Draft Picks:
1) Kendall Simmons
2) Antwaan Randle El
3) Chris Hope
4) Larry Foote
5) Verron Haynes
6) Lee Mays
7a) LaVar Glover
7b) Brett Keisel

Pittsburgh Steelers 2002 Draft Choices

1st Round - Kendall Simmons Offensive Guard, Clemson, 6'3, 315#
2006 Evaluation:
His last year as a Steeler may be as a backup. Mahan was signed as a Free agent to play his position. Trend: Down

2005 Evaluation: Struggled in the first half of the year then finally settled down and played well down the stretch, especially in the Playoffs. He must keep up his high level of play or he will get replaced. Still has great natural athleticism but can't utilize it in games. Seems to get tripped up, or fall down too much. Made some really nice blocks in the Super Bowl. 3 year grade: B-

2004 Preseason Update: He just blew out his knee and is out for 2004. Before the injury, Kendall looked to be healthy again, finally. He sustained blocks, pulled nicely and with force. I expected him to have an excellent season, bu he won't be playing again in 2004. Trend: Down

Update 02/06/04 -
What a tough year for the Steelers' right guard. In the 2003 off-season, he developed Diabetes and had elbow problems. Simmons never fully recovered from either injury and it showed in his play. His second season was nowhere near the performance he put in during his Rookie year. It's not his fault really. But, it was painful to watch Simmons in 2003. He was often the worst linemen of the five starters. His most effective blocking assignment was when he would block a linebacker 2-3 yards off the Line of Scrimmage. However, on counter plays and sweeps, with him on the move laterally, Kendall often would lunge at a defender and end up falling forward on his stomach. Not an effective block. Jerome Bettis even warned that if Kendall didn't get out of the hole, he would "run up his back."

It will be closely watched if Simmons is able to regain the strength needed to play Pro football while treating his Diabetes. He is a big question mark for the Steelers in 2004. Trend: Down

Update 12/15/02 - He has been the entrenched starter at RG since week 3. He was hurt for two games and Keydrick Vincent came in and filled in nicely. However, Stewart was at QB for those 2 games which meant more run blocking assignments - Vincent's strengths. Vincent is a classic drive blocker who can move anyone in the league, or at least cause a stalemate. He is less effective in space and with movement - Simmon's strengths. Because the Steelers love to pull their guards (Faneca especially), Simmons quickly returned to the starting lineup. He is also adept at pass blocking which favors Maddox, when he is playing. Simmons is getting better at run blocking, especially on sweeps, but he will be much better in a year or two of playing. Trend: Up

Update 9/01/02 - Simmons was injured at the end of the pre-season which slowed his ascent to the starting RG position. By week #8, I'm sure he'll be there. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: Not an inspiring pick, but a very solid one. Simmons will be starting at ORG by next year, if not much sooner. He will be like Pro-Bowl OLG Alan Faneca, if not better much faster. He has more versatility than Faneca since he played left tackle at Clemson which should make him a much better pass-blocker coming out of college than Faneca was. Like Faneca, he possesses the Steeler aggressive mentality and a hard-working attitude. Grade: B, predicted grade after 3 years: A-

2nd Round - Antwaan Randle El Wide Receiver, Indiana, 5'10, 190#
2006 Evaluation: Played for Washington after signing big contract.

2005 Evaluation: Randle El came into his own in 2005. He split time with Cedric Wilson at WR and scored 2 TD's on punt returns. Everyone knows about the gadget play in the Super Bowl, but they won't know about his drops. He can catch well, but he looks downfield to run before he has the ball. Not consistent enough for my tastes, but will make the big play. A home run hitter that will strike out. Chicago will probably offer him tons of $$$ to sign as a free agent and the Steelers won't match it. He is merely a #3 receiver and good punt returner to me. 3 year grade: B+

2004 Preseason Update: He should have a great season as the #3 receiver facing #3 DB's. If need be, Randle-El will be ready to be the #2 receiver in 2005. Trend: Steady

Update 02/06/04 - Randle-El had a very solid year building upon his excellent Rookie season. He was a force on 3rd downs in the passing game, he ran out of the shotgun once a game, he completed several passes and he was electrifying on punt returns. He is getting better as a receiver, even though he still takes his eye off the ball when catching it, ie. the resulting Int. for TD at Kansas City that bounced off his hands. Trend: Up

Update 12/15/02 - Everyone is talking about this rookie "hitting the wall." What a load of B.S. He has fumbled some punts - which are rookie mistakes - but he is small. He is generously listed as 190#, but he looks more like 172#. Everyone believes he'll be a star. I'm not so sure, because his straight line speed isn't world class. But his attitude is an A-plus. He's confident, works hard and is enthusiastic about the game. The career scenario I see for him: he turns into a Derrick Mason - excels on 3rd downs and special teams, and then becomes a starting WR in his 3rd or 4th season. Trend: Steady

