By most accounts the Steelers did everything by the book yesterday when they drafted QB Ben Roethlisberger in the first round, CB Ricardo Colclough in the second round and OT Max Starks in the third round.
Some people thought Colclough wasn't worth giving up an additional fourth round pick to move up six spots in the second round, but for the most part, the Steelers had a very successful day yesterday.
With these three picks the Steelers addressed both immediate (CB, OT) and long-term needs (QB), even though it is likely that Colclough's playing time in 2004 might mirror that of Ike Taylor's last season (and that's not necessarily a bad thing). Russ Grimm, Pittsburgh's O-line coach will be in charge of whipping Max Starks into a playing shape and he should come in and challenge for a starting spot (although he's not guaranteed to start). Roethlisberger may either be on the Steve McNair plan (sit for a few years) or the Carson Palmer plan (sit for one year -- at least for now), but he certainly will not be on the Peyton Manning plan (start immediately).
Most of the Pittsburgh media had nothing but glowing commentary on draft day 1 -- see here and here.
But of course there's always one in every crowd. Mike Prisuta doesn't disappoint with his article on how the Steelers blew an opportunity to improve immediately by taking OT Shawn Andrews with the 11th pick instead of building for the future with QB Roethlisberger (silly Steelers!). He claims they are basically giving up on the 2004 season because they drafted 'hobble' OT Max Starks in the third round and he'll join the likes of Josh Burr, Morgan Pears, Todd Fordham, Barrett Brooks, Marvel Smith and Oliver Ross as being largely ineffective up front.
Prisuta even went so far as to say that the Bengals and Browns had a better day 1 draft than the Steelers (and I am sure, unequivocally, that he is the only person on the planet who feels that way). The Browns had to give up their 2nd round pick to move up one spot. The Bengals passed on RB Kevin Jones -- considered the best by some analysts going into the draft -- to take RB Chris Perry -- considered solid, but not spectacular by all analysts. The Steelers, on the other hand, had the nerve to take a franchise quarterback as well as address needs at the CB and OT positions.
They had no choice but to take Roethlisberger at 11. They initially wanted QB Philip Rivers (gone by the 4th pick), CB DeAngelo Hall (gone with the 8th pick) or CB Dunta Robinson (gone by the 10th pick). I guess they could have taken OT Shawn Andrews with the 11th pick, as Prisuta suggests, but this is such a monumental stretch with this pick that it doesn't make sense on a lot of levels. First, after Robert Gallery, there was a big dropoff in OT talent -- with most of the remaining players on the board pretty similar in ability. If you don't think so, after Andrews was taken 16th by the Eagles (which a lot of people still think is high), only one other OT was taken before the Steelers drafted Starks with the 75th pick. This is why NFL front offices get paid to scout these players and why Prisuta doesn't.
Prisuta finished up by saying:
"Recent history suggests Roethlisberger is as likely to turn into the next Tim Couch as he is the next Bledsoe, but the Steelers decided to swing for the fences, anyway, rather than to continue simply moving the runners.My first thoughts are, I wonder what Prisuta would have written if the Steelers passed on Roethlisberger and took OT Andrews? I'm guessing it would be exactly the same with the names changed.
Now that they have, the momentum of the offseason has been broken. Duce Staley was a significant signing that made the Steelers better now. Re-signing Clark Haggans made them better now if only because it got Jason Gildon off the field. And re-signing Mike Logan made them better now because it contributed to the release of Brent Alexander.
Rather than building on all of that, the Steelers looked ahead.
Well beyond 2004."
Look, the New England Patriots, 2-time Super Bowl champs in the last 3 years, have manipulated the draft to their advantage the last few seasons that it almost seems like a science. One of their big beliefs is that they are willing to trade down this year to accumulate picks next year -- and in so doing position themselves for the future -- Belichick realizes he's in it for the long haul. Unlike Prisuta, who apparently would be content winning 9 games next season and then struggling for the next three or four doesn't buy into that philosophy -- and that's why he's a writer.
If you missed my commentary on yesterday's first three picks, see it here:
Round 1. Ben Roethlisberger
Round 2. Ricardo Colclough
Round 3. Max Starks