Pittsburgh Steelers: Grading the 2009 Draft
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in transition and will be more dependent on their young, developing players in 2012.
Several key players for their team this season come from the 2009 draft. These players have finally come into their own after three years and will fill prominent roles this fall.
Looking back on the 2009 draft, Pittsburgh had four players play significant roles in their lineup last season, including two starters.
The players that remain from this draft will be a part of the new foundation of the Steelers with the recent releases of Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith.
However, Pittsburgh may have been in a better situation this year if more players had been able to stay on the roster, even as backups.
Here is a look back on the 2009 draft and where these players grade out after three seasons.
First Round: Ziggy Hood, DE, Missouri
Pittsburgh knew that they needed to get younger on the defensive line and that it takes several years for defensive lineman to develop, so it was no surprise that Ziggy Hood was selected in the first round.
Though he was not an ideal fit for the 3-4 defense, Hood was talented enough to adjust to the scheme and eventually develop into a solid starter.
At times, Hood's play has seemed underwhelming, but that can be attributed to watching Aaron Smith play left defensive end like no one else in the league.
Hood was playing behind a Steelers' legend. Smith was the top 3-4 defensive end in the league, and no matter what Hood did, it was a drop off from what Smith was capable of.
Age and injuries got to Smith, and after three seasons, Hood finally took over as the starter and performed pretty well.
Hood had an outstanding end to his 2010 season and was one of the best defenders on the field. After a strong camp in 2011, a big season was expected.
While Hood didn't exactly explode, he did show improvement and has the look of a long-time starter.
Hood does not hold the point of attack as well as Smith, and while he has 5.5 sacks in three seasons, he does not have the same pass rushing abilities.
Though he is not a special player, Hood is solid and will enter next season as the incumbent at left end.
Third Round: Kraig Urbik, OG, Wisconsin
Pittsburgh's next pick did not come until the third round, and it looked like they were going to add a quality guard prospect to help the interior of their offensive line.
Kraig Urbik did not work out as expected, as he was generally inactive as a rookie and was released in September of his second season.
Urbik was not a bad player for the Steelers. He did not look great in practices, but was much better in games when he did not have to work in space.
Pittsburgh did not give him an extended chance and parted ways. He then started for the Buffalo Bills.
While Urbik would have never been spectacular for the Steelers, he would have been a decent starter and they would not have such a dire need for guard if he have worked out.
Regardless, a third-round pick that does not last more than a year with a team is not a good use of a draft selection, despite what he has done in Buffalo.
Third Round: Mike Wallace, WR, Mississippi
While the Steelers struck out with their first third-round pick, they hit a home run, no, a grand slam with their second.
Mike Wallace has developed into one of the top deep threats in the NFL and is one of the top free agents of this year's free agent class.
As a rookie, Wallace led the NFL with 19.4 yards per reception and was even better in his second year, averaging 21.0 yards per reception.
Over his three years in the league, Wallace has gone from deep threat specialist to starter and has 171 receptions for 3,206 yards and 24 touchdowns.
No cornerback can cover Wallace down field one-on-one and opponents have to dedicate two men to covering him deep.
Wallace made his first Pro Bowl this season and is still developing as an all-around receiver. Even though he is still developing, he simply makes the Steelers offense much better with his speed. He should be a focal point of the offense for years to come.
Third Round: Keenan Lewis, Cornerback, Oregon State
Keenan Lewis, the last of the Steelers' third-round draft picks, had a disappointing first two years in the NFL marred by injuries and the lack of development.
Pittsburgh drafted Lewis as a potential starter. Instead he could not stay healthy, let alone get on the field.
That did not mean Lewis was down for the count. Last season, he took several giant strides in his development and earned a role as the Steelers' third cornerback.
Lewis had 37 tackles, six passes defended and an interception in the first significant action of his career.
For the season, Lewis did not make many splash plays, but he also was nearly invincible, which is good for a cornerback. He was solid, but unspectacular.
The growth of Lewis helped solidify the Steelers' cornerback situation as he aided the NFL's top-ranked pass defense.
