Tomlin claims 'responsibility' for drafts

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin offered answers that were as similar as they were terse when twice asked about his role in Steelers' drafts.

"I take responsibility for the players we have drafted since I've been here, not only in recent drafts but since I've been here," Tomlin said, "because it's the truth."

Those drafts have produced mixed results.

Some of the misses in the early rounds are a major reason why the Steelers have struggled to replace veteran stalwarts who retired or signed elsewhere.

Here is a quick recap of the second and third rounds of the Steelers' drafts since 2007 with this year exempted because it's too early to evaluate the team's most recent haul:

2012: Mike Adams (2), Sean Spence (3). Analysis: Adams doesn't look like the left tackle of the future, which is why the Steelers may have to use their top pick in 2014 on that position. Spence has yet to play because of a career-threatening knee injury.

2011: Marcus Gilbert (2), Curtis Brown (3). Analysis: I get the sense that the Steelers really like the right side of their line with Gilbert at right tackle and 2012 first-round pick David DeCastro at guard. Brown has given them nothing beyond special teams.

2010: Jason Worilds (2), Emmanuel Sanders (3). Analysis: The Steelers took Worilds over local product Sean Lee. Oops. Sanders has been decent for a third-round pick, though this could be his last season in Pittsburgh.

2009: Kraig Urbik (3), Mike Wallace (3), Keenan Lewis (3). Analysis: Pretty solid, though the Steelers gave up on Urbik after one season, and he is now starting at right guard for the Bills.

2008: Limas Sweed (2), Bruce Davis (3). Analysis: Utter disaster.

2007: LaMarr Woodley (2), Matt Spaeth (3). Analysis: Woodley has proven to be a steal while Spaeth has been serviceable though not much more than a blocking tight end in the NFL.

The draft isn't an exact science any more than college recruiting is. There are going to be misses, and the Steelers have done a good job, for the most part, of hitting on their first-round picks.

Take any three drafts that are at least three years old and look at the players who went in the first round and flopped. You will have an even greater appreciation of how few times the Steelers have wasted a pick in that round.

Still, for a team that builds through the draft the Steelers have to do a better job in the second and third rounds. The fourth round too since Cortez Allen has been the only position player from that round that has made an impact with the Steelers since 2007.

Tomlin, a self-described football junkie who loves preparing for the draft, and general manager Kevin Colbert appear to have a strong working relationship

Who has more say when it comes to the draft is unclear, though I'd guess it's pretty close to 50-50 on making the final calls.

One thing the Steelers need to re-evaluate is their philosophy of drafting players with an eye toward two years down the road. Colbert has often said the Steelers never want to be in a position of having to play a rookie.

It's great in theory, particularly when the Steelers are drafting and developing enough young players to eventually step in for departed veterans. But given some of the struggles they've had the last two seasons in doing that -- as well as the high rate of injuries during any season -- I'm wondering if that thinking is a little too idealistic.