Draft Picks:
1) WR Santonio Holmes
3a) FS Anthony Smith
3b) WR Willie Reid
4a) OT Willie Colon
4b) DL Orion Harris
5a) QB Omar Jacobs
5b) TE Charles Davis
6) C Marvin Phillip
RB Cedric Humes

Depth Chart

Pittsburgh Steelers 2006 Draft Picks

2 year Draft Evaluation: Holmes became the Steelers' most feared offensive player and Colon became one of the best players on the O-line. Smith took a step back in development, but I beleive in him. Willie Reid can't stay healthy.

1 year Draft Evaluation: The 2006 Steelers received little contribution from it's Draft class. Most of the help was received at the end of the year when the team started playing better. That is no coincidence. Increasingly, a team's fortunes are tied to the performace of that year's Draft class.

Only Santonio Holmes and Anthony Smith made significant contribtuions although Willie Colon stepped in nicely at RT.

1st Round - Santonio Holmes Wide Receiver, Ohio St., 5'11",188#
2007 Evaluation: Santonio not only became a starter this year, he became the #1 receiver, leading the team in yardage and the LEAGUE in average yards per catch. When he's not in the game, opposing teams load up against the run and double Hines Ward, taking him out of the game. Excellent progress this year! Trend: Up

2006 Evaluation: Santonio came on very strong at the end, literally winning the last came with a big catch and run in Overtime versus the Bengals. He shows excellent speed, nice hands and the meanest pair pigeon feet on the team! Santonio should be starting opposite Hines Ward by Opening Day 2007. However, he fumbles a lot on punt returns. Trend: Up

2006 Mid-Season Update: Besides some fumbling problems on punt and kick-off returns, Holmes has been a speedy receiver with reliable hands. Is really pushing Cedric Wilson for the starting spot opposite Hines Ward and will start there soon. Trend: Up

2006 Pre-Season Update: Didn't look like a game-breaking, #1 wide out to me. However, he didn't look bad at all. He has nice hands, good speed and good running ability. He just isn't overly big or especially fast. It may be that Holmes was fighting through a bad hamstring, was distracted by legal troubles, and had trouble learning the offense after missing Spring practices due to college regulations. In any case, he will play outside in passing downs with 4 WR's and should show steady improvement during the course of the season. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: "Like a dream" is the way Steeler WR Coach Bruce Arians described the experience of seeing Steelers #1 pick Antomnio Holmes fall down the draft board. What a GREAT job the Steeler front office did in trading up from #32 to #25 to get the #1 Wide receiver in this year's draft.

Holmes fills a role that the Steelers haven't had since the days of Louis Lipps: a receiver whose speed puts fear in the opposing defense. Even Plaxico Burress was not that intimidating as a deep threat. Holmes will immediately make the running game better, like Health Miller did last year. Opposing safeties will not be able to cheat forward as they constantly did last year, particularly in the Super Bowl. The passing game will also improve: Hines Ward will have more room to run intermediate and crossing routes over the middle.

Add to Holmes' great speed, his ability to return punts and kicks, his enthusiasm for blocking, him already being a Steelers fan and his understanding that he is going to play on a run-first team makes this pick extraordinary. It is easy to see why the Steelers fell in love with him. He fits the Steelers mold perfectly and he brings elite speed (4.38) to the wide outs which has been missing for nearly 20 years.

The only negative is his lack of size which leads to concerns about durability and injuries. Surely, his talent is not in question, just his ability to stay healthy. Over time he needs to slowly add muscle mass to protect himself.

Look for Holmes to be brought along slowly, learning to the play only the Split-End position currently held by Cedric Wilson. He will also, of course, focus on returning punts and kicks. On 3rd downs, look for Wilson to move to the slot. Hopefully, by the end of the season, Holmes will be starting opposite Hines Ward. Long term, Holmes may eventually replace Ward as the team's #1 WR.