Lewis should have a more prominent role in the defense this year and could start opposite of Ike Taylor. It took awhile, but Lewis is finally developing into the type of player that the Steelers needed him to be.
Fifth Round: Joe Burnett, CB, Central Florida
Pittsburgh did not have a fourth-round pick and used their first in the fifth round on Joe Burnett.
Burnett was drafted, in part, due to his return abilities. He was expected to compete and possibly take over for Stefan Logan as punt and kick returner. That never developed.
Even though Burnett was unable to develop as a returner, he flashed skills as a developmental cornerback.
Burnett saw limited action as a rookie. His most memorable moment, though, was quite forgettable.
With a chance to seal a victory against the Oakland Raiders, Burnett dropped an easy fourth-quarter interception that would have won the game. Instead, the Steelers lost their fourth game in a row.
Burnett was released in September of 2010.
Fifth Round: Frank Summers, RB/FB, UNLV
Frank Summers was a big back who could play both fullback and running back, which fit the Steelers' bill as a versatile backup.
Summers played in the first two games of his rookie year before being placed on the injured reserve. He was then signed to the practice squad his second season before signing with the San Diego Chargers in February 2011.
Though he never amounted to anything for the Steelers, Summers was worth a chance late in the draft and did get the opportunity to play a couple of games early in his career. However, the fact that he did not last with the team hurts this draft grade.
Sixth Round: Ra'Shon Harris, DE, Oregon
Ra'Shon "Sunny" Harris was a late-round developmental prospect for the Steelers, who were looking to beef up their defensive line.
Harris had a decent upside for a late choice in the draft, though the chances that he was going to develop were not very high. It was a risky pick, even in the sixth round.
For a few seasons, Harris bounced around the league and on-and-off the Steelers' practice squad. He was never able to make his mark with the team.
Seventh Round: A.Q. Shipley, C, Penn State
A.Q. Shipley was a player that you wanted to root for. He was a hometown kid who played at Penn State and had a chance to play for the Steelers.
Shipley was undersized but flashed some ability, which allowed him to make the practice squad of the Steelers as a rookie and then the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pittsburgh knew they were not going to get a starter with Shipley, but he was a borderline backup as well. At least they got a year out of him on the practice squad.
Seventh Round: David Johnson, TE, Arkansas State
David Johnson is not a favorite amongst Steelers fans, but he has developed into a contributor despite being a seventh-round draft pick.
Johnson plays both tight end and fullback for the Steelers, which is a nice role for a player with limited skills.
Though he is not a great blocker, Johnson has proven to be adequate in the fullback position. Granted, he is an easy upgrade, as he makes his fair share of mistakes as well.
As a receiver, Johnson is nothing more than average, but at times can display soft hands. He has 18 career receptions, including 12 last season, and one touchdown.
Anytime a seventh-round draft pick can contribute the way Johnson has, a team made a quality selection. Anything more is a bonus.
The 2009 draft class did not look like anything special three years ago and that has proven to be true now that everyone has established themselves.
Pittsburgh hit on just below 50 percent of their selections, which is not very good. They really could have used quality depth with nine draft picks.
Instead, the misses on Urbik and Burnett really hurt.
If Urbik had developed into a starter, the Steelers' offensive line would look much better right now, and if Burnett could have developed into a nickel corner, they may not have had to spend two picks on corners last year.
Not all was lost, though, as the Steelers did get two starters, with possibly a third on the way, as well as a backup.
Hood took time to develop, but he will finally be entrenched as a starter this year, and Lewis could also move into a starting role depending on the status of free agent cornerback William Gay. Then Johnson will likely continue in his role as backup tight end and fullback.
But it is Wallace that makes this draft a little bit special. It is not often that teams can find a burner like Wallace. There are few players in the league that can do what he can and that is why he is a priority for the Steelers this offseason.
With two starters, ith potential for a third and a backup and five strike outs, this draft was average at best. Since Wallace is establishing himself as a superstar, the overall grade of the draft is brought up.
Final Grade: C
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