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Steelers need draft class to bloom

September 6, 2010 - Ray Eckenrode


A classic class? It better be…
  The Steelers kept a record eight members of the 2010 draft class and hopefully all eight will turn out to be productive NFL players. The Steelers really need that kind of class because they’ve been quietly slipping in the drafting department for the past five years. We say “quietly” because they’ve generally excelled with their No. 1 picks. It’s everything else that’s been the problem.
  The third round has been a particular issue. Most third-round picks should become productive NFL starters, barring injury. Here are the Steelers past five years’ worth:
  2010 Emmanuel Sanders
  2009 Kraig Urbik, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis
  2008 Bruce Davis
  2007 Matt Spaeth
  2006 Anthony Smith, Willie Reid
  Assuming the jury is out on Sanders, that’s two starters (Wallace and Spaeth) out of seven selections and four guys no longer on the team.
  The Steelers also have had two complete drafts that almost totally washed out:
  2006: Santonio Holmes, Anthony Smith, Willie Reid, Willie Colon, Orien Harris, Omar Jacobs, Charles Davis, Marvin Phillip, Cedric Humes
  Analysis: Two starters who helped win a Super Bowl, but zip to show from this draft by 2010 (and you have to wonder whether Colon will still have a spot when he recovers from his season-ending injury).
  2008: Rashard Mendenhall, Limas Sweed, Bruce Davis, Tony Hills, Dennis Dixon, Mike Humpal, Ryan Mundy
  Analysis: One starter, two backups and a bunch of bums.
  So let’s hope in a few years we’re still mentioning these names: Maurkice Pouncey, Jason Worilds, Emmanuel Sanders, Thaddeus Gibson, Crezdon Butler, Stevenson Sylvester, Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown.

Run away?
  You’ll remember the Steelers organization gave lip service during the last offseason to making a renewed commitment to run the football in 2010. With the demise of Frank Sanders, taht commitment now includes releasing their "starting" fullback. The reality is that the Steelers will never commit to running the ball in Bruce Arians offense. That’s not necessarily the first of our many shots at Arians this year. It’s just reality.

How does Tomlin rank?
  We got into it a bit with Cory Giger on his radio show last week about where Mike Tomlin ranks as an NFL head coach. Regular readers know we think Tomlin is Top 5 (based on superior organization, communication and leadership qualities and solid game planning while freely admitting that he’s still developing as a gameday coach). Cory asserts he’s middle-of-the-pack at best.
  Here’s some further detail on our assertion, a quick “either/or” exercise:
  AFC North: Marvin Lewis, John Harbaugh, Eric Mangini. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin.
  AFC South: Jack Del Rio, Gary Kubiak, Jim Caldwell, Jeff Fisher. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin (Peyton Manning is really the Colts coach). Fisher.
  AFC East: Chan Gailey, Tony Sparano, Bill Bellichick, Rex Ryan. Tomlin. Tomlin. Bellichick (even though he’s already failed miserably in the AFC Central). Tomlin (jury still out on Ryan).
  AFC West: Tom Cable, Josh McDaniel, Norv Turner, Todd Haley. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin.
  NFC North: Mike McCarthy, Jim Schwartz, Brad Childress, Lovie Smith. Tomlin by a hair. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin.
  NFC South: Sean Payton, Mike Smith, John Fox, Raheem Morris. Push. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin.
  NFC East: Andy Reid, Mike Shanahan, Wade Phillips, Tom Coughlin. Tomlin. Shanahan. Tomlin. Tomlin.
  NFC West: Mike Singeltary, Ken Whisenhunt, Steve Spagnuolo, Pete Carroll. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin. Tomlin.
  Top 5 (in no particular order): Jeff Fisher. Bill Bellichick. Mike Shanahan. Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton. The group just behind would include John Harbaugh, Jack Del Rio, Rex Ryan, Mike McCarthy, Andy Reid and Tom Coughlin.

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