NFL Draft

Labriola Recalls The Time Pittsburgh Truly Reached On A Draft Pick

One of the most common word associations with Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round pick Terrell Edmunds was the word “reach.” And if your opinion, it was, then that’s totally fair. But to the organization, Edmunds was anything but. If you take what Kevin Colbert says at face value, they viewed him as a late first round pick which meshes with some of the pre-draft reports that Edmunds was going to be selected higher than what analysts believed.

Does that mean organizations never reach? Of course not and Pittsburgh isn’t exempt from that. Yesterday, on the Steelers’ website, Bob Labriola recounted one of those times. Not with a first round pick but a Day Three selection. One you do have to travel back in time for; their selection of Nathaniel Adibi in the 5th round of the 2004 daft.

Here’s what Labs has to say.

“Coach Bill Cowher made it clear that he wanted an outside linebacker with the Steelers’ next pick, which was to be the 13th overall in the fifth round. Even though seven more linebackers were picked between the selection of Phillips in the fourth round and the Steelers’ turn in the fifth round, Cowher remained adamant. The fifth-round pick was to be an outside linebacker.”

And so Adibi became the pick. A bad one, who never appeared in an NFL game, with Pittsburgh or anywhere else. To be fair, his time in Pittsburgh ended up being brief. After being released by the Steelers at cutdowns, the Tennessee Titans claimed him off waivers. Injuries played a role too. He missed a week at the start of camp his rookie year and broke his hip in 2005.

I actually stumbled across a diary Adibit wrote for TechSideline at the time. Here’s what he wrote.

“They said the first week kind of messed me up when I was hurt. They felt like I was doing good, but they felt like I was behind a little bit when I got hurt. I didn’t really think it was coming. They let go Terry Fair and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know it was coming either. You don’t necessarily know it’s coming, sometimes it just happens.”

So Pittsburgh never really got to find out what they had in him, though it’s probably safe to say he was never going to be an All-Star.

It’s an interesting story at least. For the Steelers organization, there aren’t many on-the-record stories of them straying from their draft board. This appears to be one of them. Another I’ve heard is that Mike Tomlin was the driving force behind selecting Jason Worilds despite having Sean Lee as their highest rated player on the board.

Here’s what the Post-Gazette wrote years ago.

“The Steelers drafted Worilds, pictured at right, in the second round in 2010, a defensive end at Virginia Tech that they projected as a 3-4 outside linebacker. It is a tactic they have used so many times through the years. On that day three years ago, some people involved in the Steelers draft expected them to choose linebacker Sean Lee of Penn State with their second pick. They were surprised when they took Worilds instead, and there are suspicions that Mike Tomlin stepped in and expressed his interest in Worilds over Lee.”

Other reporters have disputed that account so I can’t say for sure what is fact and fiction.

The point of all this is that just because the draft community believes a selection is a reach, doesn’t mean the team, in their eyes, reached for the player.

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