Since Mike Tomlin took over the Steelers coaching job in 2007, the Steelers have no had a first round bust. This follows the trend that Pittsburgh has been following since Kevin Colbert joined the front office in 2000.
However, the Steelers have had a number of busts in the middle rounds of the draft that have had a negative impact on depth and left gaping holes years later.
Luckily for the Steelers, they have had more success drafting players than striking out. Still, the second and third round misses have had short and long term consequences for the team.
Here is a look at the worst draft picks since Mike Tomlin took over Pittsburgh’s head coaching job in 2007.
It is not often that you find a player who has maintained a roster spot for four years on the list of worst draft picks, but that is exactly what you get with Matt Spaeth.
Spaeth has started 40 games in his four year career, which would be considering above par for most draft selections. However, his production has not warranted what the Steelers may have passed up.
When selected in the third round of the 2007 draft, there was some confusion as to why the Steelers went this direction.
Pittsburgh had needs elsewhere on the team, particularly on the offensive line. Instead they took a tight end who would be a backup to Heath Miller.
If Spaeth used his 6-7 frame to his advantage in the redzone and became a dominant blocker, then this would have been a valuable selection.
Instead, neither occurred. Spaeth only has 36 receptions and five touchdowns for his career, including only two since his rookie season.
When given the opportunity to start for Miller last season, Spaeth was unable to step up his game and dropped key balls in a loss to the New York Jets.
Given all of the two tight end sets that Bruce Arians runs, the Steelers need a legitimate all-around threat at second string tight end, something that Spaeth has not provided.
With their third round selection of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Keenan Lewis.
Lewis appeared to be the prototypical physical cornerback, standing at 6-0, 208 pounds with good speed. He had starting potential.
Injuries took their toll on Lewis during his rookie season as he was only able to play in four games, mainly on special teams.
While he was unable to make an impact as a rookie, big things were expected from Lewis in year two.
However, after a shaky preseason, Lewis appeared to be in Tomlin’s doghouse and would only suit up for nine games.
In his limited action, Lewis struggled in his second year. With the physical attributes in place, Lewis’ mental side of the game was not.
Lewis took stupid penalties and did not demonstrate strong coverage abilities that you would expect from a potential starter.
Year number three will be make or break for Lewis.
With an offensive line starved for talent, the Steelers selected Kraig Urbik in the third round of the 2009 draft.
Urbik was the Steelers first third round selection of this draft, with Lewis being the second.
Like Lewis, Urbik had disappointed and did not make the roster his second year.
Though it was expected that he would take two or three years to develop, Urbik did have enough upside to develop into a quality starter.
Instead, he struggled in drills and was unable to beat out an overall weak collection of guards on the Steelers roster.
Pittsburgh is still trying to find a solution to right guard, the slot Urbik was expected to take over.
In yet another third round bust, Bruce Davis did not have the look of a Steelers outside linebacker when they selected him in 2008.
Davis was a little light and lacked the strength of a typical linebacker in the Steelers system. However, Davis could have grown into the role.
Instead, his problem was making the transition to outside linebacker. He never looked comfortable in the position and was unable to show any pass rushing ability during the preseason.
Great Steelers linebackers would usually flash potential rushing the passer as a rookie or excel on special teams. This was the case for Joey Porter, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Davis was nearly invisible.
He only lasted until early September 2009 before the Steelers released him.
This left depth issues at outside linebacker and resulted in the Steelers spending two selections on the position during the 2010 draft.
After having Rashard Mendenhall surprisingly fall to them in the first round of the 2008 draft, the Steelers appeared to strike gold again when Limas Sweed dropped to them in the second round.
Pittsburgh appeared to have two young and talented offensive weapons for Ben Roethlisberger.
Sweed had the size and speed that teams crave in its receivers and was able to create separation from defensive backs. What more could you ask for?
How about that Sweed could catch the ball. He could not do the most fundamental, but important job for a wide receiver.
Whether it was concentration or some other mental block, Sweed could not make a catch.
In his first two seasons with Pittsburgh, Sweed dressed for 20 games and made only seven receptions. He spent the entire 2010 season on the injured reserve.
Sweed’s defining moment in his NFL career came in his rookie season during the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.
With a chance to put the game away, all Sweed had to do was haul in a deep pass in which he was wide open. It would have resulted in a touchdown.
But Sweed dropped the ball and then on top of it, faked an injury because of the embarrassment, costing the team a time out.
To his credit, Sweed came back later in the game to make a devastating block.
Overall, Sweed has been one of the most disappointing draft selections that the Steelers have had in recent memory, but he still remains on the roster and is on the final year of his contract.