HISTORY OF THE DECADE: A look at the Steelers' success and failure at defensive line in the draft and free agency since 2003 ...
4: Number of first round selections at wide receiver by the Detroit Lions since 2003
4: Number of first round selections at wide receiver by the entire AFC North since 2003 (one per team)
Heath Miller, a first-round pick in 2005, is simply put the greatest tight end in Steelers history and among the top in the game today. Santonio Holmes – whom the Steelers traded up for in the first-round in 2006 – literally captured a league-record sixth Super Bowl victory for the Steelers, even if he was jettisoned a year later for bad behavior. Despite Mike Wallace’s expected exit, he was an excellent third-round pick in 2009. Antonio Brown’s frustrating season notwithstanding, he is the ultimate value pick – a past team MVP chosen in the sixth round in 2010. Emmanuel Sanders shows flashes of being an above average third-round pick from the same draft.
However, highly-touted second-round pick in 2008 Limas Sweed has become the poster boy for modern Steelers draft busts, but that’s only because he made people forget about 2006 third-rounder Willie Reid. Multiple tall tight-end targets for Ben Roethlisberger was the plan when Matt Spaeth was selected in the third round in 2007, but he too didn’t pan out. Fourth-round WR pick Fred Gibson didn’t make it out of training camp in 2005.
A 2012 seventh-rounder, David Paulson gradually saw increased tight end action as the season wore on and could have an increased role while Miller recovers from a major knee injury. Another 2012 seventh-rounder at receiver, Valley High School’s Toney Clemons spent the year on the practice squad. The team’s last pick of 2009, David Johnson, contributed at tight end before being moved to fullback and sustaining a season-ending injury in training camp this year.
Brought over from the Jets in 2011, Jerricho Cotchery is underused at receiver, but his veteran leader status is unquestioned. Plexico Burress arrived late in 2012, but his return is in question. Cedrick Wilson contributed as a no. 3 receiver during the 2005 Steelers Super Bowl season. Others like Arnaz Battle and Sean Morey made their marks on special teams.
Tight end Leonard Pope followed Todd Haley from Arizona and while he caught two touchdowns in 2012, he only had one other reception and totaled nine yards from scrimmage. Earlier last decade, Jay Riemersma had a similarly underwhelming Steelers career after coming over from Buffalo.
An undrafted free agent in 2005, Nate Washington, from tiny Tiffin University, was a pleasant surprise and a the team’s no. 3 receiver from 2006-08.