive end to NFL linebacker and was cut at the end of his second training camp. His NFL career consisted of 15 regular-season games.
2. Dri Archer, RB, 2014, 97th overall
Archer arrived with greater-than-usual fanfare as a third-round pick after he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.26 seconds at the combine — the fastest anybody had done it in six years. But it quickly became apparent Archer’s “track speed” didn’t translate as well as “football speed,” and he was gone before the end of his second season.
3. Kraig Urbik, G, 2009, 79th overall
This one comes with an asterisk because Urbik ended up having a long NFL career as a capable starting guard. That should be enough to give any third-round pick a passing grade, but where the Steelers flubbed this pick was he only lasted 16 months with the organization before being cut at the end of his second training camp.