Steelers 2006 NFL Draft Review - By Neal Coolong

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

It doesn't happen often. Pittsburgh traded up in Round 1 of the NFL draft just one other time.

Santonio HolmesThat trade? The rights to Penn State RB Larry Johnson for the rights to SS Troy Polamalu in 2003. That seemed to work out fine for everyone, now, didn't it?

The Steelers, with powerful, forward-thinking moves, traded their No. 32, 96 and 129 picks to the New York Giants for the No. 25 pick. This landed a guy no draft prognosticator no one predicted to land in Pittsburgh. And it's a name that will come up plenty-often over the next 10 years.

Santonio Holmes.

A guy who is so cool, he's named after a city, but doesn't have time to waste on the second syllable. He doesn't even need a last name. A guy who is so fast, he plays tennis - with himself. A guy who plays so intensely and blocks so ferociously, his idol is THE Hines Ward. He's even a big Steelers fan, to boot. Having the famous Ohio State Wide Receiver Pedigree won't hurt, either.

He's the perfect Steeler guy.

Nothing against Heath Miller or Ben Roethlisberger, but their reactions to being drafted by the Steelers in the last two years bordered on serious disappointment and boredom. I'm not knocking Heath, but the guy usually looks like he just sat through an insurance seminar.

But Santonio...he was clearly shocked and beyond happy. His eyes were wide with amazement like a six-year-old on Christmas morning. With his posse celebrating rigorously in the background. Did anyone else want the guy with the Roethlisberger jersey on followed by the camera a bit more? Santonio looked overwhelmed with joy, as if the thought of playing in Pittsburgh was his ultimate desire, but their draft spot was too low to make that dream a reality.

The Steelers have had little to no success in taking WRs in the first two rounds recently. I needn't bring up the Troy Edwards Disaster (Round 1, 1999). Plaxico Burress (Round 1, 2000) fared better, but he is now giving his inconsistent production to Eli Manning and the Giants. Antwaan Randle-El was a good return specialist, and a highly overrated receiver. But Holmes is Ward with speed. Good hands, crisp routes, just as effective without the ball as he is with it.

It should be noted that rookie wide receivers don't develop as quickly as running backs or linebackers, but Holmes has all the tools right now to become this team's No. 2 receiver by this time next year.

The draft itself was memorable for a variety of comedic reasons. And I just happened to catalogue the male dynamic of watching 10 straight hours of Rounds 1-3, and most of Rounds 4-7. Here we go...

10:35 A.M. - Alarm clock blares out "Celtic Symphony" as performed by the Wild Colonial Bhoys, my theme song for the 2005 Steelers. SteelersBro will quickly point out that song is written for a soccer team, but as ESPN's John Buccigross states, their soccer is our football, and the reverse. Either way, I'm not getting out of bed yet.

11:38 A.M. - I roll out of my bed, realizing I have yet to update my mock draft after I learned the Texans are committing NFL suicide by not taking the best player available with the No. 1 pick.

Ironically, the Saints passed on the best available player in the draft in 1981 to select running back George Rogers. They allowed North Carolina linebacker Lawrence Taylor to have the greatest defensive career in the history of the game in another uniform.

Now, the Texans pass up the revolutionary running back, and take a defensive end. The Saints can pass the negative Karma to the Texans, and take the cornerstone of their franchise for the next 10 years.

Side Note: I think Mario Williams will be a good player, and Houston's move is logical. Defense wins championships, and that defense starts with your front line. It's similar to that of the Panthers, who took DE Julius Peppers over QB Joey Harrington in 2002. But the rub is Reggie Bush will be better than Peppers.

But enough of that.

11:45 A.M. - My friend Broadway enters the Edina Towers Apartment Complex with the bottle of beer for the winner of our mock draft pool. This is why I love being a guy. We can find ways to bet on anything sports-related, and the prize ends up being beer, one way or another.

11:50 A.M. - We've got the sandwiches out, chips going around, good spots on the couch and floor...gee, it's too bad most of us would probably still be asleep if the draft wasn't on. It's just like football season.

12:01 P.M. - NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue steps up to the podium and announces that Houston shocked everyone by passing on Reggie Bush and drafting Marcus Vick, quarterback, Virginia Tech. Fantasy is more fun than reality.

12:05 P.M. - My friend Glover is in New Orleans right now. I'm sure they're going crazy with Bush falling to them. I really hate to point out, but I find it highly comical that the New Orleans fans' draft party is in an inflatable tent. Yeah, I'm going to hell. I know.

12:10 P.M. - ESPN has a camera at the Packers fan party, and in typical draft party-style, the stupidest-looking people find a way to get front-row seats so fans across the country can laugh at them when ESPN turns on the camera.

