Injuries a blessing, concern

In most drafts, you can find an underlying theme, whether it's on offense, defense or a particular position.

Teams target needs and use the draft to fill them, sometimes with multiple picks.

The underlying theme for the Pittsburgh Steelers draft this weekend seems to be injuries.

And there is the problem.

In wide receiver Limas Sweed, offensive tackle Tony Hills and quarterback Dennis Dixon, the Steelers acquired three players who likely should have been drafted higher. Sweed was a second-round pick, while the Steelers took Hills in the fourth round and Dixon in the fifth.

"Quite honestly, if some of these players had not gotten injured, we wouldn't have had the chance to take them," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

OK, but the injuries have to be somewhat of a concern.

In the case of Sweed, a talented 6-4 receiver with good speed and hands, it was ligament injury in his wrist that required surgery last October.

He had first-round talent. But wrists are important for receivers – being connected to their hands and all – and the question marks surrounding the injury were enough to push him to the second round.

Hills, meanwhile, saw his senior season at Texas end with a broken left leg that caused him to miss the final two games. He also had an MCL injury in high school that resulted in nerve damage and a condition called drop foot.

Surgery repaired his MCL but the combination of injuries caused the left tackle to drop in the draft.

Dixon's injury, a torn ACL, is a greater concern.

The former Oregon quarterback was a Heisman Trophy contender through nine games before the injury forced him to miss the remainder of the season.

Dixon estimates he's at least a month from stepping onto the practice field.

All three are a roll of the dice for the Steelers.

Sweed's injury doesn't seem to be something that could affect him in the long run, while Hills admitted that his strength wasn't where it should be because of his problems.

And while Sweed could see some time in multiple-receiver packages this year, Hills was a pick made with next year – when offensive tackles Marvel Smith, Trai Essex and Max Starks are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents – in mind.

For Dixon, however, a big part of his game is his ability to scramble.

In fact, following the draft, Colbert compared him favorably to Vince Young.

But it's difficult to gauge how his mobility will be affected by the ACL injury to his left knee.

Then again, we are talking about a fifth-round quarterback who will be trying to win a job as the third-stringer behind Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch.

Of course the Steelers once passed on Tom Brady in the fifth round to select Tee Martin. Ouch.

Given the lack of depth on the defensive line, there had to be some thoughts of reaching to take a player or two at that position.

But starting with first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall and continuing throughout the draft, the Steelers seemed to take value this year over need.

It was a bit of a change from recent drafts under Colbert's direction, when it seemed the Steelers reached to fill needs in later rounds.

Many of those players never worked out and were released. We'll see in a couple of years if this strategy worked a little better.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


Steel City Insider Top Stories