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The worst (and best) fourth-round picks under Kevin Colbert

By Ray Fittipaldo 3 years ago

Everything we know about the Steelers draft process suggests is that there is strong communication between the scouts and the coaching staff when it comes to selecting players. If that indeed is the case, then what is going on with this organization’s inability to find cornerbacks who can play in this defense?

For the third consecutive season the Steelers cut a cornerback four months after investing a draft pick in them. And these aren’t throwaway late-round picks.

Fourth round cornerback Doran Grant was cut on Sunday. Last year the Steelers cut fifth-round pick Shaq Richardson. In 2013, they cut another fifth-rounder, Terry Hawthorne.

Richardson was on the practice squad for a short time last season before being released. He was among the first cuts by the Arizona Cardinals late last month. Hawthorne isn’t in the NFL any longer either. He never received another opportunity after the Steelers severed ties with him.

Blog aside: The previous time the Steelers cut a fourth round pick before the season began was 2007, when defensive lineman Ryan McBean didn’t make it out of training camp. But at least McBean landed on his feet. He ended up starting 21 games over four NFL seasons with the Broncos and Ravens from 2009-12.

The same cannot be said for Fred Gibson, the fourth-round pick from 2005 who also never made it out of training camp. He never played in an NFL game. He spent time on practice squads for the next several years, but his greatest accomplishment in professional sports came in basketball. He averaged 7.3 points per game for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds of the NBA Developmental League in 2008.

Other fourth-round picks who never played a game for the Steelers include Thaddeus Gibson (2010), Orien Harris (2006) and Danny Farmer (2000). Gibson played in four NFL games over his three seasons in the league with the 49ers, Bears and Titans. Harris played in 18 games over his three NFL seasons with the Browns and Bengals and Farmer played in 33 games over his three NFL seasons with the Bengals. He was Kevin Colbert’s first fourth-round pick in 2000.

Colbert’s best fourth-round picks: Larry Foote (2002), Ike Taylor (2003), Willie Colon (2006) and Martavis Bryant (2014).

It remains to be seen if the Steelers bring Grant back to the practice squad, but there seems to be a disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff on how a player is developed or a flat-out miss in the scouting process.

It was only three months ago that there was talk of baptism by fire for the two young corners. Of course, we’ll have to wait until next season to make a determination on second-round pick Senquez Golson, who was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

We already know what they think of Grant. The answer is not very much at this point. They went out and signed Ross Cockrel to their 53-man roster on Saturday after he flamed out as a fourth-round pick in Buffalo after one season. Apparently Grant was so unimpressive in camp that they took a chance on someone they had never coached rather than keep Grant.

Looking back, there were signs the Steelers had their doubts about Grant. One week into camp they traded away a conditional fifth-round pick for Brandon Boykin in late July. It remains to be seen if that trade will pay dividends, but Boykin wasn’t able to earn a job as a nickel back in the team’s five preseason games.

I’m assuming the front office didn’t trade away a draft choice (a conditional fifth-rounder) for a player in the final year of his contract for him to sit on the bench, but that’s exactly what Boykin will be doing Thursday night against New England unless he suddenly climbs the depth chart in the next two days.

It’s enough to make one wonder if there is disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff, and it’s just not public knowledge.