Draft Picks:
1) QB Ben Roethlisberger
2) CB Ricardo Colclough
3) OT Max Starks
4) Traded
5) LB Nathaniel Adibi
6a) OT Bo Lacy
6b) Matt Kranchick
Drew Caylor
7) Eric Taylor

Depth Chart

Pittsburgh Steelers 2004 Draft Choices

3 year Draft Evaluation: It looks like Big Ben will be the only high-quality player to come out of this draft class. Max Starks still could turn out to be a solid pro.

2 year Draft Evaluation: Winning the Super Bowl means this draft class was very productive, although not particularly deep. Big Ben continued to improve in his second season and Max Starks solidified the Offensive live.

1 year Draft Evaluation: A very productive draft mostly due to an incredible season from QB Roethlisberger (1) who will be the Steelers' starter for at least 5 years. CB Colclough (2) and OT Starks (3) should also be starters in 2005 after valuable contributions in 2004.

LB Adibi (5) was a complete bust and 6th rounders LS Caylor and OT Lacy ended up on the Practice Squads of other teams. DE Taylor (7) and TE Kranchick (6) get the chance to come back in 2005 after essentially a red-shirt year in 2004.

Ben Roethlisberger '05 / '06 - Passing Action
Ben Roethlisberger
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1st Round - Ben Roethlisberger Quarterback, Miami (OH), 6'5", 240#
2006 Evaluation: A very disapointing season that was marked by serious injuries, poor protection (1st Baltimore game, Jacksonville) and some bad decision making (1st Cincy game, Oakland). It was a season that Big Ben will be anxious to put behind him.

The stories about his motorcycle crash and concussion is well documented. I feel that Cowher rushed him back too soon from those injuries because he knew, in the back of his head, that this was his last year in Pittsburgh.

Ben will be asked to do more in 2007 by calling protections and probably throwing more. I think Big Ben is able and more than willing the task. Trend: down

2005 Evaluation: Big Ben became the youngest starting QB (23 yrs) to win a Super Bowl. That just about says it all. He defied the critics and avoided a Sophomore slump, actually improving upon his Rookie year. All the skills he displayed in his first year remained and he added some new tricks: looking off safeties, making progressive reads and playing hurt. Defenses had no answer to stop Big Ben - blitzing didn't work and neither did dropping 8 into coverage. If Defenses stopped the run, Ben would find 1 on 1 coverage and make big passes. His development in only his second year is the biggest reason why the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2005.

Interestingly, he didn't have a good Super Bowl although he carried the Offense through the Playoffs as opposing defences stopped the Running game. Ben must be disappointed in that performance and yet feel blessed that he didn't have to play well to win. It's an important lesson for him: he doesn't have to carry the team. In fact, the second half of the Super Bowl gave me the same feeling as the Playoffs in 2004: Big Ben was imploding under the pressure (self-imposed?) to carry the team. However, Big Ben will learn from his first Super Bowl, just like he learned from his first Playoff experience in 2004, and hopefully will have the opportunity to win it again.

My only suggestion for improvement is for him to take better care of his body. His several injuries during the regualr season (both knees, right thumb, elbow) almost cost the team a spot in the Playoffs. He needs to get stronger, and get more resillient. Just looking at Big Ben, you think you're looking at a guy who plays hoops on the weekend at any urban playground. He doesn't have much muscle definition and he even has a double chin! If he hits the weight room in the offseason, it would go a long way towards preventing future injuries. Trend: up

2004 Evaluation: Showed precocious play earlier than anyone expected. His play during the first 6-7 games was All-Pro. Whenever he was blitzed, he generally did very well identifying one on one coverage, escaping pressure and delivering a very accurate throw - something neither Kordell Stewart nor Tommy Maddox could do consistently. But in the Cincy game, Defenses started to scheme against his strengths: keep him in the pocket and play zone behind it. He never looked the same again. During the Playoffs, he was rarely blitzed and was forced to be patient as Defenses dropped 7 and 8 defenders into coverage. The result was some poor decisions, interceptions and a distinct lack of patience. He was a Rookie after all. Now, after one full season of high-quality play in the NFL, the league now knows how to Defense Big Ben. The challenge for his second season will be to show patience in the pocket and not give in to the temptation to quickly leave the pocket at the first sight of pressure. In sum, after the greatest Rookie season of any QB in NFL history, he has to get more patient in the pocket and get better at his reads. Trend: Way Up

2004 Mid-Season Update: Ben has exceeded everyone's expectations, perhaps even his own. He is virtually a lock for NFL Rookie of the Year and is having the best rookie season for a QB since Dan Marino. Granted, he owns the keys to a pretty fancy Offense with plenty of weapons and a surprisingly dominant Offensive Line. Still, Big Ben possesses attributes such as pocket-awareness, leadership and vision that many current veteran QB's don't have. He's the Real Deal and plenty more. trend: WAY up

