There seems to be a trend going on on Nice Pick Cowher the last week or so, looking at recent drafts, analyzing and grading them. With so much talk of the upcoming draft there has been recently, including me, I am going to stick with the trend and analyze something I don’t believe has been analyzed yet together, and that’s all of Mike Tomlin’s first round picks dating back to 2007.
2007: 15th LB Lawrence Timmons
Mike Tomlin definitely got to a good start with his first draft, nailing his first two picks, Lawrence Timmons and Lamarr Woodley. Even though Woodley has struggled the past couple seasons and is no longer with the team, he was widely considered one of the best young LB’s in the game his first couple seasons. Timmons, however, never got the respect that Woodley got. With so many teams switching to a 3-4 defense, its necessary to have a leader at the inside linebacker spot, and that is exactly what Timmons has been since he arrived. He is as consistent as you can be, rarely showing up on the injury list, and is one heck of a player. He fits the mold of a Steelers player. A heck of player, while also showing leadership on and off the field. Teams want players like Timmons, and the Steelers are lucky to have him. Timmons is a mainstay in Pittsburgh, and he deserves it.
2008: 23rd RB Rashard Mendenhall
After such a good first round pick in the 2007 draft, Tomlin didn’t quite hit his second first round pick a year later. While it looked that Mendenhall was a solid selection a couple seasons ago, now we know it was a wasted pick. Taking a running back in the first round now almost seems a waste, because teams are finding gems everywhere in the draft pertaining the running back spot. The Steelers would have been better off waiting until after the first round to take a running back. Although the Steelers did get a couple good seasons from Mendenhall, he is no longer with the team and didn’t go out on good terms either. He had problems off the field and had an issue not showing up to a game. That is very un-Steeler like and it seems the Steelers are better off with Le’Veon Bell now.
2009: 32nd DE Ziggy Hood
Oh the Ziggy Hood era in Pittsburgh has to come to an end. Now we are stuck without a starting RDE at the moment and I bet we wouldn’t have that problem with Hood on the team. Back to the draft, going in the first round, even if it was the last pick, was a reach by the Steelers picking Hood. He never did live up to the status first round players are held to. However, he was rarely injured and manned that RDE spot when Smith retired until Heyward came out of nowhere and had a breakout season. He did struggle at times, but he wasn’t terrible. He was a stopgap for several years. I was a fan of his, hoping he would achieve, but he never lived up to his potential. He is no longer on the team, along with the rest of the 2009 draft class, so his grade won’t be good, but isn’t terrible either.
2010: 18th C Maurkice Pouncey
It really makes me angry when people say Pouncey is overrated and was picked too high for a center. His first 3 years in the league he went to 3 Pro Bowls and was a 3 time All Pro. That isn’t overrated. Yes, usually a center isn’t picked in the top 20 of the draft, but Pouncey has already proven his first round status and is one of the most accomplished player of that draft class. He is an excellent player to have in the locker room and showing signs to be a great leader, especially on the offensive line. Every offensive line needs a player like Pouncey who will push you to your limits in the weight room and will have your back on the field. He has the looks of the next great center for the Steelers and be a staple on the Oline for years to come.
2011: 31st DE Cameron Heyward
The Steelers thought they would have their next two defensive ends to plug into the line when Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel left, but Hood is gone. However, it looks like they at least found one. For Heywards first couple seasons, it looked like he was falling in the footsteps of Ziggy Hood, another first round pick DE that wouldn’t pan out, but Heyward broke out in a big way last season. He stole the job from Hood and never looked back. His 5th year option was recently picked up, and he will be looking for a long term contract come next offseason, and the Steelers would be smart to give him one. Not only is he a respectable beast on the field, but he is a player the Steelers want representing their organization off the field, consistently doing charity work and getting involved in the community. Heyward is starting to show why Tomlin spent a first round pick on him, and in a big way. Next season should be a big step forward for Heyward.
2012: 24th G David DeCastro
This could be one of the best picks ever made by Tomlin if DeCastro turns into the player he has the potential to be. Widely considered as the best guard coming out of the draft in the past decade, he was sure top 10 pick. Crazy things happen on draft day, and he slid all the way down to the Steelers. His first season was plagued by injury, but he showed flashes of being absolutely dominant last season. Now having a full and healthy offseason should help his development even more, especially with hall of famer Mike Munchak as his offensive line coach. If DeCastro has the season we think he will have, All Pro is very much into consideration. Along with Pouncey, another great first round pick by the Steelers, the Steelers could have a dominant interior offensive line for years to come. DeCastro is also another player the Steelers are lucky to have represent their organization off the field.
2013: 17th LB Jarvis Jones
Jarvis Jones dropping to the Steelers was another David DeCastro situation. Considered a top 5 pick at times, even going number one was a possibility early in the offseason. Jarvis Jones did not have the type of season many predicted him to have. However, in only his first season he did something that no other rookie defensive player has done for the Steelers since 2001, he started. That was an accomplishment in itself and should tell you something about the player he can become. He has loads of potential and even if he doesn’t live up to his draft status this coming season, there is still time. Look at Jason Worilds. In the Steelers defensive system, it takes a couple years for the Steelers to get players full potential out of them, so it could be a couple season before we see the monster in Jarvis Jones we saw in his Georgia days. He didn’t have quite the rookie season many had imagined him to have, but the sky is the limit for this kid, and another first round pick that represents the Steelers very well off the field.
Some grades are higher than some of you probably would have them, but I am also considering the potential they have moving forward. It seems like the Steelers work differently in the draft than everyone else. It takes time for their young players to breakout, that’s why we have seen back to back 8-8 seasons. The Steelers were in a period of transition. Now that the young players are growing up and taking on bigger roles on the team, their potential is starting to show and next year the Steelers should get a huge taste of what their recently high draft picks can do on the football field. Many people say Mike Tomlin hasn’t drafted very well, but his first round picks represent themselves very well, and the ones that didn’t are no longer on the team. Next season is really when you should grade the recent draft picks made by Tomlin, as his young players will grow up and truly show their worth.
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