Draft Grade: A+, Predicted Grade after 3 years: A-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #1: WR Chad Jackson (NE 2nd Round), RB LenDale White (Ten 2nd Round), FS Daniel Bullocks (DET2nd Round)


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3rd Round - Anthony Smith Free Safety , Syracuse, 6'0", 195#
2007 Evaluation: Smith famously ran his mouth before the Patriots game and he paid dearly for it. After that game, he lost some confidence and his play declined (getting beat deep), even falling behind Tyrone Carter on the depth chart. If Smith can keep focus of his responsibilities and keep his head about him, he can still be a very good player because he tackles well and has a great nose for the ball. Trend: Steady

2006 Evaluation: Smith started the last 4 games and played REALLY well. He made big hits and picked off several balls. He also showboated after one of those picks, but he has great instincts for the passing game and is a feisty player. I love Anthony Smith - Oops - I slipped. The problem for Anthony is going to be learning another defense the Steelers adjust to Cover-2 scheme. I have little doubt he will thrive even more. Trend: Up

2006 Mid-Season Update: Has been productive as a Special Teamer, but hasn't played much on Downs. Trend: Steady

2006 Pre-Season Update: The Big Hit in training camp, literally. Smith is a pure-blood, football player. I can't wait to see him as the starting FS. In the pre-season, Smith accomplished two feats that former starter Chris Hope couldn't accomplish in 4 years with the Steelers: he sacked the QB and he made 2 Int.s in one game. 'Nuff said. Trend: Strongly Up

Draft Day Impressions: Smith is a play maker. He's not that fast or big, he just makes plays. Interceptions, tackles, forced fumbles, fumbles recovered. A very productive player who has a passion for the game and great leadership potential. Someone who loves the game and understands that the little things count.

Surprising to many, including this writer, the Steelers rated him higher than both Darnell Bing and Ko Simpson. Time will tell on these players. What vaulted Smith higher is likely his tackling skills. Known as a fundamentally solid wrap-up tackler, he will be a welcome upgrade from former FS Chris Hope who often whiffed on tackles in the backfield (0 career sacks) and sometimes in the secondary.

Smith will compete with Ryan Clark for the FS position, but it is unlikely he will win the job in training camp. The defense is too complex for a rookie to learn and lead from the get-go; props to Darren Perry who did it in 1992. Look for Smith to play on special teams (he blocked 6 punts at Syracuse) and possibly the dime defense in his first year. He should be ready to start and make all the calls in the secondary in his second year.

Draft Grade: B+, Predicted Grade after 3 years: A

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #3: FS Ko Simpson (BUF 4th Round), WR Maurice Stovall, (TB 3rd Round)
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3rd Round - Willie Reid Wide Receiver, Florida St. 5'10", 185#
2007 Evaluation: Willie can't stay healthy. But he can catch and he can run. He made a big play against Seattle when Ward and Santonio were hurt. Trend: Steady

2006 Evaluation: A big disappointment. If you can't stay healthy, you can't play football. Reid has to come back strong or he will get cut in training camp. At this point, I would much rather have Pgh. native Brandon Marshall (DEN) than Reid. Trend: Down

2006 Mid-Season Update: A foot injury has kept off the field all year. Trend: Down

2006 Pre-Season Update: He showed everything as advertised: acceleration, speed and good running ability. He also showed nice hands and the ability to make the tough catch. On punt returns, he is not from the Randle-El school: he takes the ball straight up the field and doesn't look always to break to the sidelines. He starts the season as the #1 punt returner and will also return kickoffs. On offense, he will probably play a lot on passing downs in the Slot. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: After drafting Holmes #1, this is a curious pick. It could mean that the team wants to part ways with Quincy Morgan. Or, it simply could be that this kid was "too good to pass up" as Cower said. In any case, he's lightning quick and fast. Actually, he's a better punt returner than Santonio Holmes. In Florida St. history he was second to Deion Sanders in punt return yardage and first in average yards per punt return (15.4). He is more of a project as a wide out, like Randle-El was. He hasn't played the position much but certainly looks the part of a slot-receiver with his great quickness and blazing speed (4.35). With Reid and Holmes, the Steelers dramatically improved their team speed and their Return game. With the other "fast Willie" (RB Willie Parker), the Steelers Offense this year could have 3 guys on the field with sub 4.4-40 speed! This isn't your Father's Steeler offense any more!

