Kevin Colbert’s immediate and most important impact on the draft was to correct the Steelers early round blunders. One needs only to compare beyond Colbert’s first two years on day one to Donahue’s last two years on one selections for evidence.
In 2000 and 2001 Colbert selected Plaxico Burress, Marvel Smith, Kendrick Clancy, Casey Hampton, and Kendrell Bell. Burress failed to reach his potential with the Steelers, but overall he provided good value. Marvel Smith is a Pro Bowler and our best offensive lineman. Clancy was quite capable as 4th lineman and part-time starter. Casey Hampton is another Pro Bowler. Kendrell Bell did ultimately flame out, but he was an impact player as a rookie – in the most literal sense of the word (he also made his presence known, when not injured, during his sophomore season.)
In 1998 and 1999, Tom Donahue’s first day selections consisted of Alan Fanaca, Jeremey Staat, Chris Conrad, Hines Ward, Tory Edwards, Scott Shields, Joey Porter, Kris Farris, and Amos Zereoue. Fanaca,
Fanaca, Ward, and Porter were unequivocally phenomenal picks. In fact, forced to choose, you’d take that threesome over Burres, Smith, and Hampton. But Donahue traded up to pick up Staat, who was a horrendous bust. Conrad, Shields, and Farris went beyond being busts; these men not only failed to produce they all represented loss of value. Adding insult to injury, the Steelers were counting on all of these men to fill essential needs. (Zereoue is a wash. Clearly he was a pick up in terms of talent. However, he never reached his potential, but Tom Donahue hold no fault for that.)
Colbert maintained that streak in his “second quarter.” Kendall Simmons, Randel El, Chris Hope, and Troy Polamalu were all starters on the Super Bowl team. Alonzo Jackson qualifies as Colbert’s first day one disappointment.
During Colbert’s first four seasons his day two drafting has been solid, although not spectacular. Found find Clark Haggans on day two in 2000, and Ike Taylor in 2003. And of course, he took Brett Keisel with his seventh pick in 2003. Veron Hayes provided good value as a fifth round pick in 2002.
The bottom line is, the Steelers draft picks during the first half of the Colbert era were on the mark. Early round picks delivered value and either filled immediate needs or grew into starters or significant contributors.
[For an analysis of more recent Steeler drafts see part II "The Colbert Record: Steelers Drafts '04-'07"]