Update 9/01/02 - Wow! What a pre-season! Randle El is the most exciting Steeler rookie WR since Louis Lipps. He is the team's #3 receiver and the main reason why former #1 pick Troy Edwards was traded to the Rams. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: This is the most controversial pick by far. Pitt's Antonio Bryant was the best receiver in college football in 2000 and was available for the Steelers in Round #2. However, in 2001, Bryant showed the Steelers, who share the same stadium as the Pitt Panthers, what is in his heart: an arrogant malcontent who is very gifted athletically. No other team in the NFL had as much information (and dirt!) on Bryant as the Steelers. Let's trust that they knew what they were doing when they passed on Bryant. This discussion is completely disrespectful to the Steeler's #2 choice: QB/WR/PR Antwaan Randle who supposedly was a better QB than Kordell Stewart at college and probably was the best offensive player in the country over the last 2 years. If Randle El plays to his ability, no one should remember the Bryant controversy in the future. I can't wait to see Randle El return punts and electrify 3rd downs! Tee Martin better start playing, or he will be out as the 3rd QB, too. If you would like more information about him, please see the voluminous information available at Steeler sites listed to the right. Grade: A-, predicted grade after 3 years: A

3rd Round - Chris Hope Safety, Florida St. 5'11, 210#
2006 Evaluation: Played for Tennesse after signing big contract.

2005 Evaluation: Had only 3 Interceptions and at least as many blown tackles. A steady player who covered for Troy Polamalu in the secondary. Not a play maker and someone who the Steelers can afford to lose, in my opinion. 3 year grade: C+

2004 Preseason Update: Hope will be the starting FS. He has been a big hit in training camp laying the wood to Jerome Bettis. If Hope can QB the secondary, the Defense will be fine, if not, Mike Logan will have to step in. Trend: Up

Update 02/06/04 - Hope is tough to evaluate because he plays so little. One has to wonder why he doesn't play more. The complicated Steelers Defense scheme may be one reason why. Another may be that he isn't an instinctive safety who has that "feel" for where the ball is going to go. Whatever the case, he doesn't seem close to dislodging Brent Alexander as the starter at FS. However, Lee Flowers had a similar career path: special teams for 2-3 years before breaking in a as a starter. Trend: Steady

Update 12/15/02 - He is the rookie who has made the biggest impression lately. Granted, he didn't show anything up until now. In the Jacksonville game, he played really well in the Defensive Dime package. He came up quickly in run support to stop Fred Taylor, ran Mark Brunnel out of bounds and made several solid tackles in the secondary when Chad Scott lost his man. Hope will probably be the 3rd safety next year in Dime, after Mike Logan moves to the starting SS spot. Trend: Up

Update 9/01/02 - Word out of camp was that Hope looked like Mr. Universe but played like Mr. Clueless. However, the Steelers defense is extremely difficult to pick up. By the end of the pre-season, at least Hope was making bone-jarring tackles. In time, he'll be solid at safety. Trend: Down

Draft Day Impressions: Not highly rated by many draft "experts" but was a highly productive safety at one of the country's best college programs. Hope explained that in the Florida State defensive scheme, his job was to funnel tackles to the Front 7 and therefore he didn't have the opportunities to make big plays that other highly touted safeties (Reed and Williams) had in their teams' defensive schemes.

Hope seems like he has a smart head on his shoulders. This is promising of the rookie because it says that this ability is very likely going to follow him over into the NFL, and he should be able to pick things up very fast. Here's a player who knows what he's doing and seems like he'll catch on very quickly to the Steelers way of football.

Regardless, Hope seems to have the physical tools (4.55 speed), and more importantly, the mental tools (Academic All-American) to play the Steelers' Free Safety position currently occupied by the comparatively slow, 31 year-old Brent Alexander. The Steelers haven't committed to putting Hope at FS or SS, but my guess is FS since he has the brains to be the quarterback of the complicated Steelers defense and Mike Logan has been moved to SS on the depth chart. The Steelers in 2001 signed Logan with the hope that he would be an upgrade, physically, to Alexander at FS, but Logan apparently couldn't handle the mental responsibilities of the job. Hopefully, in Hope, the Steelers get an upgrade mentally AND physically at FS in 2003. In the meantime, he will be good on the punt and kickout coverage teams much like Lee Flowers was in his first year. Grade: B, predicted grade after 3 years: B

4th Round - Larry Foote LineBacker, Michigan 6'1, 230#
2006 Evaluation: A very solid year. He is turning into a very dependable defender who talks a lot of trash.