In this case, a Packers fan had on a No. 84 Javon Walker jersey. The last name on the back was covered up with a sign indicating Walker was a traitor. It was spelled "trader."

The spelling and meaning mistake wasn't what sent me to the ground in laughter, it was the fact no one around him seemed to notice the error. And people wonder why I watch all of the draft every year.

Reminds me of when I lived in Iowa. Some person left their stalled 1984 hatchback in the middle of the road with a sign on its windshield that read "Towe." But moving on...

12:11 P.M. - Tennessee willingly takes a step in the wrong direction by drafting Kordell Stewart 2.0 , a.k.a. Vince Young. They throw the same, they're both seemingly unintelligent, both played in wide-open passing offenses, greatly hurting their ability to fit into a pro-style offense...wait three years and tell me they aren't the same player. I dare you.

Neal's Rule of Quarterback Selection: If 50 percent of his highlight reel shows him running, he won't amount to much. If the Titans honestly think an NFL defensive player won't be able to contain Young, and wrap up tackles (unlike the highlights against Ohio State and Michigan), they're crazy. But keep in mind, this is the same franchise that is forcing its six-time Pro Bowl quarterback and face of the organization to take his third pay cut to stay there. But drafting a player the quality of Pac Man Jones is perfectly ok for them.

I offer a toast to Steve McNair, and hope he is able to cram everything that has happened to him in the last month squarely up Tennessee's collective rear end. Too bad he's going to Baltimore...

12:19 P.M. - Here's to D'Brickashaw Ferguson officially entering the NFL as a member of the One Name Hall of Fame. Other members include Keyshawn, Peyton, Ray, Troy and Edge.

12:21 P.M. - My friend Tim arrives in his Vikings Kevin Williams jersey. He bought it last year, and the Vikings altered their uniforms this off-season. I'm enjoying pointing this out.

Tim is a teacher at a local high school in this area. He is grading tests in between naps on the floor. It comes up in conversation there is a certain daughter of a certain celebrity in the area in one of his classes. My friend Mitch asks him about her.

Mitch: "Is she smart?"
Tim: "Yeah, very."
Mitch: "...is she hot?"

(That's what Mitch likes about those high school girls. He gets older, and they stay the same age!)

12:31 P.M. - We have an official time of the first mention of the Vikings trading up from No. 17 to get QB Matt Leinart. The possibility is enough to make Broadway begin speaking in his higher-pitched, extremely fast voice.

12:33 P.M. - Packers select A.J. Hawk, leading to the required "Brady Quinn's sister is his girlfriend" comment. This incites a lively debate on whether or not his girlfriend is hot, or just a jersey-chasing gold digger. I voted for the latter.

12:40 P.M. - Vernon Davis is crying like a baby after being selected by San Francisco. ESPN fails to report whether or not those tears are caused by the fact his new quarterback threw 11 interceptions to his one touchdown last year. Questions in the apartment of whether or not Alex Smith even posted a quarterback rating go unanswered.

12:41 P.M. - Merril Hoge becomes the first sports analyst since Howard Cosell to wear a shirt visible from deep space. Hey, congratulations, Merril! The color printer ink cartridge that inspired that rag is sitting on the desk next to me.

12:55 P.M. - After the motion to turn off the HD channel when Hoge is on passed unanimously, we began to see colors again. Like the red color in Michael Irvin's eyes, for example. Not sure why they are red...

Ok, the Under Armour "click-clack" crap has to stop. That Coors Light commercial with the train that brings on the next ice age can go, too. I don't know why I'm arguing, these companies seem to be the only two who bought advertising for this. It's gonna be a long day.

Oakland takes DB Michael Huff. The versatile safety position is evolving into the most dominant position on the defensive side of the ball. Polamalu, Ed Reed, Roy Williams...these are all very similar examples of Michael Huff. Cornerbacks are getting flagged for even sneezing on wide receivers, so defensive coordinators are now looking more at a safety who excels in run support as well as the speed and strength to be a blitzing option. It's been a while since I've said this, but Oakland made out with a great pick.

1:00 P.M. - Sandwiches are good. So is water. I haven't showered. My doctor calls it a "hangover." Apparently, that's what happens when a few friends come into town for another friend's birthday party. Roommate Chuck has a headache due to the hard hat he wore for several chicks at Mayslack's about 12 hours ago.

1:09 P.M. - Detroit takes safety Donte Whitner, making this the first official "WHAT!?" reaction of the day. A good player, no doubt, but it might be a bit of a reach. Perhaps the geriatric management of the Bills thought they took a nap like they usually do at noon, and missed their pick. Is Whitner going to be in Huff's mold? I guess we'll see, but I'm willing to bet they were set on Huff and figured him to be available at No. 8.

