Since joining the Steelers in 2000, Kevin Colbert has had a major hand in every draft, first working alongside Bill Cowher and then Mike Tomlin.
While there have been well-documented struggles with certain positions–defensive backs come to mind–there have also been notable successes such as linebackers and wide receivers in later rounds.
Today we begin a series looking at Steelers draft picks position by position since the 2000 season. We’ll start with one that the Steelers could look to with their 2nd round pick, running backs.
2002: 5th round, Verron Haynes from Georgia
2003: 7th round, J.T. Wall from Georgia
2005: 7th round, Noah Herron from Northwestern
2006: 7th round, Cedric Humes from Virginia Tech
2008: 1st round, Rashard Mendenhall from Illinois
The brief Rashard Mendenhall era begins as the Steelers spend their 1st round pick (23rd overall) on the Illinois back. Mendenhall would replace Parker as the team’s number one back starting in 2009, helping the Steelers to the Super Bowl in 2010. Mendenhall would spend three year’s as the team’s primary back but never really lived up to the 1st round billing.
Following Mendenhall’s pick, the Steelers mainly took flyers on late round backs.
2009: 5th round, Frank Summers from UNLV
2010: 6th round, Jonathan Dwyer from Georgia Tech
2011: 7th round, Baron Batch from Texas Tech
2012: 5th round, Chris Rainey from Florida
2013: 2nd round, Le’Veon Bell from Michigan State
The Steelers strike pay dirt with 2nd round selection Le’Veon Bell. The Michigan State running back would fully blossom in his sophomore season becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL. A duel threat who was nearly as good out of the backfield as he was carrying the ball, Bell was named All-Pro twice in his five years with the team and had three seasons of over 1800 yards from scrimmage.
With Bell as the workhorse in the backfield, the Steelers chose not to draft a back in three consecutive seasons.
2017: 3rd round, James Conner from Pitt
The Steelers used their second 3rd round pick on the bruising running back from Pitt. Somewhat of a surprise at the time considering Bell’s status as one of the league’s premier backs. Conner had just come back from cancer with a strong junior season at Pitt. It was a fortunate selection as Bell held out in 2018 and eventually left the team. Conner showed promise despite an injury shortened 2018 as the primary back. 2019 was also beset by injuries and now Conner finds himself amongst a stable of backs competing for the role of primary ball carrier in 2020.
2018: 5th round, Jaylen Samuels from North Carolina State
2019: 4th round, Benny Snell from Kentucky
A year after Conner’s breakout, the Steelers used a 4th round selection on Kentucky running back Benny Snell. Snell appeared in 13 games, starting two as Conner dealt with more injuries, and tallied 426 yards on the ground and a 3.9 average yards per carry. Snell will share the Steelers’ backfield with Conner, 2018 pick, hybrid back Jaylen Samuels and possibly the Steelers 2020 selection if they select another running back.
2000-2020 draft running back breakdown
Selections by round:
1st round: 1
2nd round: 1
3rd round: 1
4th round: 1
5th round: 4
6th round: 1
7th round: 4
Selections by conference:
Big 12: 1
Big 10: 3
PAC 10: 0
Power 5: 12
Group of 5: 1
The Steelers have never selected more than one running back in a draft class since 2000. … Since Colbert took over, the team has picked a running back in 13 out of 20 drafts. … Of the 13 backs picked, only one — Frank Summers from UNLV in 2009 — was from a non-Power 5 school.
NFL Releases Pro Day Schedules
The 2021 NFL Combine should be kicking off this week in Indianapolis, but like so many other things in the past year, it has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFL has decided not to risk bringing together prospects, scouts and media from around the country and will instead be relying on the schools’ individual pro days to evaluate prospects.
With that in mind, the league has taken a greater measure of control over the process, and on Wednesday, released a preliminary schedule for each team’s pro day.
March 5: Kansas
March 9: Kansas State, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Whitewater
March 10: Arkansas, Marshall, Maryland, Wisconsin
March 11: Clemson, Nevada, Texas
March 12: Arkansas State, North Dakota State, Oklahoma
March 15: Army, Kent State, Middle Tennessee St., Vanderbilt
March 16: Georgia Tech, Temple
March 17: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Pitt, San Jose St.
March 18: Auburn, Buffalo, Central Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Monroe,
Stanford, Troy, West Virginia
March 19: Memphis, Ohio, TCU
March 22: Air Force, Bowling Green, Colorado, Colorado State, Florida State, Iowa, Missouri, Toledo
March 23: Alabama, Central Michigan, Iowa State, Nebraska, Purdue
March 24: Michigan State, Mississippi State, South Carolina, USC, Virginia
March 25: Georgia Southern, UMass, Ole Miss, North Texas, Penn State, San Diego St., SMU, Tennessee, Western Michigan
March 26: Boston College, BYU, Michigan, South Dakota State, Virginia Tech
March 29: Arizona State, Duke, Louisiana-Lafayette, Miami (Fla.), Miami (Ohio), North Carolina
March 30: Alabama, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Louisville, NC State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Tulane, Washington
March 31: Boise State, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Notre Dame, Wake Forest
April 1: UCF, Minnesota, Charlotte, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, USF, Western Kentucky
April 2: Oregon, Tulsa
April 7: Texas Tech
April 9: UAB, Ball State, Houston
Should Steelers Use First Round Pick on a Center?
NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process
After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.
Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.
Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.
Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.
Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.
Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.
Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.
Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.