2005 Evaluation: Not my favorite player, but continues to improve. He talks too much and doesn't make enough plays. Larry "Slow of Foot" is what I call him. Still, he has gotten better on the twist blitz and has become very good dropping into coverage. He made a key Interception in the second half of the AFC Championship game. Foote is someone who makes the most of his athletic traits which is admirable. A solid player in the Defense who won't come close to the Pro Bowl, but won't ever disappoint, either.
3 year grade: A-

2004 Preseason Update: Foote has looked excellent anticipating plays and being in the right place at the right time: just like he did at Michigan. I feel a lot better now if he has to step in and replace K. Bell at ILB. Trend: Up

Update 02/06/04 - Fortunately, Foote didn't play Defense at all in 2003. I hope the Steelers get a new, younger ILB in the Draft who is more than a special teamer. Trend: Steadily Down

Update 12/15/02 - Unfortunately, Foote isn't a starting LB in the NFL, yet. When Kendrell Bell was hurt, Foote played several games where he was picked on by opposing offenses and he didn't meet the challenge. Bill Cower says he likes him, but I don't see Foote lasting more than 3 years with the Steelers unless he dramatically gets faster, stronger, or both. Trend: Down

Update 9/01/02 - Foote played the pre-season like he did in college: solid, productive, unspectacular. He just made tackles and made plays. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: The knock on Foote was his speed. He was clocked at a very slow 4.75 - 40 at the Combine. However, like safety Hope, Foote was very productive in a premier college program. In fact, like last year's 6th round pick, DE, Rodney Bailey, Foote was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year. If Foote can contribute like Bailey did last year, the Steelers and their fans will be very pleased. Foote is projected to back-up 2001 defensive Rookie of the Year Kendrell Bell at weak-side ILB. Thus, he doesn't figure to get many opportunities beyond special teams. Grade: B-, predicted grade after 3 years: C+

5th Round Verron Haynes Running Back, Georgia 5'9, 225#
2006 Evaluation: Blew out his knee and may not come back. Trend: Down

2005 Evaluation: Recovered nicely from knee surgery and has developed into a vital member of the offense as the 3rd down back. He can block, catch and run out of the Spread formation. Wants to play more, but I don't think he can take the pounding of an every down back. Still runs very hard on every play. Great role player. 3 year grade: B+

2004 Preseason Update: I have to wonder how Hayes will get any carries or catches now that Duce Staley is on the team. One thing is certain: he's not a fullback, he's a running back. He shows great balance and legs that never stop moving. He will be a great 3rd down back. Trend: Steady

Update 02/06/04 - Hayes looks like the Steelers' 3rd down back for 2004. While Zeroue was the starting RB in the first half of the season, Hayes was the 3rd down back and looked good, running hard and breaking tackles. His problem in 2003 was putting the football on the ground. Trend: Up

Update 12/15/02 - Verron made a nice run on a fake punt and made some good, solid special teams tackles. However, when put into the offense, he looked unprepared, or scared. He was put on IR this week with a mysterious fractured leg injury. To my eyes, Haynes was just put IR so that the team could use his roster spot for a veteran who plays better special teams, or provides better depth. Reminds me of what happened to Charles Johnson going on IR in 1995. We'll have to wait and see what Haynes has to offer next year. Trend: Steady

Update 9/01/02 - I didn't see much of him, but he when he carried the ball, he looked like a tailback in the mold of Barry Foster.

Draft Day Impressions: The Steelers know Running Backs. Bettis, Fu, Amos all could start in the NFL and the Steelers may have added another in Hayes although the Steelers want to use him as a pure blocking FB. Like all the other picks above, Haynes seems to have an infectious love for game and a passion for playing. Not the fastest back by far (4.7 - 40), Haynes nonetheless, ended his career at Georgia 2nd in all-time per average rush behind only Hershell Walker. Included in that list are former NFL MVP Terrell Davis (Broncos), Tim Worley (1989 Steeler 1st round pick) and Pro-Bowler Garrison Hearst (49ers). RB Coach Dick Hoak says Haynes reminds him of former Steelers FB Tim Lester. To me he looks like Barry Foster (5'10 220#) . Grade: B+, predicted grade after 3 years: A-

6th Round - Lee Mays Wide Receiver, UTEP, 6'1 190#
2005 Evaluation: Cut. Trend: Down and out

2005 Evaluation: Was brought back when Quincy Morgan broke his leg, but never saw action. He has no future with Steelers, but is a good guy. 3 year grade: C