Draft Grade: C+, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #3: WR/QB Michael Robinson (4th Round, SF) , S Darnell Bing (4th Round, OAK) , WR Brandon Marshall (4th Round, DEN), LB Elvis Dumervil (4th Round, DEN)
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4th Round - Willie Colon, Offensive Line, Hofstra. 6'3", 315#
2007 Evaluation: Became a stabilizing force on the right side of the line and really helped out Kendall Simmons who continues to struggle. He looks like a winner and plays with positive aggression. Trend: up

2006 Evaluation: A nice surprise. The guy can play and doesn't back down from anyone. He moves his feet better than Max Starks and will compete for the RT job in 2007 Training Camp. Like Rutgers Alum, Marques Colston (NO), Colon belongs in the NFL. Trend: Up

2006 Mid-Season Update: Inactive every game. Trend: Steady

2006 Pre-Season Update: A pleasant surprise because early in camp he refused to be intimidated or pushed around. He's clearly an offensive lineman with an attitude. Athletically he looks nimble on his feet, even more so than last year's #3, Trai Essex, IMHO. He will back up Max Starks at RT. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: He played at a small school, but dominated as a Right Tackle. Russ Grimm will start him out there, but he may eventually be better suited at Guard. Clearly, Max Starks needs to continue to improve his pass blocking and this pick is one way to ensure that. Colon seems to be a hard worker and a good football player with great strength and light enough feet. His lack of height may eventually move him to the Guard position. Most "experts" didn't think he deserved to be drafted this high.
Draft Grade: C, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B-

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #4: RB P.J. Daniels (4th Round, BAL)
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4th Round - Orien Harris, Defensive End, Miami. 6'3", 300#
2007 Evaluation: cut in training camp.

2006 Evaluation: Kid never played. He may be gone in the move to a 4-3. Trend: Down

2006 Mid-Season Update: Inactive every game. Trend: Steady

2006 Pre-Season Update: Didn't show anything that I could see. No push, no QB pressure. He was signed to the Practice Squad and will be given the opportunity to learn and develop. Trend: Down

Draft Day Impressions: Orien's big brother, Kwame Harris, was a #1 pick for the 49ers two years ago. I think because of Kwame's mediocre career to date, that little brother Orien's draft stock got penalized. Orien was very productive in a big-time program and specialized in collapsing the pocket (54 QB pressures). He should eventually be starting at Defensive End for the Steelers. He apparently has huge, long arms and is very powerful, knowing how to use leverage to his advantage. Not very quick or fast, just stout against the run - perfect for the Steelers 3-4. Also, an excellent value pick at the end of the fourth round.
Draft Grade: A-, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B+

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #4: FS Pat Watkins (5th Round, DAL); LB Parys Haralson (5th Round, SF); FS Greg Blue (5th Round, MIN)
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5th Round - Omar Jacobs, Quarterback, Bowling Green 6'4", 225#
2006 Mid-Season Update: Didn't make the team, even as #3 QB. Trend: Down and Out

2006 Pre-Season Update: Really struggled to learn the offense and break the huddle. As a result, he didn't play particularly well early in camp. However, in the 4th pre-season game, he seemed to see and understand the offense better compiling a 99 passer rating. He was signed to the practice squad, but after Big Ben's emergency appendectomy 09/03/06, he will dress for the home opener as the #2 QB. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: He's the new 3rd string QB, until Charlie Batch hurts himself again! The Steelers needed to draft a developmental QB to compete with Batch, and eventually to take his job. Jacobs was rated the 4th highest QB on many boards, so again, the Steelers got great value with this pick. His numbers at Bowling Green were incredible. However, he primarily played from the shotgun. Still, putting up QB ratings of 150+ takes talent. His strengths are accuracy, a very strong arm and good size. He came out early and needs several years of study and practice to be able to read NFL defenses on the fly.
Grade: B, Predicted Grade after 3 years: A-