2004 Preseason Update: He is still adjusting to the speed of the NFL game, but he shows everything the Steelers thought they were getting: great pocket awareness of the rush, big arm, nice mobility, great poise, very accurate delivery. He also shows an understanding of when to put touch on his passes. Should be the backup to T. Maddox this season. trend: up

Draft Day Impressions: Start ordering your new #7 Steeler jerseys! Big Ben will be with the Steelers for many years to come. The Steelers were truly fortunate to not have to trade up to get R-Berger. The Bills reportedly tried to trade ahead of the Steelers at #10 (Texans) to nab him. While the Steelers leaked the fact that they wanted to draft QB Philip Rivers, prior to the draft, the Steelers aren't disappointed at all. In fact, they get a player who could eventually be better than Rivers although he's not as experienced as Rivers is now.

What I like most about Big Ben is his arm strength and athleticism -- features lacking in Rivers. Playing in cold, windy Heinz stadium would have been problematic for Rivers who played in the warm SEC. You need a very strong arm to throw out routes and deep balls in cold, windy weather. Also, Big Ben's size will be an advantage when defenders start crawling up his ankles. Like Daunte Culpepper and Steve McNair, Big Ben should be a threat to run early in his career and should always be difficult to bring down in the pocket.

For those critics who wanted the Steelers to draft Right Tackle Shawn Andrews, I say that would have been like picking 1st round bust Troy Edwards in 1998. Yes, the Steelers desperately need an upgrade at that position, but Andrews probably is a Right Guard in the NFL and not a tackle. When he came to visit Pittsburgh, Andrews said something telling: he said that his brother Stacey Andrews, who was drafted in the 4th round by the Bengals and is also a Tackle, would be better than him in 3 or 4 years. If that's the case, why waste a high 1st round pick on him! Rather than reaching for Andrews at #11, the Steelers made a pick like the one they made in 1987 in the first round: Rod Woodson who fortunately slid to them at #10 and into Chuck Noll's "loving" possession.

Draft Grade: A, predicted grade after 3 years: A-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #1: QB J.P. Losman (Buf 1st Round), OT Shawn Andrews (Phi 1st Round)
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2nd Round - Ricardo Colclough Cornerback, Tusculum, 5'11", 190#
2005 Season Evaluation: Made a crutial punt fumble in the 1st Cincy game deep in Steelers territory. Got burned badly in Atlanta. Had a neck injury a few weeks later that ended his year. trend: down

2005 Season Evaluation: His future is up in the air. With 2005 2nd round pick Bryant McFadden playing ahead of him, he needs to step up his play just like Ike Taylor did this season. His coverage ability is ok and his open-field tackling needs some work. Ricardo returned kickoffs throughout the season, but didn't do much. Quincy Morgan was the #1 threat, not him. Currently, he is the #4 corner, but could move up to #3 if Deshea Townhend is not re-signed. trend: down

2004 Season Evaluation: Had a very solid season in coverage in the Dime and will compete for the starting job at Left Cornerback now that Chad Scott has been released. trend: up

2004 Mid-Season Update: Has been excellent in 1-on-1 coverage and shows quickness to stay with receivers. He also shows toughness and good tackling ability which has moved him ahead of Ike Taylor on the Depth Chart. He didn't get to start when Chad Scott got injured (Willie Williams did), but this is due to his lack of experience in the zone-blitz Defensive system rather than physical ability. Willie Williams never was and now certainly isn't a better athlete that Colclough. In time, maybe next year, he will be starting at CB.

He has also had success as a kick returner such as against Cleveland at home when he took the opening kickoff for 50+ yards. However, he carries the ball loosely and he will fumble eventually if this isn't corrected. trend: steady

2004 Preseason Update: He looks like a great pick. He has excellent feet, quickness and reactions to the ball. And, he is a very good punt returner. He will play in the dime and return kicks this year. trend: up

Draft Day Impressions: After all the patience the Steelers showed in Round 1, they blew it Round 2. They gave up a 4th round pick to move up 6 picks and take a short Cornerback who played Division II college football. Colclough hopefully will develop into a solid starter and there is good reason to believe so. He dominated play in Div II and he played very well against top College receivers at the Senior Bowl where he was the South's Defensive MVP. Many Draft Web sites had projected that Colclough would be selected by Cincinnati in the First Round.

