Steelers Need 2014 Pleas In The Fifth To Both Hit

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert recently completed his 15th draft with the organization and while several of the fifth-round selections that he’s made during that span managed to make the 53 man roster out of training camp as rookies, finding a player that can contribute heavily has been tough.

This year, Colbert drafted cornerback Shaquille Richardson and offensive lineman Wesley Johnson in the fifth round with the hopes that both can contribute long-term. History, however, is against them both becoming full-time contributors.

Here is a look back at the history of Colbert’s fifth-round selections.

2000 – Colbert’s first of two fifth-round selections, linebacker Clark Haggans, made the final 53 man roster and while he only dressed for a handful of games, he ultimately became a full-time starter in 2004 when the team moved on from long-time starter Jason Gildon. During his eight years in Pittsburgh, Haggans recorded 32.5 sacks in 61 games started.

2000 -Colbert’s second of two fifth-round selections in 2000, quarterback Tee Martin, will forever be known as one of the six quarterbacks drafted before Tom Brady. Martin made the Steelers roster as a rookie as the No. 3 quarterback, but after two seasons, the team moved on for him.

2001 – Chukky Okobi was the Steelers only fifth-round selection in 2001 and while he ultimately played six seasons in Pittsburgh, he never was able to become anything more than a backup interior offensive lineman. In total, he started seven games for the Steelers before being released in 2007.

2002 – Verron Haynes was Colbert’s only fifth-round selection in 2002 and while he will never be remembered as being a star player, the Georgia product was a mainstay on special teams, who wound up garnering 235 offensive touches during his six seasons in Pittsburgh.

2003 – Brian St. Pierre was Colbert’s second stab at a fifth-round quarterback project and much like his first one, Pierre was nothing more than a clipboard holder.

2004 – Virginia Tech product Nathaniel Adibi was the Steelers lone fifth-round selection in 2004, but a lingering hamstring injury suffered during training camp resulted in him being released prior to the start of the season.

2005 – After missing on Adibi in 2004, Colbert went back to the fifth-round linebacker well in 2005 as Rian Wallace was the drafted out of Temple. While Wallace did manage to stick for two seasons in Pittsburgh, he only dressed for a total of 16 games during that span as a special teams player. He was ultimately released prior to the start of the 2007 season.

2006 – In 2006, Omar Jacobs became Colbert’s third fifth-round quarterback selected in a span of six drafts and he failed to make the final 53 man roster as a rookie. After a very short stay on the practice squad, he was released for good.

2006 – The Steelers second of two fifth-round draft picks in 2006, tight end Charles Davis, suffered the same fate as Jacobs as he too failed to make the final 53 man roster out of training camp.

2007 – Colbert’s first of two fifth-round selections in 2007, guard Cameron Stephenson, was also a miss as the Rutgers product failed to crack the 53 man roster out of training camp.

2007 – Colbert finally hit big on a fifth-round selection in 2007 as cornerback William Gay, the second of two fifth-round picks that year, not only made the final 53 man roster, but ultimately became a regular contributor on defense. During his first stint in Pittsburgh, Gay dressed and played in 80 straight games while starting 37 of them. After leaving in via free agency in 2012, Gay returned in 2013 to play in all 16 games and started 13 of them. He heads into 2014 poised to contribute heavily on defense once again.

2008 – Dennis Dixon became Colbert’s fourth shot at a fifth-round quarterback in 2008 and while he managed to stick around longer than this three predecessors, he never became anything more than a No. 3 quarterback. He started all of three games during his Steelers career due to injuries.

2009 – Cornerback Joe Burnett was the Steelers first of two fifth-round selections in 2009 and while he made the 53 man roster as a rookie, he only managed to play 44 snaps on defense that season. Burnett failed to stick, however, as he was released prior to the start of the 2010 season.

2009 – Frank Summers, the Steelers second of two fifth-round picks in 2009, also made the 53 man roster out of training camp as a fullback, but a back injury cut his rookie season short. Like Burnett, Summers was also released prior to the start of the 2010 season. He managed to stick on the practice squad in 2010, but that was it for him.

2010 – In 2010, the Steelers had three fifth-round selections with offensive lineman Chris Scott being the first of the three chosen. A foot injury suffered during the offseason resulted in Scott starting his rookie season on the Reserve PUP list and when he was finally activated to the 53 man roster later on in the season, he never dressed for a game. Scott made the Steelers 53 man roster in 2011, but was waived that October and signed to the practice squad.

2010 – Cornerback Crezdon Butler, the Steelers second of three fifth-round draft picks in 2010, made the 53 man roster as a rookie but only dressed for four games. In 2011, Butler was back in training camp, but this time he failed to make the final roster.

2010 – Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester was the most successful of the three fifth-round selections the Steelers had in 2010, but that’s using the term loosely. While Sylvester managed to start two games over a four-year span in Pittsburgh, his 175 total snaps played really didn’t amount to much. 100 of those snaps came in 2013 after being re-signed to the roster because of injuries. Sylvester really was never more than a special teams contributor that was constantly banged up.

