Draft Picks:
1) Troy Polamalu
2) Alonzo Jackson
4) Ike Taylor
5) Brian St. Pierre
7) J.T. Wall

Depth Chart

Pittsburgh Steeler 2003 Draft Choices

The 2003 Steeler draft was like none other in team history. Never before had the Steelers traded up in the 1st Round, and for the first time, no offensive linemen were drafted (this proved to be a big mistake!). The Steelers only had 5 five choices whom they used to draft two big, fast Defensive backs, a pass-rushing Linebacker, a Quarterback and a Fullback. The 2003 draft revealed two things: 1) the Steelers needed and got speed on defense; 2) the team was happy with its Offensive Line, even with the loss of OLT Wayne Gandy in free agency. In hindsight, not drafting an offensive tackle crippled the team for many games.

A lot is riding on the shoulders of Troy Polamalu, the young, new Steelers Strong Safety who is expected to contribute immediately, if not start. He certainly is capable of carrying the load. He was captain of his team at USC, a 2-time All-American and voted Most Inspirational Player by his teammates.

Still, the Steelers gave up a 3rd and 6th Round pick to get him. Pro Bowlers LB Jason Gildon ('94) and WR Hines Ward ('98) were once 3rd Round picks. For the lack of players, this draft gets a B minus, but has the potential to be much better.

Troy Polamalu - '05 / '06 Action
Troy Polamalu
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1st Round - Troy Polamalu Strong Safety, USC, 5'10, 207#
2005 Season review:
The Steelers have to be thinking about extending this guy's contract way out into the future. He is such an important part of their defense. Without him, they would be an average Defense. He plays the ball well in pass defense, blankets Tight Ends, is a great tackler in run support and has a rare nose for the ball. Trend: Up

2004 Season review: Polamalu had a great season by all accounts. He had 5 interceptions, supported the run well and made his first Pro Bowl. Cowler was effusive in his praise and he is as humble a person you will ever see. He will be a rock of the new young secondary as it grows. He is fulfilling his promise as a linebacker who can run with receivers. His only weakness at the moment is playing the deep middle, which the Patriots successfully exploited in the AFC Championship game. Trend: Up

2003 Season review: Troy started the season really slowly. He looked completely lost in coverage at times and he was thinking more than playing. In the first Cleveland game, he let a receiver blow by him for a TD in the Red zone. In the Rams game, he was in perfect position to intercept a pass at the goal line, and he let the ball slip between his hands that set-up a Rams TD. Then, in the Arizona game, he tuned himself loose, running harder and not being afraid to make mistakes. From that point onward, he was a force as a blitzer and excellent covering TE's. He never broke the starting lineup in 2003, but played a lot in the Nickle (5 DBs) and Dime (6 DBs) defenses as well as goal line defense. In 2004, he should be the starter. Overall, an excellent year of growth for Troy as he adjusted to the Pro game and the complicated Steelers D. Trend: Steady / Up

Draft Day Impressions: Just what the Doctor ordered! The Steelers had been drooling over getting Polamalu since they lost out to Arizona in signing Dexter Jackson. It was clear that Sammy Knight would have been no improvement over Lee Flowers at Strong Safety. Last year, they targeted Miami Safety Ed Reed in the 1st round only to have the Ravens snatch him away. Not this year. The Steelers did what it took to get their man by trading with Kansas City to move up to #16 in the 1st Round. Polamalu will compete with Mike Logan for the starting SS job, and by mid-season he will be starting. He immediately improves the position with the ability to play all 3 downs as a run stuffer, blitzer and coverage man in the Steeler schemes. Flowers was mediocre at blitzing and coverage due to his slow foot speed. Polamulu brings speed, enthusiasm, hard work and ferocity to the Steelers Defensive backfield which should improve the play of Cornerbacks Washington and Scott who are high quality players, despite popular opinion. It will take Polamalu time to learn the Defense, but no one needs to teach him how to run as fast as a Cornerback or hit like a linebacker. My only concern is his history of injures. With so much riding on this pick, if he gets hurt a lot, the high expectations won't be met. Grade: A-, predicted grade after 3 years: A-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round 1: QB Kyle Boller (Bal 1st Round), QB Rex Grossman (Chi 1st Round), RB Larry Johnson (KC 1st Round)
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2nd Round - Alonzo Jackson Outside Linebacker, Florida St., 6'4, 255#
2005 Season Update: Was cut in preseason. Biggest Draft bust in years. trend: down and out

2004 Season review: It seems to have gotten worse for poor 'Zo. At the end of the season, James Harrison (who was never drafted) was starting at outside linebacker and thriving! He seems to try hard, but he just doesn't know where the ball is going in the passing game and he isn't strong enough to hold his ground in the running game. The guy can't even play special teams. A MAJOR disappointment for sure. He probably won't make the team in 2005 provided the Steelers can find some young LB's in the 2005 Draft.

2003 Season review: Unfortunately, Jackson never really played much. He got a few snaps as a rush end, but never made an impact. He wasn't good on coverage teams and therefore was inactive for much of the season. A real disapointing season for him and Steeler fans. In 2004, he will compete for the strong-side LB position.
Trend: Down

