Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft in April, let’s look at how some of the Steelers’ drafts played out.
The 2021 NFL draft is less than three months away. Each week leading up to the draft, we are going to dive into an NFL draft class starting with the Steelers 2004 NFL draft. In doing so, each player selected by the Steelers will be highlighted as to how their NFL career, or lack thereof, took shape. As we get to more recent years, some will be combined as many of those draft choices are still with the Steelers.
Part 5 of 15 will highlight the Steelers 2008 NFL draft where no players remained with the Steelers past their rookie contract.
So let’s take a look at the seven players drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2008 NFL draft:
Running Back, Illinois
The last running back drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Rashard Mendenhall only appeared in four games as a rookie before being lost for the season in his first start with a fractured shoulder from a hot delivered by Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis. Rushing for more than 1,000 yards each of the next two seasons, Mendenhall was more known for his fumble in Super Bowl XLV. The following year Mendenhall tore his ACL in the final game of the season and did not appear in a game in 2012 until Week 5. Eventually benched due to ineffectiveness, Mendenhall was suspended for the Steelers’ Week 15 game against the Dallas Cowboys when he did not show up in Week 14 when he was inactive against the San Diego Chargers. Mendenhall only rushed for 182 yards on 51 attempts his final season in Pittsburgh before spending one year in Arizona. After rushing for 687 yards on 217 carries for the Cardinals, Mendenhall retired during the 2014 offseason. Mendenhall worked as a writer for the HBO series Ballers.
Wide Receiver, Texas
Drafted to be the big target at wide receiver the Steelers were looking for, Limas Sweed was a tremendous disappointment as he only appeared in 20 regualr-season games in two seasons for the Steelers. Sweed’s entire NFL career consisted of seven receptions for 69 yards and no touchdowns in the regular season and two receptions for 20 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in the 2008 AFC Championship Game. Going into the 2010 season, Sweed suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in minicamp. The following season, the Steelers placed Sweed on the Waved/Injured List during training camp and released him later in the year. Trying to catch on with a couple CFL teams, Sweden never played in the NFL again.
After playing defensive end in college at UCLA, Bruce Davis struggled to adjust to outside linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Inactive for all but five games his rookie season, Davis never recorded any stats for the Steelers and was waived following training camp in 2009. Davis bounced around from various practice squads over the next two seasons as he spent time with the Patriots, Broncos, and 49ers. Signed to the active roster of the Oakland Raiders during the 2010 season, Davis only lasted 10 games between 2010 and 2011 where he totaled six tackles. After stints on the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals and back to the San Francisco 49ers, Davis played a season in the CFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers traded back seven spots of the fourth round in order to pick up an additional sixth round pick as they were already down there 2008 7th round draft pick which was used to acquire Allen Rossum the previous season. The Steelers selected tackle Tony Hills who spent three seasons in Pittsburgh but only appeared in four games in 2010. After not making the team in 2011, Hill signed with the Denver Broncos for one season where he only appeared in one game. In all, Hills played for 11 different NFL franchises between practice squads and active rosters through 2016. Hills saw the most playing time with the New Orleans Saints in 2015 and 2016 where he appeared a total of 19 games. After signing with his 11th team in the Detroit Lions during the offseason of 2017, Hills announced his retirement from the NFL at the start of training camp.
The first quarterback drafted by a head coach Mike Tomlin, Dennis Dixon appeared in four games with the Steelers from 2008 to 2010. Starting his first game in 2009, Dixon fell to the Baltimore Ravens in overtime in Week 12. In 2010, Dixon started the first two games of the season for the Steelers while Ben Roethlisberger was serving a four-game suspension and Byron Leftwich missed time due to injury. In Dixon’s and second game against the Tennessee Titans, he suffered a torn meniscus at the beginning of the second quarter and ended up on injured reserve. Dixon did not appear a game for the Steelers in 2011 as he was the third quarterback on the roster. Signing with the Baltimore Ravens for the 2012 season, Dixon spent the year on the practice squad. The following season he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles but failed to make the team and landed on the Buffalo Bills practice squad. Dixon’s last stop in the NFL was spending one week on the practice squad of the Arizona Cardinals in 2014.
Unfortunately for linebacker Mike Humpal, his professional career never really got going as a neck injury caused him to be waived/injured. Upon clearing waivers Humpal returned the Steelers on the Reserve/Injured List for 2008. The Steelers released Humpal in the offseason and he never appeared in the NFL again. Due to his neck injuries, Humpal became inspired to become a chiropractor and has his own practice in Iowa.
Wide Receiver, West Virginia
The Steelers final selection of the 2008 NFL draft ended up playing more games in the NFL (96) than any of the others. Ryan Mundy appeared in every game for the Steelers in his four-year career while getting five spots starts due to injuries. Primarily a special-teams player, Mundy went on to play a season with the New York Giants in 2013 and started all 16 games for the Chicago Bears in 2014. After suffering a hip injury in the preseason of 2015, Mundy was placed on injured reserve and never played in the NFL again. While Monday did have one interception with his time with the Steelers, he managed four interceptions with one being returned for a touchdown in his one season in Chicago.