Mike Reinfeldt: Do Yourself a Favor and Draft Like the Steelers.

Let's set aside our two toned blue goggles for a second and take a quick look at reality; no one drafts personnel to fit their system better than the Steelers. 

As our own asbestos_man said in response to a commenter who said that no NFL defense will be good year in and year out, "May I present to you the Pittsburgh Steelers."

To close out the 90's, the Steelers drafted the anchor of their linebacker core, Joey Porter, in the third round and perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Smith in the fourth. In fact, if I go back even further, I can pick out several Pro-Bowlers and established NFL starters from the ranks of their late 90's draft classes. This list includes Deshea Townsend, Alan Faneca, Mike Vrabel,  and Cordell Stewart. However, for the sake of curtness, I'll cut it off at 99. 

Let's go back to the turn of the millennium. In the 2000 NFL draft, the Steelers selected wide receiver Plaxico Burress out of Michigan State with their 8th overall pick despite having an established receiver already on the roster (Hines Ward). In that draft, they also took Marvel Smith in the second round who would go on to be one of the most important parts of the Super Bowl winning team in 2005. They also took Tee Martin. Yay Tee Martin!

2001: the Steelers took a space eating defensive tackle named Casey Hampton in the first round with the 19th overall pick. Hampton remains a crucial piece of Pittsburgh's notoriously stingy run defense. While he was never known as a sack artist, he took tons of pressure off of Pittsburgh's young pass rushers by occupying two, sometimes three, blockers every single play. Despite the fact that he has only recored eight sacks over his whole career, he iced the game in Super Bowl XL with a sack of Matt Hasselbeck

 2002: guard Kendall Simmons was selected out of Auburn. He would go on to start 83 games for the Steelers. They also selected Antwaan Randle El and Chris Hope. Both were key contributors as Hope (who we're all familiar with) was the starting safety by 2004 and ended up developing into a very quality player. Also taken in 2002 was Larry Foote, one of the first generation of stalwart Pittsburgh linebackers to come along in 2000. Finally, they capped off the draft by picking up Brett Keisel, a Pro Bowl defensive end this year. 

Alright I think I'm starting to develop preliminary carpal tunnel from typing on this thing all night, so I'll try to make this brief. 

2003: The Steelers sured up their secondary by picking Troy Polamalu who obviously has blossomed into an all-time great and Ike Taylor, a starter at cornerback to this day. 

2004: Ben Roethlisberger is selected as Pittsburgh's QB of the future; goes on to become arguably one of the best playoff QBs ever.

2005: Tight end Heath Miller is a head scratcher on draft day, becomes one of game's more complete TEs .Bryant McFadden is a starter until signing lucrative deal with Arizona. Trai Essex still starting at tackle. Chris Kemoeatu is one of the game's best interior linemen. 

2006: Santonio Holmes is top flight receiver and Super Bowl hero until bounced from team for petty reasons (kick the pothead and keep the rapist; nice logic Rooney!). Willie Colon is starting on the offensive line. 

2007: Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley selected with successive picks; become Pro Bowl players by year three. William Gay just scored a touchdown and gets regular playing time.

2008: Mendenhall is one of the game's best young backs. Not much else to write home about in this draft. 

2009: Ziggy Hood fills in admirably for injured Aaron Smith in his first full season, Mike Wallace is Pittsburgh's new Santonio Holmes. 

2010: Maurkice Pouncey is supposedly good enough to reach Pro Bowl, kind of sucks but we'll put him on here anyway. Emmanuel Sanders is up and coming star and a great deep threat, Antonio Brown because he made an awesome catch last week and for the hell of it. 

SO. What does any of this tell us? Have I proved anything? Unfortunately, not unless I do some more typing. Let's look at how good the Steelers are at grabbing good defensive talent. It's unfair really. In the last decade, the Steelers have drafted 8 Pro Bowlers on the defensive side of the ball, plus two defensive MVPs. I'm also sure that Timmons and Hood will reach one before their time is up. That gives you an average of a Pro Bowler a year on defense. On defense, the Titans have had some success drafting players that get sent to the Pro Bowl with six in the last ten years. Not a bad figure, but not good enough. Their units finish consistently ranked near the middle of the league or worse with one exception in 2008. I blame the coaching, but the fact remains that they can't get it done as a unit and this whole post is about the fact that Pittsburgh gets guys who fit theie scheme and Tennessee doesn't. 

How about on offense? Well, they've drafted three Pro Bowl receivers, a Pro Bowl quarterback, but that's really where the skill players end. They draft heavy on the offensive line and, while the results haven't been stellar lately, they have a group that gets the job done. As much as I rip on Pouncey, I think he's got a very bright future ahead of him and Kemoeatu is a stud. I fully expect them to draft a lineman early on in this year's draft as well. In the last decade, Tennessee has had ten total players go to the Pro Bowl on the offensive side of the ball. Not a bad list until you consider that five of those players were drafted before 2000 including Bruce Matthews who was making Pro Bowls six years before I was born. Keep in mind also that this list includes Vince Young who got in after about 8 QBs dropped out and Kerry Collins who got in specifically because he was the QB of the best team in football that year (it's true!), not because of his lofty stats (or lack thereof). I do however consider it very encouraging that, at a glance, all of our Pro Bowl players on the offensive side this decade have been drafted by this team other than Collins of course. 

So what do I want you to take from all of this? Well, a casual observer will note that the Steelers don't really take risks with their picks. I don't want any risky, "he could be a top pick, BUT" players, I want the closest thing to a sure fire pick that's available. More picks like, say Derrick Morgan and Keith Bulluck, not players like Pacman Jones and Bo Scaife. Sometimes you'll get lucky like with CJ, but just as often you'll get burned and that's something we can't afford right now. Now that we've established that, build from the trenches up. Take a stud DT to take pressure off of Morgan, then draft heavy in the LB core; make sure that they can rush, cover, and punish the other team. Pittsburgh's core is the most feared unit in the entire league and for good reason. They're young, they're fearless, and maybe most importantly, they have several players that are interchangeable as the leader of the defense. Then, you can finally round out the secondary if that's even necessary. A stud safety never hurts. As far as offense goes, you obviously need a quarterback. I really have no idea how to approach this, but don't take a goddamn project; get someone who's ready to go by his second year at the latest. With all of the instant starters we've seen lately, it would be wise to  I don't know how long it's going to take, but the offense is a secondary concern for me anyway, the defense needs to be the main concern here. 

So, while all of this may seem like me sucking up to the Steelers, I hope you'll see that the method works. It's proven. The Steelers have won two Super Bowls this decade (say what you will about how they got them, the point is they got them) and figure to win their third in a couple of weeks. Last I checked, we have a pretty damn barren trophy case that needs some hardware. 

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