Draft Day Impressions: I had 'Zo Jackson on radar since the end of the season as a great OLB prospect for the Steelers. He dominated the Hula Bowl and yet didn't get much hype before the draft because of his mediocre 40 times: 4.73. However, Jackson put on weight (up to 266 pounds) in order to appear beefier to NFL teams who look for >260 pound linemen. His more natural playing weight will be 255#. He has very long arms and uses them well to throw linemen off balance. Although his 40 times aren't great, his first step and his first 10 yards are extremely fast and quick. A true "Tweener" - not quite a Lineman, bigger than most Linebackers, Jackson will fit in nicely as the heir apparent to OLB Jason Gildon and will see playing time in passing situations. He should replace OLB Clark Haggans as the rush end by mid-season. He follows in the mold of other recent top Steeler picks: very good players from big time college programs who were productive and good citizens. He also is very enthusiastic about playing the game which is another trend. The only knock on this pick is that the Steelers took him higher than conventional wisdom said he would go. There were many quality players available that the Steelers passed on to get 'Zo. I suspect the Steelers had targeted him for their 3rd Round selection, but when that pick went to the Chiefs to acquire Polamulu, they had to grab their man in the 2nd round instead. Grade: B-, predicted grade after 3 years: A-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round 2: LB Atwan Peek (Hou 3rd round), TE Jason Witten (Dal 3rd Round), OT Wayne Hunter (Sea 3rd Round), RB Musa Smith (Bal 3rd Round), DL Kenny Peterson (GB 3rd Round)
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4th Round - Ike Taylor Cornerback, LA-Laffayette 6'1, 191#
2005 Season review: Ike finally put it all together in 2005. His great speed was finally used to his advantage and he developed a reputation as a physical corner who could support the run. He opened the season as the starter and never looked back, eventually making a huge 4th quarter interception in the Super Bowl. Ike still needs to develop better ball skills - he dropped as many as 15 potential interceptions in 2005 - but the season was an indicator of great progress. Besides thebad game Monday night in Indy, he consistently matched up against the opposing teams #1 receiver. With his great speed and long arms, Ike is particularly well suited to convering Cincy's Chad Johnson which is an excellent sign for the future. The Steelers are looking at him as one their starting corners for many years to come. Trend: Up

2004 Season review: Taylor seemed to take a step back in 2004. He fell behind Colclough on the depth chart and it seemed to affect his play. He has great speed and ball skills, but he is lacking toughness. He gets pushed around - particularly on special teams and he isn't a sure tackler. Curtis Martin put a Hall of Fame straight arm on him in the playoffs. Still, with the renewed emphasis on no-contact after 5 yards, Taylor could thrive covering on an island. He has to get more physical and aggressive in his play to become a good player in 2005. Trend: Down

2003 Season review: Ike really looked great in the Pre-season, breaking up several passes. As the 2003 season wore on, he got more playing time in the Dime, especially with D. Washington on the bench. I REALLY liked his coverage skills and his tackling ability. I think Ike could be a starter in 2004, he's that good. He was a good kickoff returner, too. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: This pick will make or break this year's draft class. Taylor has the potential to be a Pro Bowl cornerback. His athletic skills are incredible: 4.33 speed, 42" vertical, agile, great hands and a hard worker. He played only one year of Cornerback but when he went up against WR Bethel Johnson, New Engand's 2nd round pick this year, he blanketed him holding him to one catch the entire game. BLESTO had Taylor ranked as the 5th best athlete in this year's draft class. He reminds me a lot of Tennesee's 1st round pick CB Andre Woolfolk who is a converted Wide Receiver. The Steelers were seriously considering Woolfolk in the first round at #27 before they traded up to get Polamalu. In Taylor, they get the same outstanding athletic ability and potential, but at a much lower cost. If he doesn't reach his potential, the Steelers didn't waste a high pick. At the very least, he will be a demon on punt & kickoff coverages and maybe even as a Kickoff returner in 2003. I hope to see Taylor starting at Left Cornerback (replacing CB Dwayne Washington) and playing in Honolulu in 3 years. Grade: B, predicted grade after 3 years: A+

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round 4: DL Rien Long (Ten 4th round), OLB Shurron Pierson (Oak 4th round), TE Aaron Walker (SF 5th round)
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5th Round - Brian St. Pierre Quarterback, Boston College 6'2, 220#
2005 Season Update: Was cut in preseason. Is currently on the Ravens practice squad. trend: down and out

2004 Season review: He was brought back for a few games until Tommy Maddox was healed from his injury. He doesn't look like even a competent NFL backup QB and he probably will be invitied to training camp just because he doesn't make any trouble. Trend: Down

2003 Season review: He did nothing that I could see. Never played a snap in the regular season. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: In the mold of Tommy Maddox, the Steelers drafted their Developmental QB. St. Pierre is not fast or athletically gifted, but the Steelers like his arm, intelligence and leadership ability. He likely won't ever see the field during the next two years since Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox are ahead of him. Grade: B-, predicted grade after 3 years: B-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round 5: CB Shane Walton (STL 5th round), OT Tony Pashos (Bal 5th Round), SS Hanik Milligan (SD 6th round), WR Arnaz Battle (SF 6th Round)
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7th Round - J.T. Wall Fullback, Georgia, 5'11 255#
2004 Season review: He was on the Practrice Squad for a while and is currently on Indianapolis' Practice Sqaud. Trend: Down and Out

2003 Season review: He was a practice squad player. Never played a snap in the regular season. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: The Steelers have a fascination with Georgia players. This is their 3rd Bulldog draft pick in the last 3 years after LB Kendrell Bell in 2001 and RB Verron Hayes in 2002. Wall is billed as a great blocker with good hands to catch outlet passes which is what the Steelers require of their Fullbacks. Dan Kreider is their current starter, but he will become an unrestricted Free Agent after the 2003 season. The Steelers don't want to spend a lot of salary cap space on the position, so Wall gives them leverage during contract negotiations and a legitimate backup in case Kreider gets hurt or signs with another team. In the past, the Steelers used TE Matt Cushing and sometimes RB Fuamatu-Ma'afala as the 2nd team FB. My guess is that Kreider will come to his senses and sign a long term contract for for less money than he has been asking. Wall will be, over the next 3 years, at best, a good special teams player. Grade: C+, predicted grade after 3 years: C


©Mark Berger,