Grading the Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers

Although they finished the regular season with the leagues best record, Pittsburgh ended the year in disappointment following a home playoff loss in the AFC title game. The Steelers then lost one of their biggest stars, Plaxico Burress, to free agency. Tight end, cornerback and the offensive line were priorities coming into the draft as the franchise gears up to take the next step.

In one of the drafts worst kept secrets, Pittsburgh selected Virginia tight end Heath Miller with the thirtieth pick. Miller was the draft's best tight end and known as a productive player in all areas of his game. A sports hernia pushed him into the late part of round one and Miller could turn into one of the draft's better bargains.  Florida State cornerback Bryant McFadden represented another great value at the end of round two. A prospect with top physical tools, McFadden must become more rooted in his fundamentals and consistently give effort on the field and in game preparation. Likewise, Northwestern tackle Trai Essex, the Steelers final selection of the first day, offers tremendous upside at either guard or tackle in the NFL but must put forth consistent effort to meet the potential scouts have placed on him. Fred Gibson fell to the end of the fourth round where the Steelers gladly selected him. The former Georgia wide out is yet another draft pick that must pick up the intensity of his game yet Gibson's natural size and speed make him a prospect with a large upside. In the fifth round the team found good value selecting Temple linebacker Rian Wallace. Wallace has the ability to start for  in the future at a variety of linebacker spots in the Steelers system. Utah guard Chris Kemoeatu gives the team a powerful inline blocker effective for both the running or passing game. Shaun Nua, a defensive end from Brigham Young, gives offers depth along the defensive front 7.  Finally Noah Herron, the Steelers second selection from Northwestern, has the ability to stick as the Steelers third tailback.  Herron is a brutish ball carrier with excellent size, which is what the Steelers like.

Several linebackers signed after the draft have a real shot of making the team as does Morgan Davis, a solid, no-nonsense offensive tackle.  Fullback Zach Tuiasosopo has a shot as a triple threat fullback.

In many way this could be viewed as a "boom or bust" draft.  Pittsburgh selected talented players from start-to-finish who enter the next level with injury, intensity and in some cases, character issues.  Yet the fact remains if the team can get their draft picks to consistently play at a level they are capable of, they could glean as many as five starters from this group with another pair of very valuable reserves.  All-in-all an excellent effort by a team drafting late in the rounds.

RD  Pick Player Pos School
1   30 (30)   Heath Miller *   TE   Virginia  
2   30 (62)   Bryant McFadden *   CB   Florida State  
3   30 (93)   Trai Essex   OG   Northwestern  
4   30 (131)   Fred Gibson *   WR   Georgia  
5   30 (166)   Rian Wallace *   OLB   Temple  
6   30 (204)   Chris Kemoeatu   OG   Utah  
7   14 (228)   Shaun Nua   DE   BYU  
7   30 (244)   Noah Herron   FB   Northwestern  

UDFA Signings: FB Zach Tuiasosopo, WR Tavaris Capers, WR Nate Washington, OT Morgan Davis, OG Jake Verstraete, LB Ronald Stanley, OLB Andre Frazier, LB Arnold Harrison, DT Elliott Harris, PK Shaun Suisham, LS Greg Warren, FB John Kuhn.


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