April 25, 2004

Win some, lose some

A quarterback, cornerback and offensive tackle. For months that's what we've been saying the Steelers needed to acquire on the draft's first day and that's what they did.

In first-round pick Ben Roethlisberger, the team gets its quarterback of the future and a player many had rated as a top-five pick when the college football season ended. But Phillip Rivers stock rose faster than the Allegheny River on a rainy day and pushed Roethlisberger down some teams' draft boards.

But the Steelers were more than pleased to take him in the first round and had him rated just behind Rivers and cornerback DeAngelo Hall as their first choice.

In the second round, the Steelers moved up six spots to grab cornerback Ricardo Colclough out of tiny Tusculum College.

Colclough is a small-school player, but there's nothing small-school about his play. In fact, the Steelers had a first-round grade on him, which is why the team felt the need to deal its fourth-round pick to move up and get him before somebody else did.

"We've always said if we like a player, we're going to be aggressive and go get him," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said.

In Colclough and 2003 fifth-round pick Ike Taylor, the Steelers have two good-sized young corners with speed. They are raw, but that's why the coaches get paid, right?

Third-round pick Max Starks was something of an enigma. A massive left tackle at Florida, the 6-7, 340-pound Starks never played up to his full ability.

He could be a steal. But he could also be a bigger, younger version of Oliver Ross.

© The picks of Roethlisberger and Colclough will turn out to be solid ones for the Steelers in years to come. But once again the team is treating its picks beyond the first two rounds as time to throw some darts at a board, hoping to hit the bullseye.

Other than last year's selection of Alonzo Jackson, the Steelers have done pretty well with their first two picks in the Bill Cowher-Kevin Colbert era. It's those picks after that in which no starters have been procured.

That will change this year when Chris Hope and Clark Haggans move into the starting lineup, but the Cowher-Colbert duo has more misses than hits in the late rounds.

Former director of football operations Tom Donahoe was the exact opposite. Donahoe would miss with his first and second rounders and steal some late round gems.

I'm not sure who's way is better, but I question the Steelers' draft so far this year a lot less than I am Donahoe's questionable trade this year to acquire J.P. Losman. That one is going to get Donahoe fired in Buffalo.

© Speaking of Jackson, when I asked Starks how he did against him while at Florida, he spoke glowingly of the Steelers' 2003 second-round draft pick.

"I survived against him," Starks said of Jackson. "He was definitely a very good defensive end. I didn't give up any sacks. I think I had a pretty good day."

Funny, no NFL offensive tackles gave up a sack to Jackson last season, either.

© When Cowher and Colbert came into the media room while the third round was still being selected, our Jim Wexell surmised that the Steelers wouldn't be making a trade up into the third round.

"With what?" Cowher replied with a sneer on his face.

Good point.

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