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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wanted: The Next Willie Paker and the next James Harrison

The Steelers filled out their roster today by signing 12 undrafted free agent rookies.

As reported by the Tribune-Review, the following players will join the Steelers 2008 draft class for mini-camp:

Patrick Bailey, LB, Duke
Dorien Bryant, WR, Purdue
Doug Legursky, C, Marshall
Roy Lewis, CB, Washington
Mike Potts, QB, William & Mary
Martavius Prince, DL, Southern Miss
Julian Rauch, K, Appalachian State
Micah Rucker, WR, Eastern Illinois
Jordan Reffett, DL, Washington
Dezmond Sherrod, TE, Mississippi State
Travis Williams, CB, East Carolina
Donovan Woods, LB, Oklahoma State

In most NFL cities, rookie free agent signings are rather ho-hum occasions – a chance to pick up bodies that can keep starters fresh during training camp by taking reps for the starters.

Without a doubt, that is exactly what the vast majority of the players you see listed above will do.

However, since coming on board in 2000, Kevin Colbert has not only managed to do well on day one of his NFL drafts, he has also done an exceptional job of doing well the day after the draft.

The Steelers entered the 2000 season with two excellent NFL full backs – John Witman and Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala. In successive weeks, both men were felled with injuries just as the team was hitting its stride after starting 0-3.

Making his first start against the now fabled 2000 Baltimore defense, Dan Kreider stepped into the line up, and the rest is history. Kreider was the first of Colbert’s post-draft day gems, and he would go on to become the veritable equivalent of a 6th lineman until he got hurt in 2006.

Kreider was not the only rookie free agent earn a roster spot, but to, but to distinguish himself as a starter. The Steelers current roster features Gary Russell, Carey Davis, Nate Washington, Chris Hoke, and Anthony Madison who made the roster as undrafted free agents.

None of these men has contributed to the level of Kreider, but last year the Steelers have two more undrafted rookie free agents who happened to blossom into Pro Bowlers – Namely James Harrison and Willie Parker.

It would be too much to expect that Colbert can regularly produce viable starters from undrafted free agents. But if they cannot expect, Steelers fans can at least hope that Colbert will have once again worked his magic with either Martavius Prince of Southern Mississippi or Jordan Reffett of Washington, as the team did not address the defensive line on either day one or day two of the 2008 NFL draft.

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