With the NFL Combine in Indianapolis about to begin, here is a look back at some of the top performances by Steelers draft picks.
The NFL Combine is back this week after being canceled last season, giving all 32 teams the chance to see this year’s rookie class up close and personal. While the actual importance of the event is up for debate, it is still one of the marquee events of draft season.
Every year, several players stand out as “winners” of the combine. Sometimes it’s running a blazing 40 time or jumping out of the gym, but regardless it can be a huge boost for a player’s stock.
The Steelers are no stranger to drafting players who displayed freakish athleticism at the combine, especially early in the draft. It may not be the primary reason why the selections were made, but it has been a consistent pattern over the last decade. Elite athletic traits can be a good indication of a player’s ceiling, as long as you don’t focus on them without context.
Here are five of the best combine performances by Steelers draft picks, starting with a player who blossomed after leaving the team.
Former Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders, 2010
Emmanuel Sanders was selected 82nd overall in the 2010 draft after a very solid career at SMU, including a big senior season that put him on NFL team’s radar. Listed at just 5’11, 186lbs, he would need an impressive combine to avoid being typecast as a slot receiver. Sanders delivered in a big way, running a 4.4 40 and finishing in the top 15 in every movement drill among all participants.
He stood out most in the agility and acceleration drills, posting high marks in the 3-cone (6.64) and shuttle (4.10). His jumping ability for his size (39.5 vertical) was also a huge boost for his stock, proving his lack of height was not a big concern. It took him until his contract year in 2013 to put up solid numbers though, leading to his departure for the Denver Broncos. Three consecutive 1,000 yards seasons later, Sanders proved his combine was not a fluke.
Sanders has bounced around to several teams since, but he has remained a productive receiver and even has a shot at reaching 10,000 career yards if he wants to continue his career. Not bad for a 3rd round pick.