Steelers 2010 Draft Revisited – Center of It All

C Maurkice Pouncey

After a disappointing 2009 season that saw the Steelers start 6-2 only to hit a franchise-long five game losing streak and miss the playoffs, the team was looking to have an impact draft to fill their roster with young studs on both sides of the ball in the 2010 draft.  The Steelers would aim to repair their much-maligned offensive line in round one, and then spend the rest of the draft filling depth behind their starters.

NOTE:  With the 2007,2008, and 2009 Draft Reviews, I was able to give an extended history and status of the draft picks based on their careers of 3-5 years in the league.  Now that we are looking at the 2010 and 2011 drafts, the format will be slightly different.  Many of these players have yet to be given opportunities to shine, so we will simply list the picks and give an up-to-date review of where they are in terms of their limited careers with a simple single letter grade (A+ to F). – Jeff Snedden

The Steelers had the 18th pick in Round One, and took little time in selecting a new Center to anchor their offensive line.  The Center position has given the Steelers some of their greatest stars in Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings.  With their 18th pick in the 2010 Draft, the Steelers went with the best true Center available.

Center Maurkice Pouncey, Florida

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round One – 18th Overall – Maurkice Pouncey – Center– 6’4″ 304 lbs. –Florida

Maurkice Pouncey came into the NFL and immediately established himself as a Pro Bowl center for the Steelers.  Despite suffering injuries that kept him out of Super Bowl XLV and some regular season games, Pouncey has been a legitimate superstar for Pittsburgh.  At 22-years old, we have yet to see the prime years of the Steelers Center and we should expect that – barring injuries – the Steelers have a center who will be dominant and playing in Pro Bowls for years to come.

Pick:  A+

LB Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Two – 52nd Overall – Jason Worilds – Defensive End/LB – 6’2″ 252 lbs. – Virginia Tech

Worilds came to the Steelers from one of the top defensive units and coaches in college football in Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer.  A traditional linebacker in high school, Worilds played a hybrid defensive end – linebacker position for the Hokies, and did so very successfully.  He also excelled on special teams, sort of a rite of passage for Virginia Tech players.  Worilds started 25 games on defense for V-Tech, recording 133 tackles/15.5 sacks/34.5 stops for losses/75 QB pressures.  He also caused five fumbles, deflected two passes, returned a block punt for a TD, and blocked two field goal attempts in his Hokies career.  Worilds was named to the All-American third team prior to his senior season, as well as All-ACC First Team honors, and was tagged the ACC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year

The Steelers, looking for depth behind the starting OLB tandem of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, pegged Jason Worilds as the next great Steelers outside linebacker.  Ranked as the second-best defensive end in the draft by CBS Sports, Worilds had all of the qualities the Steelers look for in their hybrid-types.  When he was available at 52nd overall, it took less than ten seconds for the Steelers to select the then-22 year old.

Since coming into the league, Worilds has established himself as a premier piece of the Steelers future.  Last season, when LaMarr Woodley went down with an injury prior to the Steelers November 6th game vs. Baltimore, it was Worilds making his first NFL start to replace him.  After seeing time in 14 games his rookie season, the second year player showed he was ready to take the reins in 2011.  He started seven games in place of Woodley, tallying 38 total tackles and 3.0 sacks, as well as forcing a fumble in a 12/28 game vs. the Cleveland Browns.  Even while starting on defense, Worilds was still utilized on special teams, making bone-shaking tackles on returners. 

With James Harrison entering the 2012 season at 33-years old, Worilds would seem to be the next in line to carry on the great tradition of outside linebackers in Pittsburgh.  The retirement of Aaron Smith and release of James Farrior has opened up leadership roles inside the Steelers locker room, and Worilds – in his third season – could eventually be one of the new leaders of the vaunted Steelers defense.  This pick would be graded A+ if not for the minor trouble Worilds has had with learning the Steelers playbook, resulting in a few out-of-position type plays.  The lockout prior to last season took away valuable time and experience for younger players, and with a full offseason of workouts and coaching, Worilds should be ready to be a major player in 2012.

Draft Grade: A-

WR Emmanuel Sanders, SMU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Three – 82nd Overall – Emmanuel Sanders – Wide Receiver – 5’11″ 186 lbs. – Southern Methodist University

With Limas Sweed a dismal failure and all-time great Hines Ward entering the twilight of his career, the Steelers felt the need to build their receiving core in the 2010 draft, starting by selecting Sanders, the all-time leader in every receiving category for the SMU Mustangs football program.  After redshirting his first season (2005), Sanders stepped right into the Mustangs starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2006.  By the end of 2006, he was named to the Sporting News All-American team as a wide receiver and kick returner, and was voted onto the All-Freshman Conference USA team at both slots.  Finished his SMU career as the all-time leader in touchdowns (27), set a new SMU record with six 100-yard receiving games, became the first player in SMU history with three straight 600-yard receiving seasons, and was honored by practically every college football publication as one of the top 20 WR in the country entering the 2010 Draft.

