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Grading the Steelers (2008) draft

May 1, 2011 - Ray Eckenrode

It’s a “15 Minutes” tradition. On the day after the NFL Draft, we issue a grade to the Steelers -- for the draft that was held three years prior. This, of course, is the only time to properly and correctly grade a draft. So while all the high-paid national pundits are doling out meaningless grades on the 2011 Draft, away we go:

First round, Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois, RB

The skinny: Midway through the 2008 season, this pick had disaster written all over it as Mendenhall couldn’t hang onto the football before Ray Lewis put him out of his misery by breaking his shoulder. But Mendenhall showed great resiliency, overcoming both his fumble problems and his injuries to put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010. He remains just below elite level, but he’s certainly among the top 10 halfbacks in the league.

Grade: A-

Second round, Limas Sweed, Texas, WR

The skinny: Rarely has a pick that generated so much excitement gone so disastrously wrong as Sweed looked lost from Day 1 in the Steelers offense and has suffered one mishap after another (drops, injuries, personal problems) since. After three years, the line reads: 7 receptions, 69 yards, one momentous bust.

Grade: F-

Third round, Bruce Davis, UCLA, DE/LB

The skinny: With a ton of hype and big-college pedigree, Davis was expected to understudy for a year or two on the Steelers’ linebacking unit before stepping into a starting role. But it took about a week of camp for Pittsburgh’s braintrust to see the writing on the wall, and that writing read: MISTAKE. Davis did not get on the field as a rookie and was cut before the start of the 2009 season. He’s played with four other NFL teams since and has recorded 6 NFL tackles, 1.2 per team.

Grade: F-

Fourth round, Tony Hills, Texas, OT

The skinny: The depths this draft sank to are best exemplified here where the high point of Hills’ career is that he played well in the 2010 preseason and that is an improvement over the last two guys we mentioned. Despite starting on Texas’ national championship team, Hills has not shown anything even approaching the strength and physicality needed to contribute on a regular basis on what is one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. His tenure in Pittsburgh likely ended with the selection of Marcus Gilbert Friday.

Grade: F

Fifth round, Dennis Dixon, Oregon, QB

The skinny: A Heisman Trophy candidate before he was injured, Dixon was considered a good risk when taken at this spot by the Steelers. He’s been a career third stringer who has not shown enough passing ability to ever be anything other than that.

Grade: C

Sixth round, Mike Humpal, Iowa, LB

The skinny: You’re hoping for a backup of special teams player here. Humpal was oft injured in his only season with the Steelers and never contributed in either area.

Grade: F

Sixth round, Ryan Mundy, WVU, S

The skinny: Mundy has been the definition of a good sixth-round selection. He’s played special teams, been a solid backup and stepped in to start when needed.

Grade: B

Overall The skinny: Honestly, this is the kind of draft that gets a personnel guy fired: zero Pro Bowls, one starter, four busts, a backup and a third-string quarterback. Luckily, for the personnel guy in question, he had a great draft the year before and a pretty decent one the year after. However, that doesn’t mean the Steelers got away with anything here as they’re still feeling the impact of this debacle in the form of lack of depth at several key spots.

Overall grade: F

 
 
 

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