2005 Preseason Update: The axe finally fell on Lee's head. He will be missed, but the Steelers were able to replace him with Qunicy Morgan (#33 overall in 2002). Lee was always out with hamstring injuries, showed suspect hands and couldn't break tackles. Trend: Down and Out

2004 Preseason Update: This is a pivotal pre-season for Mays. He either steps up, or he's gone. Rookie Free agent Zamir Cobb was pushing for his roster spot before he got injured. So far, Mays hasn't given the Steelers a reason to keep him around. Trend: Down

Update 02/06/04 - I really like Lee Mays. He didn't get many opportunities in 2003, but I think he could be a good receiver if given the chance. He finally caught a couple of balls this season which was encouraging. His deep speed is impressive. Trend: Up

Update 12/15/02 - Mays has been nice on kickoffs - taking the ball straight upfield with authority and even hurdling tacklers for extra yards. However, when Hines Ward was hurt against the Panthers, Mays was used in the 4 WR set and dropped the only pass of the season thrown to him so far. Trend: Steady

Update 9/01/02 - Mays had an outstanding pre-season for a 6th round pick. His kickoff returns were electrifying and he made some nice catches. While he dropped some balls, his sprinter speed and excellent footwork make him an exciting player with potential to return a kickoff for a TD this year and maybe be a good receiver in the future. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: Like 4th round LB Foote, Mays was very productive in college, but timed poorly at the Combine (4.6 - 40). Mays had 10 TD and 1000+ yards his junior season, but dropped to 1 TD and 700 yards his senior year. However, he has good size to play outside and enough speed to go deep or over the middle. He would not be a slot receiver. He eventually could replace Hines Ward outside, or allow Hines to play the slot. He supposedly has great hands which is good news considering the Steelers have a bad history of drafting wideouts with suspect hands (Edwards, Burress, and last year's 7th rounder Chris Taylor). Grade: B-, predicted grade after 3 years: B

7th Round - LeVar Glover Cornerback, Cincinnati, 5'10 185#
3 year grade:

Update 9/01/02 - a disappointment who was too small to cover kicks or receivers. CUT.

Draft Day Impressions: Strictly a special teamer. He was the only Special Teams Captain in the history of Cincinnati. He will replace Jason Simmons and not surprisingly, he will wear #23, Simmons' old number. The Steelers were a punt away, or a field goal attempt away from the Super Bowl last year. This pick makes little long-term sense, but addresses the team's greatest immediate need. Grade: B, predicted grade after 3 years: C

7th Round - Bret Keisel, Defensive End, BYU, 6'5 280#
2006 Evaluation: Had an excellent season as a Starter and continues to get better. Should see more opportunities in 2007 as Tomlin plays with standing him up and dropping him into zones. Trend: Up

2005 Evaluation: Was a key special teams contributor as a wedge buster and developed into a nice pass rusher in the second half of the season. Had 2 sacks in AFC championship game and made a key (possibly TD saving) tackle in the Super Bowl. Has to add weight if he will take over for Kimo as starting DE. 3 year grade: A

2005 Preseason Update: Bret looks like a solid backup and special teams ace as a Wedge Buster on Kickoff coverages.

2004 Preseason Update: Brett has recovered well from last-years season ending shoulder injury. He is stuffing the run and putting pressure on the passer equally well. He is an excellent backup to Aaron Smith. Trend: Up

Update 02/06/04 - Put on IR after a promising pre-season. We'll see if he can stay healthy and keep his beef in 2004. Trend: Down

Update 12/15/02 - After being inactive for most of the season, Keisel has been active since the middle of the season and has proven to be quite destructive on Kickoff coverages. Several times he has busted the wedge and last week recovered a fumble! Nice work. We'll have to wait to see if he can also play D-line with such intensity and emotion. Trend: Up

Update 9/01/02 - A real surprise who made plays at the end of the pre-season. He also was an effective wedge-buster on kickoff coverage. A coach said that Keisel is further along in his development than Aaron Smith was at the same points in their career. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: The Steelers really wanted Keisel's linemate, DE Ryan Denney in the 2nd round, but Cower nemesis and Buffalo GM Tom Donahue traded up with the 49ers to steal him away. So instead, the Steelers settled for Keisel in 7th. He probably will never start a game for the Steelers, but you never know until you put the pads on and play the game, as Hall of Famer Chuck Noll used to say. Grade: C, predicted grade after 3 years: D


Draft Day Analysis (April 2002)

The 2002 Steeler draft was reflective of the team: workman-like. The Steelers took the best player available in the first round and then successfully drafted for need by position in the next 6 rounds.

last updated: 09/04/06

Draft Day Grade: B+

©Mark Berger,