1:20 P.M. - LB Ernie Sims and his 12 concussions go to Detroit. Always a fun stat to read: "Detroit has not drafted a defensive player in the first round since 1999." Good thing Charles Rogers panned out...

Some people think the economy of the United States is down. I point them to Detroit, where there is a specific executive who can't even lose his job if he tries.

1:21 P.M. - They keep showing that agonizing clip of Aaron Rodgers in the Green Room from last year. Seriously, it's like Mikey calling Nikki in "Swingers." Just gut-wrenching to watch. Poor guy...I bet Leinart can feel his pain.

What is it with Denny Green, anyway? The guy always has the right players fall to him on draft day. It's like some kind of curse. Moss fell, Culpepper made it past Tim Couch and Akili Smith, Anquan Boldin survived to the second round. Leinart will be of the same mold, and you're looking at a scary offense in two years.

Broadway is now praying someone takes Jay Cutler before the Vikings are forced to at No. 17. They won't pass on him if he is there.

1:31 P.M. - No worries anymore. Denver moves up with St. Louis to draft the geekiest looking player in professional sports. He takes the honor from Kirk Heinrich of the Chicago Bulls. Quite an achievement.

He also rewards us with his appearance on that draft runway thing ESPN is doing as a segue into commercials. Wearing a buckle the size of the WWE championship belt, and looking as comfortable as Hank Hill at a Phish concert, Cutler showed he is the least cool quarterback in the league. At least Kurt Warner has a Super Bowl ring.

1:49 P.M. - Baltimore and Cleveland exchange picks, with the much hated Ravens taking Haloti Ngata and the Browns taking Kamerion Wimbley.

Ngata will attempt to help Ray achieve his ultimate goal, which is to have absolutely no defensive responsibility at all except to make some exaggerated celebration and get all credit for anything positive that happens on the field. But if the team isn't good enough to meet these demands, Ray will cut a hang nail and miss the next 14 weeks until the team is up to speed. Anyone else glad this team is in the AFC North?

2:33 P.M. - Broderick Bunkley to Philadelphia, Tye Hill to St. Louis, Jason Allen to Miami, Chad Greenway to Minnesota...putting Dallas on the clock. Time to talk about T.O.!

I do understand that he's a big story, and it's crazy that he's teamed with Parcells and blah, blah, blah...but I honestly think I have seen every single highlight he has ever made on the field. There isn't one clip of him doing anything in the NFL I have yet to see. Maybe they can dig even deeper and get some shots of him when he was playing basketball in the USBL back in the day. That might be better. As for now, "mute" button hit. Cowboys take Bobby Carpenter, by the way. T.O. wasn't made available for comment.

2:46 P.M. - The TV goes out. Great, this figures. The day I actually plan on watching TV for 10 straight hours, and half the power in our apartment doesn't work. Fortunately, my TV works, but my room is a disaster, so Chuck, Joe and I pack in there to see Antonio Cromartie go to San Diego and Tamba Hali go to Kansas City.

Side Note: If I was a reporter at a TV station or newspaper in Kansas City, I would be coming up with specific trigger-questions to ask Herm Edwards at the middle of the season when the Chiefs are, again, about to play themselves out of the post-season. The goal? To get him to lay a vintage "Edwards Meets Jim Mora combined with Bobby Knight" media tirade on us. It doesn't get any better than a coach calling out the media for asking questions. I would put Edwards ahead of any coach in the league in terms of probability of this happening soon. You got this, Jason Whitlock?

3:01 P.M. - By the way, I've lost track of time at this point. Bear with me, the clock is probably way off. New England takes former Minnesota Golden Gopher running back Laurence Maroney. I'm sure he's excited, as there is no way the NFL can be more draining on him than Glen Mason's offense. That guy lugged more rocks than a coal miner in his stint at Minnesota. Unless, of course, it was a close game. Then Mason made perfectly sure his best offensive weapon doesn't touch the ball. Best coach in football, ladies and gentlemen. Remind me to stab myself if I ever hear of him in the pro ranks.

3:14 P.M. - Manny Lawson, Davin Joseph (the first legitimate "who?" of the draft) and Jonathon Joseph get taken as we are informed by our building manager that XCel Energy is having a "brownout," and we will be without some power and water until they fix it. Chuck says "Great, they are having a brownout, so I can't go to my bathroom and have a brownout."