Still, the Steelers paid a hefty price to acquire him and he has several knocks against him. First, he ended up playing at Tusculum because he had very poor grades. In other words, he isn't very bright. He doesn't have elite speed although he ran a good 4.49 forty at the Combine. Lastly, he will need at least a year to adjust to the superior athletes in the Pro game. He won't dominate like he did in college. This pick smacks of desperation to me. Dick LeBeau needed another cover corner BADLY and the Steelers got him one after seeing all the Free agent CB's sign for Megabucks with other teams (i.e. Antoine Winfield, etc).

Draft Grade: C-, predicted grade after 3 years: B-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #2: TE BenTroupe (Ten 2nd round), CB Keiwan Ratliff (CIN 2nd Round), RB Greg Jones, (DAL 2nd Round), WR Keary Colbert (CAR 2nd Round)
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3rd Round - Max Starks Offensive Tackle, Florida 6'7, 343#
2006 Season Evaluation: A solid year except for looking like a fool against Oakland's Derrick Burgess (yielded 2.5 sacks) and had Big Ben running for his life. He clearly is slow of foot compared to fast end rushers. trend: down

2005 Season Evaluation: Played very solid football for a Super Bowl team. Quite an accomplishment for a first-year starter. Continues to show strong run blocking, particularly on down-blocks. He can also get out to the second level and take on linebackers (ie. he took out Seattle LB Lofa Tatupu on Willie Parker's 75-yd Super Bowl run). His pass blocking could improve, but it's adequate because he is such a massive man. His weakness in pass protection is the bull rush. Because he doesn't like to sit his hips, DE's can get underneath and drive him into the QB. If Max can improve his pass blocking, he would become a dominant Tackle. trend: up

2004 Season Evaluation: Has virtually been handed the Right Tackle position for 2005. Showed excellent blocking in short yardage situtations and Power sets. Still untested and a question mark as a Pass blocker. We'll see if he can hold up in 2005. trend: steady/up

2004 Mid-Season Update: Reports are that Max has been improving nicely in practice and he saw his first action against the Patriots as a 6th Offensive lineman in Goalline and Short yeardage formations. His run blocking is very strong, especially when he collapses down the line of scrimmage. He also replaced Marvel Smith for a couple of plays when he went out. With Oliver Ross due to be a Free Agent, Starks most likely will be the Steelers' starting Right Tackle next year. trend: up

2004 Preseason Update: He doesn't seem to be able to consistently pass block. He often takes poor angles to cut off rushing defenders and he doesn't bend his knees well. It also looks like he puts his head down when engaging a defender which tips his balance downward. He can run block well and he's at his best when the assignment is to seal off interior defenders to the outside. I often wonder what he's thinking: if I were that big, I would use my size and wingspan to my advantage by keeping a wide base and sliding my feet to mirror the defender. I can see why scouts said he has slow feet - he doesn't seem to like to move them. trend: down

Draft Day Impressions: Finally, the Steelers filled their most glaring need - Right Offensive Tackle (ROT) in the 3rd Round. I was surprised they didn't take OT Nat Dorsey or OT Kelly Butler (who fell to the 6th round due to character concerns). However, Starks is ENORMOUS and has an impressive athletic pedigree. His father is former All-Pro Defensive Lineman Ross Browner. The problem is: if Starks is so gifted physically, why wasn't he drafted in the 1st Round? Because he didn't play up to his athletic potential. Draft reports said he was lazy and inconsistent in his play. He supposedly didn't show a passion for the game and he played softer than his size would indicate.

If Starks responds to Steelers Line coach Russ Grimm, he could become a dominating Right Tackle and even the Steelers' Left Tackle in 4-5 years. But why would Starks start to play better in the future than in the past? What switch can Grimm finger to get Starks to play to his potential? The Steelers claim that Starks didn't play well because of high ankle sprains. In any case, an underperforming Starks is still better than an over-achieving OT Oliver Ross who is the current starter. I believe Starks will start opening Day 2004 for the Steelers and proceed to disappoint coaches and fans for 3-4 years. Hopefully, Starks will prove me wrong.

Draft Grade: B+, predicted grade after 3 years: C+

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #3: CB Derrick Strait (NYJ 3rd round), OT Travelle Wharton, (CAR 3rd round), OT Nat Dorsey (MIN 4th round), CB Will Poole (MIA 4th Round)
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5th Round - Nathaniel Adibi, Outside Linebacker, VA Tech. 6'3, 255#
2004 Preseason Update: He showed nothing: little speed or quickness and no football smarts. He was cut early in the preseason. Big disapointment. trend: down and out

Draft Day Impressions: This guy has lots of potential and he looks like another fast College D-linemen who can make the transition to Outside Linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 Defensive scheme. He should play lots in Special teams if he can win a spot on the playing day roster.