Sanders joined fellow 2010 draft pick Antonio Brown and already-established Steelers receiver Mike Wallace as the “Young Money” trio.  His rookie season saw him in action in 13 games at WR and on special teams, starting one game.  He posted 28 receptions for 376 yards and two touchdowns.  He also contributed 628 kick return yards and averaged 25.1 yards per return.  His 2011 season was riddled by injuries and the tragic loss of his mother.  Despite missing five weeks due to those issues, he was still able to contribute to a Steelers passing game that continued to improve.  He posted 22 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns, and continued to play a part in both punt and kick returns.

While it remains to be seen if the return game is in Sanders future, he will undoubtedly be a major part of a newly-constructed Steelers receiving core.  A prototypical slot-type receiver, it is not hard to imagine Sanders as the designated #3 receiver, lining up in the slot while Wallace and Brown buzz the sidelines – and giving the Steelers one of the best receiving situations in the entire NFL.  While Sanders has not been a “game breaker” so to speak, he was drafted to fill the role he currently is slotted for.  Furthermore, Sanders has been a major contributor to the Steelers community outreach programs, becoming one of the most requested Steelers at charity functions.  His friendly demeanor and desire to spend time with his fans has endeared him to the fan base.  Overall, Sanders has had some setbacks in his career with injuries so it is hard to grade this as anything higher than a B on the grade scale.

Draft Grade:  B

DE/LB Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Four – 116th Overall – Thaddeus Gibson – Defensive End – 6’2″ 243 lbs. – Ohio State

Gibson was a heralded star at Ohio State during his Buckeye years of 2007-2009.  He was redshirted in 2006 after being considered one of the top defensive players in the nation coming out of Euclid High School in Euclid, Ohio.

Drafted as a project player to be groomed at linebacker, the Steelers brought Gibson into camp and were impressed with the rookie so much that he was granted a roster spot to begin 2010.  After injuries decimated the Steelers defensive line, the team needed to open up a roster spot for practice squad DL Steve McClendon.  They released Gibson to the waiver wire on November 3, hoping that he would be able to be re-signed after the New Orleans game when roster flexibility would allow so.  The San Fransisco 49ers – in need of linebackers due to injuries – snaked Gibson from waivers and rostered him.

Since that time, Gibson has bounced around to five different teams, mostly on practice squads.  The 49ers waived Gibson after the 2010 season, giving the Steelers a chance to bring the 6’2″ 243 lb. linebacker back into the fold.  He was claimed by the Washington Redskins, spent time on their practice squad and in the same role with the Houston Texans before landing in Chicago, where he is now on the active roster for the Bears.

The case with Thaddeus Gibson was essentially a numbers game.  The Steelers were in dire need of another defensive lineman and had no choice but to try and slide Gibson through waivers.  The team was high on the rookie, and figured him to be a future contributor at linebacker.  In a heated race for the AFC North title, the team took a chance and it simply didn’t work out.  Don’t be surprised if Gibson finds a home in Chicago, and becomes a backup to the Bears impressive linebacker core.  The talent is there, he just needs the opportunity.

Obviously, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin saw enough in Thaddeus Gibson to draft him and then saw enough of him on the field to use a 53-man roster spot on him.  However, the team misjudged the waiver wire and took the responsibility for losing Gibson.  All in all, this is a pick that didn’t work out and can be considered nothing but a complete failure as a fourth round pick.  The team avoids an F grade here based on the obvious talent the player showed in the 2010 preseason.

Draft Grade:  D-

G Chris Scott, Tennessee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Five – 151st Overall – Chris Scott – Offensive Guard – 6’4″ 319 lbs. – Tennessee

The Steelers obsession with mid-round offensive linemen continued with the pick of Chris Scott from Tennessee in round five.

Scott played in two games in 2011, looking woefully outmatched at times.  He remains on the Steelers roster and will be brought into camp to see if he can win a backup job on the interior offensive line.

With so little information to go off of, this draft pick is being ruled incomplete.  With the exception of studs like Pouncey and Joe Thomas, Offensive lineman can take a few years to develop, and with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley coming in this season, there will be a significant change in both blocking philosophy and technique.  The Steelers are hoping that eventually Scott can become the primary backup to both right tackle and guard.