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5th Round - Charles Davis, Tight End, Purdue, 6'6", 260#
2006 Pre-Season Update:
Was cut and not signed to the Practice Squad, which was a mystery to me. During games, he seemed to block well and he caught the ball well, although he did fumble once. Perhaps in practices he dogged it or had a bad attitude. Who knows? Trend: Down and Out

Draft Day Impressions: Looks like the 3rd Tight End for Ken Wisenhunt's Offense. Nice size and good hands. Blocking is suspect but he looks like he's capable with his big body. Was voted by Big Ten players as the guy they would least like to face in a "dark alley." Who imagines these polls?
Grade: B-, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B-

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6th Round - Marvin Phillip, Center, Cal-Berkeley, 6'1", 305#
2007 Evaluation: Was on the Practice Squad all year.

2006 Evaluation: Marvin got to dress and play a few snaps. He should be a solid backup and good team player for the next few years now that Hartings has retired. Trend: Steady

2006 Mid-Season Update: Inactive every game expcept 2 when Jeff Hartings was hurt. Trend: Steady

2006 Pre-Season Update: Filled in nicely when Chuky Okobi had surgery. Essentially played the entire pre-season. While not dominating, he held his own and made the necessary line calls for the second team. He will start the season as the #2 center until Okobi is fully healed. A promising start to his career.
Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: Appears to be Chukky Okobi's backup next season, after Jeff Hartings retires. This season, he can hopefully be put on the Practice Squad and learn for a season. Was All-American for 2 years and voted Cal's MVP last year. A great value pick in Round #6. A Tongan, a Mormon and an older (24) player. 2nd cousin of Raven 1st Rounder Haloti Ngata. A standout Rugby player who is quick, plays with great leverage and understands angles.
Grade: A-, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B

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7th Round - Cedric Humes, Running Back, VA tech., 6'1" 230#
2007 Evaluation: cut in training camp.

2006 Mid-Season Update: Placed on Practice Squad . Trend: Steady

2006 Pre-Season Update: Didn't show power or strength when running. Looked to avoid contact. Clearly a disappointment. He even fumbled during a game in the Red Zone. Due to this, the Steelers traded for UN-drafted Patrick Cobbs from the Patriots. Still, due to a lack of depth, Humes was signed to the practice Squad. Trend: Down

Draft Day Impressions: Big guy who will be on the Practice Squad for a year and learn. Fits the mold of big, bruising ball carriers the Steelers like. If he does well in Training camp, he could be used as a short-yardage and goal-line back.
Grade: B, Predicted Grade after 3 years: C+


Draft Day Analysis (April 2006)

Wheeling and Dealing Steelers? That's what happened on Draft day. The old-school, conservative Steelers, confident off a fresh Super Bowl victory made two Draft day deals that made them look like the free-spending Cowboys or Redskins who traditionally make such bold moves. Their trade in the first round to move up seven spots to nab speedy Receiver Santonio Holmes was bold, but easy to understand. They gave up their #3 and #4 picks to move up to get a player they coveted and "dreamed about." To get even, in the second round they traded away their pick and gained up two #3's. With the first #3 they got Free Safety Anthony Smith who they were going to pick in the 2nd round anyway! So, at the end of the first Day of the Draft, the Steelers got the #1 WR available and the #4 FS who they had projected to take in the 2nd round, but got in the third. In sum, the Steelers made great moves both up and down the draft board to maximize the value of their picks. The 'Boys and 'Skins may be envious.

Critics say the Steelers gave up too much (third and fourth rounders) to move up in the first round, but I say it was well worth it. Considering the Steelers got the #1 WR and the #4 FS on their board AND still managed to get 9 players, this draft was plentiful and filled with quality players. The players will eventually be judged by their play on the field, but as a Draft, this has to be one of the most successful ever. As many as 5 of these players could be dressed to play on opening day (not just the practice squad or inactive on game day). Compare that to the 2005 Opening day roster where only #1 pick Heath Miller was dressed to play.


©Mark Berger,