Grade: B-, predicted grade after 3 years: B-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #5: OT Mark Wilson (WAS 5th Round), WR PK Sam (5th Round NE), OT Kelly Butler (DET 6th Round)
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6th Round - Bo Lacy, Offensive Line, Arkansas, 6'4", 300#
2004 Season:
Never stepped on the field on Sundays and now is on another team's Practice Squad. trend: down and out

2004 Mid-Season Update:
He was signed by the Browns and then released. He is currently on the Steelers' Practice Squad. trend: steady

2004 Preseason Update: Shows nice a nice combination of coordination, leverage, intelligence and strength. A pleasant surprise in his abilty to push away defenders and protect the passer. In contrast to Max Starks, seems like a guy who understands the game and his role in it. Could develop into a valuable player who isn't dominate, but consistently makes solid blocks. trend: steady

Draft Day Impressions: The Steelers passed on his teammate and line mate Shawn Andrews and instead got a blue-collar guy who played very well without much fanfare. Lacy played Left Tackle with Andrews at Arkansas which is how the Steelers found this guy. Apparently, he can also play Guard which should make him a valuable asset to the team. Coach Grimm looks forward to coaching this guy. My only question is why take him in the 6th round? I doubt anyone wanted him and the Steelers could have waited until the 7th round...just a little beef.

Grade: B-, predicted grade after 3 years: A-

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6th Round - Matt Kranchick, Tight End, Penn St., 6'6", 270#
2005 Season Update:
Was cut from the practice squad in the middle of the season. Never could block. trend: down and out

2004 Season Evaluation: Never caught a pass, unfortunately, but will get more chances in 2005 since Jay Riemersma has been released. trend: steady

2004 Mid-Season Update: Is on the active squad, but has never been active for a game. trend: steady

2004 Preseason Update: He looks like a big WR. If he can block consistently, he will be great. A big if, but he has time to develop. trend: steady

Draft Day Impressions: This guy really excites me. He looks like a bigger Plaxico Burress. He arrived at Penn St. as a 230 pound Wide Receiver and beefed up to play Tight End. He was buried on the Depth Chart behind two Seniors at Penn St. so he didn't play much. But when he did play, he produced. The guy has great hands and has speed. If he can learn how to impersonate Mark Bruener, he will be the Steelers' next Starting Tight End in 2 years.

Grade: B+, predicted grade after 3 years: A-

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6th Round - Drew Caylor, Long Snapper, Stanford, 6'5", 290#
2004 Mid-Season Update:
Was on the Jets practice squad. trend: down and out

2004 Preseason Update: Caylor is giving Mike Schneck a run for his job. He has performed most of the long snapping duties in the pre-season and has performed well. trend: up

Draft Day Impressions: Why did they draft this guy? Isn't Mike Schneck an awesome long snapper? I guess not. This guy gives the Steelers someone who is bigger and won't get run over on place kicks. Also, he may be able to actually play Center. But who knows? I don't think he will ever put on a Steeler uniform in the Regular season.

Grade: D, predicted grade after 3 years: D

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7th Round - Eric Taylor, Defensive Line, Memphis, 6'2" 300#
2005 Season Update: Was cut in preseason. trend: down and out

2004 Mid-Season Update: Is on the practice squad waiting for his chance next year. trend: steady

2004 Preseason Update: He hasn't shown much and was injured for much of training camp. trend: steady

Draft Day Impressions: The guy seems to have athletic ability and works hard. There was a puff piece on the wire about him before the draft. The article touted him being the next Wade Smith (OT- Miami) who also went to Memphis, was a 3rd round pick in 2003 and ended up being a starter his Rookie season. Hopefully, Taylor can replace Rodney Bailey, or maybe even better, replace Kimo Von Olehoeffen. But the odds are against him. 7th round picks rarely become NFL starters.

Grade: B, predicted grade after 3 years: C

Ben Roethlisberger - '04 Draft Day ©Photofile
Ben Roethlisberger 2004 Draft Day
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Draft Day Analysis (April 2004)

The Steelers virtually declared the 2004 season a rebuilding year with their draft picks. Breaking with recent tradition, the Steelers took some players from smaller universities and some players long on potential, short on production. In taking mostly players who will reach their peak potential, if ever, in 2005 or 2006, the Steelers will get very little help in 2004 for a team that won only 6 games in 2003.

On the bright side, the Steelers got a player they didn't expect to: big QB Ben Roethlisberger who should be the team's signal caller for the next 10 years. Considered by most scouts to have the most physical ability of all the QB's and the most potential as any QB in this year's draft, Steeler fans have an exciting future to look forward to. Tommy Maddox will be a fine starting QB in 2004, but if Ben R-Berger isn't starting on opening day 2005, something terrible will have occurred.

The Steelers also picked up several players in the later rounds who have intriguing long-term potential.

Draft Grade: B

updated 02/06/06

©Mark Berger,