Draft Grade: INCOMPLETE

CB Crezdon Butler, Clemson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Five – 164th Overall –Crezdon Butler – Cornerback – 6’0″ 183 lbs. – Clemson

In their eternal search for secondary depth, the Steelers drafted impressive cornerback Crezdon Butler from Clemson with their second of three fifth round picks.

Butler had the size (6 foot) and the speed (4.43 40-yard dash) to be a man coverage corner in the NFL.  He was pegged as a possible first-round pick prior to his senior season at Clemson, and then proceeded to have his worst college season in 2009, dropping him into late round – potential free agent territory.  With 11 career interceptions to go along with 174 tackles and two forced fumbles, Butler seemed to have a solid – if not spectacular – stint at Clemson playing against some of the best wide receivers in the country in the ACC (Calvin Johnson, Hakeem Nicks to name a few).  His statistics fell off his senior season mainly because teams stopped throwing his way.  When his draft stock fell, the Steelers still had him on their board as a possible third-round pick.  They were able to get him at 164th overall, a serious indication of issues for the young player to still be on the board at that point.

Butler played in eight games as a rookie for the Steelers, and seemed to have a bright future in Pittsburgh.  During the 2011 preseason in a game against Atlanta at Heinz Field, Butler intercepted a pass and ran it back 95 yards for a touchdown – seemingly sealing his fate on the 53-man roster.  The drafting of two cornerbacks in 2011 became the death knell for Butler in the Steel City.  He was released during the final round of preseason cuts in September 2011.  Naturally, he found a home in Arizona – where any and all ex-Steelers are welcomed with a ticker-tape parade and dancing girls – and landed on the Injured Reserve list for last season.  On a team that just signed CB William Gay to a 3-year deal, has Pro Bowl CB Patrick Peterson locked in at LCB, and is high on second-year player Korey Lindsay and veterans Marshay Green and A.J. Jefferson, Butler is in danger of being a preseason cut if he does not show up healthy and have a dynamite preseason.

Butler may be a case of the Steelers giving up on a player too soon, as he has the size and speed to be a serviceable CB.  The Steelers seem very high on Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, which is what caused Butler’s release last season.  The team is counting on those players and forth-year man Keenan Lewis to battle it out for the spot left by the departure of Gay.  Should none of those options work out, Butler could well be a player the Steelers regret letting walk.  Overall, this draft pick is middle-of-the-pack in quality.  Butler did play in eight games for the Steelers during an AFC Championship season, and was – in similar fashion to Thaddeus Gibson – a victim of the numbers game.

Draft Grade:  C-

LB Stevenson Sylvester, Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Five – 166th Overall –Stevenson Sylvester – Linebacker – 6’2″ 230 lbs. – Utah

Forward thinking to the days of when ILB James Farrior and Larry Foote would come to an end, the Steelers chose Sylvester from Utah with the third of their fifth round picks in 2010.

A defensive captain for Utah during his junior and senior seasons, Stevenson Sylvester was a key cog in the Utah defense that helped the Utes to a #2 ranking in 2008 and a 2009 Suger Bowl win over the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Considered by draft publications to be a potential second round pick, his stock slipped after a lackluster senior campaign.  As a run-stopper, few in the country were better than “Sly” during his time at Utah as he racked up 262 total tackles in four seasons, adding 9.0 sacks and 2 interceptions.

After becoming a special teams sensation for the Steelers his first two years in the pros, the opportunity to start at ILB is now there for Sylvester.  He will compete with veteran Foote for the job left behind by the release of long-time defensive captain James Farrior.  While the shoes of Farrior will be hard to fill for anyone, the Steelers coaching staff seems to be very high on Sylvester and we should anticipate his claiming of the job opposite Lawrence Timmons in the middle of a much-younger Steelers defense.  With a motor that never stops – and no lack of self confidence – the Steelers seem to have done very well with this pick.  Sylvester has done everything asked of him on special teams and when he has found his way onto the field for defensive situations, he has played well.  In 2011, he started one game for the team in a key matchup against the New England Patriots and was part of a defensive plan that limited the high-octane Brady Bunch to just 213 total offensive yards.  Against Cincinnati in a huge AFC North battle on December 4, he forced a fumble that helped the Steelers brutalize the Bengals into submission 35-7.

With a possible starting role coming his way and a nice early career track record, this pick gets a high grade from me.  If Stevenson Sylvester can translate his energy and passion onto the defense in 2012, this could end up being an A+ pick.