2011 – The Steelers lone fifth-round pick in 2011, linebacker Chris Carter, has managed to stick on the roster despite being ineffective when given the opportunity to play on defense. In 2012, Carter started the first three games of the season at right outside linebacker due to injuries, but was quickly relegated to backup and special teams work after failing to impress in those games. Carter heads into 2014 with only 235 snaps played on defense during his career.

2012 – Colbert took a chance on running back Chris Rainey in the fifth-round of the 2012 draft. Outside of the Florida product producing a 26.5 kickoff return average during his rookie season, that was pretty much it as his 40 offensive touches that season resulted in all of 162 yards. Rainey was released shortly after the 2012 season ended after he was arrested and charged with battery.

2013 – Last April, cornerback Terry Hawthorne was the Steelers lone fifth-round selection, but a knee injury during the offseason resulted in him missing valuable practice time. As a result the team released him prior to the start of the season. He didn’t even show enough to warrant being signed to the practice squad.

Odds are good that both Richardson and Johnson will make the Steelers 53 man roster this year out of training camp. Where their careers go from there is up to them. Of the two, the Steelers really could use a hit with Richardson due to the age and lack of depth in the secondary.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • JAMESH

    Dave – In your opinion, during a ‘normal’ draft year, does Richardson have 3rd or 4th round talent or would he still be considered a 5th round pick?

  • joed32

    This article made me wonder whether other teams have had success with their 5th round picks. I only checked a few, one of them being the Ravens, and they haven’t done well either.

  • Jacob

    I don’t understand the title of this article

  • steeltown

    Historically the 5th Rd is not a good one for this Team, hopefully this year is different.

  • JAMESH

    I think Dave meant to write “Plebes” instead of “Pleads.”

  • JAMESH

    Although I have been known to be wrong once every non-Leap Year.

  • PoKey21

    Pretty sure Seattle has hit on a bunch of late rounders lately. That’s where championships are built. Sherman was a 5th rounder.

  • NW86

    Come on folks, haven’t you ever heard of the term “pleading the fifth”? As in, the fifth amendment? It was just a play on words.

  • JAMESH

    It has now been changed from ‘pleads’ to ‘pleas’ and that is more understandable.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Later rounds are meant for gambles. For example, one team may decide to take a chance on an injured player that may take a year and a half to get back to full health, and in the mean time they don’t even take up a roster spot, but may end up starting if things work perfectly. Big risk/reward scenario. Others may look for athletes that have potential but have not shown enough skills yet. Project players. You will never find a finished product in the later rounds. Most will not be with the team within a year.

    The Steelers have shown that they can identify a few gems, like Kelvin Beachum, by selecting guys who are very intelligent and willing to learn. It seems they have been drafting more captains, or valedictorians lately, again like Beachum, and finding that a few of them can learn, train hard, and dedicate themselves to this new career. If you look at history, if 30% eventually contribute in some form then you are doing well. Although we can always hope for a better success rate, this is more realistic.

  • shawn

    Ya … that is a pretty bad record when Gay is by far our best pick in over a decade !

  • dgh57

    Not getting my hopes up with this years 5th round picks with that track record! Lol!!

  • steeltown

    He would probably be a 4th, possibly a 3rd… he ran a 4.43 at his pro day and had a 38+ inch vertical. At the combine he would’ve ranked in the top 6CBs with those numbers, had he been invited.

  • cencalsteeler

    I don’t think the Steelers are out on an island with this problem. We, as fans, just see it magnified in our direction.

  • SteelersDepot

    It’s possible he would have been a 3rd or 4th in any other year.

  • joed32

    2 exactly, 2010 with Chancellor and 2011 with Sherman. Great picks but nothing else in the last10 years except for a back up LB in Herring. Way better than ours but they sure don’t do it consistently, I can’t think of any team that does. Carroll does have a good eye for talent and being recently out of the college game he probably tried to recruit a lot of these guys.

  • SumnerYoung

    Cencal, I believe your statement to be the nail on the head truth. Not to mention, from 2001-2011 the Steelers were one of the best teams in the league. Three Super Bowl appearances during that ten year stretch, two Super Bowl victories. That’s a tough veteran roster to crack for incoming 21, 22 and 23 year olds. Things do change though, and the current roster is not nearly as deep as it recently was.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    It’s a bad pun.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    Yep. It’s not all that common for any 5th round picks to make contributions, it is far more common for them to never make the roster.

  • AndyR34

    Exactly! You and cencal have this pretty correct…5th round choices only very seldom rise to make the contributions that Haggans or Willie G. have made. There are exceptions…but they are exactly that…exceptions.

  • DoctorNoah

    Terrible, terrible odds. Any idea how this compares to the rest of the league?

  • Matt Manzo

    That’s not as bad as I thought! 2003-2006 were the worst ones! I had high hopes for Tee Martin! I loved that pick, I thought he was gonna be a more controlled and smarter Kordell!
    Most of those guys were solid contributors. Until u get to the current years!

  • JAMESH

    Yes, a wee bit convoluted. We could have somehow tied in the sound of the letter “V” in Morse Code which is “dit…dit…dit…dah” in honor of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the “V” being the number 5 in Roman Numerals.

  • PoKey21

    Ya those might be the only 2 starting 5th rounders but there is a lot of players that make significant contributions that were drafted in the 4th or after. Heck their QB was a 3rd.