With the 2014 NFL Draft coming up in a bit, and having finished taking stock of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, it’s now time to look back and see how the team assembled the roster they currently have through the draft.
It would be most simple to set a dividing line at 2007, the year Mike Tomlin took over at head coach, so we will revisit the past seven drafts, encompassing 59 selections, to see how the team treated each position, and look into why that is.
The next position we’ll revisit is defensive end. Having inherited the reliable and tenured Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, it was a couple years before Tomlin had to start worrying about the position in earnest. In fact, with a healthy rotation of reliable backups, most ends drafted had a hard time even making the roster.
2007 – Ryan McBean – 4th round (132)
Ryan McBean did make the roster as a rookie in 2007. Like most rookies, however, he didn’t play. With Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason, as well as Chris Hoke already on the roster, the Steelers simply didn’t need to ask McBean to contribute. By his second season, in fact, he was off the team. He spent 2008 on the practice squad of the Denver Broncos, but by 2009 he did emerge as a starter for the team. He became a role player after that, and then faced a suspension, and has not been on a 53-man roster since 2011.
2009 – Ziggy Hood – 1st round (32)
Though Smith made it through all of 2008 healthy and the Steelers were able to win the Super Bowl, it was obvious that his time was running out. To head off the problem before it arose, the front office addressed the defensive end position in the first round with Ziggy Hood.
As time would show, however, he was never an ideal fit as a five-tech, and though he played out his tenure with the Steelers, notching 46 starts, they made seemingly no effort to keep him when he hit free agency. This with Smith long gone and Keisel’s future still up in the air.
2009 – Ra’Shon Harris – 6th round (205)
The Steelers doubled up at defensive end in 2009 when they used a late-round pick on Ra’Shon Harris. Though they liked his potential, he didn’t make the roster, and the Carolina Panthers claimed him off waivers. After the Panthers released him, the Steelers re-signed him, but he failed to make the roster in 2010.
2010 – Doug Worthington – 7th round (242)
Doug Worthington didn’t make the final roster as a rookie, and spent just a couple days on the practice squad. He spent some time in 2010 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in 2011 with the Washington Redskins. He spent this past season injured, but remains with the Redskins, hoping to make the roster again.
2011 – Cameron Heyward – 1st round (31)
With Smith showing an inability to stay healthy, and Keisel now getting up there in age, the Steelers addressed the defensive end position at the top of the draft again with Cameron Heyward. By year three, he’s shown that he has the potential to be the next dominant defensive lineman, which helped make the Steelers’ defenses during the 00s so successful. He took over for Hood after four games last year and only improved throughout the season.
2013 – Nick Williams – 7th round (223)
With Heyward slated to be the future, and Keisel either already in the past or at the very end, the Steelers are looking for a second defensive end. Nick Williams is a physical specimen that the team is hoping they can mold into somebody who can at least contribute rotationally in time, even if he never emerges as a starter.
A knee subluxation knocked out his rookie season, however. He and Brian Arnfelt look to take on a much more prominent role in year two with three of the four top defensive ends from last year currently off the roster.