Steelers draft review: 2008

The is the second in a series that reviews the Steelers’ drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2008 draft:

Total picks: 7

Picks still with the team: 0

Best pick: RB Rashard Mendenhall. Posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2009-10 and was the Steelers’ most indispensable offensive player not named Ben Roethlisberger the last time they made the Super Bowl. Mendenhall rushed for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010 though he lost a fumble in Super Bowl XLV, one of the turning points in a 31-25 loss to the Packers. Mendenhall only played three full seasons in Pittsburgh because of injuries, and he recently retired after playing just one season in Arizona. Mendenhall wrote in the Huffington Post that he became disillusioned with the NFL and has decided to pursue a career in writing.

Worst pick: WR Limas Sweed. The Steelers looked like they had gotten a steal when the rangy, athletic wide receiver who has been productive at Texas slipped to them in the latter part of the second round. Sweed never worked out for a number of reasons and the chronic drops that doomed him in Pittsburgh may have stemmed for more than concentration lapses. The Steelers placed Sweed on the reserve/non-football injury/illness list near the end of the 2009 season for personal reasons. He ruptured an Achilles tendon that offseason and never played another game for Pittsburgh. Sweed caught seven passes for 69 yards for the Steelers and is currently playing in the Canadian Football League.

Best value pick: S Ryan Mundy. The Steelers took the local product – Mundy had starred in high school at nearby Woodland Hills High School – with the second of their two sixth-round picks and he provided depth and spot starts at safety while also contributing on special teams. Mundy spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad but after making the Steelers in 2009 he played in every game for them in each of the next four seasons. Mundy played for the Giants last season and recorded a career-high 77 tackles, and he recently signed with the Bears.

Also of note: Outside linebacker Bruce Davis, the Steelers’ third-round pick, suited up for five games his rookie season and did not record a tackle. The Steelers released him the following preseason. Cliff Avril, taken four picks after Davis, has 47.5 career sacks. Davis is currently playing in the CFL. ... Fifth-round pick Dennis Dixon started the first two games at quarterback in 2010 because of Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension but hurt his knee in the second game of the season. … Linebacker Mike Humpal, a sixth-round pick, is the only player in this draft class who never appeared in an NFL game.

Final analysis/grade: This class could serve as Exhibit A as to why it is foolish to grade teams’ hauls right after the draft. The Steelers were widely praised for taking Mendenhall and Sweed and generally got good reviews for this draft. It turned out to be a disastrous draft for the Steelers and one of their worst since the arrival of Chuck Noll in 1969 when Pittsburgh committed to building through the draft. I will give the Steelers a "D" since they got a few good seasons out of Mendenhall and value with the Mundy pick, but even that may be generous.