3:24 P.M. - I'm watching the Giants' clock run down, well out of contention for the mock draft pool title, and feeling like a nap might be in order until the Steelers are on the clock. Over Berman's voice I heard Tags say " Pittsburgh." I perked up, waiting for confirmation that the Steelers traded up in the first round for the second time in franchise history. I had been fairly certain LenDale White would fall to No. 32, but my immediate thought was they traded up ahead of Carolina since the Pats took Maroney. This was quickly dismissed, considering the Panthers would take DeAngelo Williams, and the Colts would probably go in another direction, since White fits into that team about as well as I do at a Natalie Merchant concert.

"...And the Pittsburgh Steelers select...Santonio Holmes, wide receiver, Ohio State."

I'm sort of dull. Not sure what to think here. I've been ranting all off-season how we aren't going to take a WR, but I never even considered Holmes. There was no way he was going to fall, right?

Well, he's more athletic and he's faster than El. He's got great hands, and he's a good character guy. Considering less than half of the Steelers draft picks are likely to make the team anyway, might as well give a few picks to get a guarantee guy. Alright, he's in.

After calling SteelersBro twice, he picked up on the third call, angry because, he said, "you called me twice, so I was thinking the Steelers are on the clock, and I'm looking at the Bears. What do you want?"

"We traded up! We took Santonio Holmes!"

"...Oh... but he's an Ohio State idiot!"

You just can't please some people.

3:32 P.M. - Not sure who John McCargo even is, but the Bills took him at No. 26 after trading up with the Bears. The biggest flat-out reach of the day, beating out Buffalo's selection of Whitner at No. 8. I'll bet the fans in Buffalo are thrilled!

Two things:

1. Why is it that ESPN now seems to force Mel Kiper to put a cork in his mouth for anything negative? One of the biggest foundations on which this draft's popularity was built was the time Kiper freaked out on camera about two of the Jets' selections. There's no way he didn't want to tear into Buffalo at that point.

2. I'm betting NC State is thanking its lucky stars for the whole lacrosse incident down the road in Durham. If that wasn't around, the local press would have a field day, considering their men's basketball team STILL hasn't hired a coach, and they just had three of their front four defensive players get taken in the first round of the draft, and they finished 6-5.

4:29 P.M. - Slept for a bit, but just saw the Colts take RB Joseph Addai from LSU. This is a great pick. Now, Peyton has another running back he won't give the ball to in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. Other possible picks for the Colts were a third wide receiver they could overpay, or maybe even an offensive lineman he could blame.

The rest of the draft was pretty uninteresting except for the "Mar-Cus-VICK" chants before Mr. Irrelevant was named. I did get a kick out of LenDale White acting as if losing millions of dollars because he couldn't find a bench press in the last three months didn't bother him.

I'd give the Steelers an emphatic CLICK-CLACK B- for this draft as a whole. And in respect to the song that was without question in your head during the draft..."people all over the world...join hands...start a love train...love train..."

DRAFT PICKS

1. Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State - 1st Round
Great pick. The right guy for the right team. Depth won't be hurt despite giving a third and fourth round pick to move up to No. 25 with the Giants.

2. Anthony Smith, S, Syracuse - 3rd Round
A great pick for need. With few safeties on the roster anyway, it was a position guaranteed to be addressed. Word is he hits like a freight train. A nice compliment to Polamalu.

3. Willie Reid, WR/RS, Florida State - 3rd Round
Not very impressed with this pick. He doesn't do anything in the return game that Santonio couldn't do, and has little to no value as a WR. Doesn't really bring much to the table.

4. Willie Colon, G, Hofstra - 4th Round
Never heard of the guy. Not one positive scouting report on him. But it gives the Steelers the funniest last name available. If he makes the team, I get to say "What? SUPER Colon-Blow??" in homage to the SNL commercial spoof with Phil Hartman. Absolutely classic.

5. Orien Harris, DT, Miami - 4th Round
A great value pick. He's a strong pocket-pusher, and can spell the equally wide-middled Casey Hampton. The most solid pick after Holmes and Smith.

6. Omar Jacobs, QB, Bowling Green - 5th Round
Powerful arm, strange mechanics. Word is that he should have stayed in school for another year, but given that Batch has probably two years left, Jacobs could be a very solid backup at that point.

7. Charles Davis, TE, Purdue - 5th Round
Looks pretty big with decent hands. Probably taken due to Jerame Tuman's age, but it'll be an uphill battle for him to make the roster.

8. Marvin Phillip, C, California - 6th Round
Starting center for two strong Cal rushing teams. Will push backup Chukki Okobi. Could possibly play guard as well.

9. Cedric Humes, RB, Virginia Tech - 7th Round
Could be productive at the goal line. If he can show some worth there, Pittsburgh might keep him around for Duce Staley's eventual cap cut next season.