Draft Grade:  B+

RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Six – 188th Overall – Jonathan Dwyer – Running Back – 5’11″ 235 lbs. – Georgia Tech

A prolific college running back, Dwyer racked up back-to-back 1,395 yard seasons in the powerful flexbone spread option offense at Georgia Tech.  At one time considered a top 30 pick, Dwyer had his draft stock fall due to questions about his ability to translate to a pro-style offense, as well as conditioning and a horrendous NFL Combine showing.  Dwyer fell off draft boards faster than any player in the draft, despite a list of college honors as deep as any player to come out of the ACC in the past twenty years.  The 2008 ACC Player of the Year, 2008 first-team All American, 2009 preseason All American, and leading rusher for the 2009 ACC Champions was even thought of as a possible undrafted free agent after running a 4.59 40-yard dash and only managing 15 reps of 225 lbs. at the Combine.  The failure of a pre-Combine drug screen was the final glaring issue with Dwyer, despite a public announcement by the NFL that the test was ruled exempt due to a prescription medication that Dwyer was legally taking to battle attention deficit disorder.

The Steelers – looking for a long term backup to RB Rashard Mendenhall – took a chance on Dwyer despite all of the negative press.  The opportunity to draft a player with the credentials of Dwyer in the sixth round was just too good to pass up for Kevin Colbert.  The team was stunned when Dwyer showed up for training camp overweight, and it was only after he showed a major commitment to his conditioning that Dwyer made the final cut and was added to the roster.

His rookie season saw Dwyer inactive for most of it, getting his first real playing time in Week 17 when the Steelers were resting most of their starters prior to the playoffs.  He rushed for 28 yards in the game against the Browns for his only 2010 action.  His 2011 season was highlighted by an impressive preseason showing, and after injuries to both Mendenhall and backup RB Mewelde Moore, Dwyer received his first extended NFL action in a Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans – rushing for a team-high 107 yards on just 11 caries while splitting reps with RB Issac Redman.  The highlight of the game for Dwyer was a 76-yard run that set up a Steelers TD to help defeat the Titans 38-17.

Now entering his third professional season, Dwyer will be counted on – along with Redman and John Clay – to replace the production of Mendenhall for a major piece of the 2012 season as the starting RB recovers from the ACL injury he sustained in 2011.  Dwyer has the potential to be a break-out candidate if he receives enough playing time.  While the Steelers seem committed to Redman leading the pack at RB after an impressive playoff performance, Dwyer would seem to be next in line for carries.  With a skill set and running style that should endear him to Steeler Nation, the pick of Dwyer in the sixth round of the 2010 draft could end up being a steal for the Steelers.  This selection receives an incomplete grade from me until we see what 2012 brings for the 235 lb battering ram running back.

Draft Grade:  INCOMPLETE

WR Antonio Brown, Central Michigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Six – 195th Overall – Antonio Brown – Wide Receiver – 5’10″ 186 lbs. – Central Michigan

This pick was so good it borders on CRIMINAL.

Antonio Brown was a certified stud at Central Michigan, with All-American QB Dan LeFevour throwing his way 305 times over his three years (2007-2009).  Brown racked up – get this folks – 3,199 yards receiving with 22 touchdowns, 531 yards rushing with 4 touchdowns, 53 punt returns for 83 touchdowns (20.0 average return), 113 kick returns for 2,612 yards and 2 touchdowns (23.1 average return), the all-time receptions record for CMU, a 41-game streak of consecutive games with a reception, and THREE consecutive seasons of 2,300+ all-purpose yards.

So why was Antonio Brown hanging around in the late sixth round of the 2010 draft when receivers such as Dezmon Briscoe,Carlton Mitchell, Kerry Meier, and Marcus Easley were all off the board?  The answer is unknown.  Brown had the resume and physical intangibles to be a much-higher draft pick.  Perhaps playing at Central Michigan – not exactly a football factory – played a role.  Perhaps teams were scared off by his scrawny frame?  Maybe it was his self-confidence, which borderlines on cockiness for those who have not had time to learn his personality.  Whatever the reason, Antonio Brown became a Pittsburgh Steeler at 195th overall, and now is a Pro Bowl NFL wide receiver and return specialist who is one of the fastest rising stars in a sport that craves star power.

The third and final piece of the “Young Money” trio to be rostered by the Steelers, Brown heads into 2012 as the unquestioned #2 wideout and one of the young leaders of a tradition-rich NFL franchise.  He maintains a surreal relationship with the fans, one of the most popular athletes in a town that adores their sports heroes.  He is a dynamic kick and punt returner, adding 1,000 return yards to his 1,000+ receiving yards to become the first player in NFL HISTORY to accomplish that feat.

We can sit and talk about this pick all night, but it is much easier to just grade it an A+ and move on.

Draft Grade:  A+ (+)

DT Doug Worthington, Ohio State

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Seven – 242nd Overall – Doug Worthington – Defensive Tackle – 6’5″ 292 lbs. – Ohio State

Worthington was a quality athlete who had started 20+ games for a team that was considered one of the best squads in the nation during his time there.  He was good enough to be invited to the East-West Shrine Game in 2009, and was considered to be a borderline sixth round pick.  Worthington had personal issues, including a 2008 arrest for speeding and driving while intoxicated.

This was simply a pick that was made out of practice squad need.  Playing his college career on a team that spent nearly every week in a huge National TV spotlight and being a rotating part of the best defensive line in the country earned him the right to forever call himself a Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick.  Hopefully he uses that to every advantage in life, because his odds of ever playing a down in the NFL are slim.

It’s nearly impossible to consider a seventh round pick a “failure”, as most of them are simply project picks – players with either a big school or physical pedigree that teams feel they can build on – but this pick stinks.  At the point the Steelers drafted Worthington, a quick list of those available brings up names such as RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Victor Cruz, WR Danario Alexander, RB Chris Ivory, and TE Jake Ballard.  Any of those picks would have yielded a high-quality NFL player – and in some cases a star player.  NFL teams will eventually learn to not treat seventh round picks as “throw away” picks and waste them on players such as Doug Worthington.

As for the player in question, he spent one preseason in the black and gold and was cut.  He was re-signed to the practice squad – where he lasted 3 days.  He then spent a season in sunny Tampa Bay as practice squad fodder, finally ending up where all players go to kill their careers – Washington.  He is currently in limbo as a training camp possibility for the Redskins, a fun place to spend your final NFL days.

Draft Grade:  F

 

2010 Draft Summary

The 2010 Draft netted the Steelers another solid group of young players to continue the rebuild of their aging roster.  After hitting big on DE Ziggy Hood and WR Mike Wallace in 2009, the Steelers really nailed the picks of C Maurkice Pouncey, WR Emmanuel Sanders, and WR Antonio Brown.  Potential future starters OLB Jason Worilds and ILB Stevenson Sylvester round out a promising group.

The bad:  DE Thaddeus Gibson was lost in a waiver wire snafu but has not yielded any value elsewhere.  CB Crezdon Butler showed promise but ended up being cut and is now a 3rd string corner for “Pittsburgh-West”.  DT Doug Worthington couldn’t maintain a practice squad slot.

The Unknown:  OG Chris Scott hasn’t seen enough grass to judge yet.  He will be in camp and have a shot to make the team as a backup lineman.   RB Jonathan Dwyer has had some nice moments, but hasn’t had enough carries to formally be placed in the “good” category.

When fans look back on the 2010 Draft, Pouncey and Brown will most likely be the names that ring out.  With talent comparable to Brown, Emmanuel Sanders may just need a healthy season and steady diet of short underneath passes to become a very productive player.  Worilds and Sylvester will be seeing plenty of playing time in 2012 as the team begins to turn the page on their awesome defense from the last ten years.  The real value could come from Dwyer, who will have an open shot to become the backup RB to start the season as Rashard Mendenhall heals.  If Issac Redman were to go down, Dwyer would probably be next in line to start.  Personally, I get the feeling that Dwyer is a guy that could never look back if he gets that chance – his talent is that good, if his commitment and dedication remain high.

The final Steelers Draft Revisited article will be posted this week, as we grade last years crop of rookies.  That article will be closely followed by an opinion piece on the possible 2012 Draft class of your Pittsburgh Steelers.  We will take a look at positions of need, players that should be available to the team, and of course – the wild cards, players that could yield a substantial return despite tangible issues or weaknesses.

We are one week away from the 2012 NFL Draft, so continue to follow daily here at Nice Pick, Cowher – the best site out there for quality original writing and news on the six-time Super Bowl Champions.

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Check out the previous Steelers Draft Revisited articles below:

Steelers 2007 Draft Revisited – The Tomlin Era Begins - posted April 8 2012

Steelers 2008 Draft Revisited – Tomlin Take Two – posted April 13 2012

Steelers 2009 Draft Revisited – Getting Ziggy With it – posted April 16 2012

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Topics: 2010 NFL Draft, Antonio Brown, Black And Gold, Chris Scott, Crezdon Butler, Doug Worthington, Emmanuel Sanders, Hines Ward, James Harrison, Jason Worilds, Jonathan Dwyer, Kevin Colbert, Lamarr Woodley, Maurkice Pouncey, Mike Tomlin, Nfl Draft, Nice Pick Cowher, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rashard Mendenhall, Steeler Nation, Stevenson Sylvester

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