The Unlucky Few

In this time of early free agency, following the Steelers can feel somewhat like being a kid left out of Christmas. Take one look at Twitter and you’ll see teams throwing millions of dollars around in the hope of capturing just a couple more wins come playoff time – the results are certainly mixed. That doesn’t mean we as a fan base can’t get excited however, as Kevin Colbert’s time to shine is just on the horizon in the shape of the 2018 NFL draft.

Colbert needs no plaudits from myself for the job he’s done gaining talent through the draft, and I’m certainly not about to call for his head. This piece is instead a light hearted look at some of the players, that for various reasons, caught my eye and captured my heart – only to fade away into obscurity a lot sooner than all parties would’ve hoped.

1. Chris Rainey 5th round pick – 2012

A name on a long list of late round backs that the Steelers tried to make fit. Chris Rainey didn’t. Running a 4.36s 40 at the combine and showing decent hands in college, I was certainly not the only one who got a little excited over what the jitterbug might be able to create for the offense. The short answer is not much, and he was released in early 2013 after being charged with battery. He would later sign with the Colts, produce little of anything, and subsequently was released after mysterious actions in a hotel including a teammate and a fire extinguisher.

2. Johnathon Dwyer 6th round pick – 2010

Another running back, though a completely different style and reason for capturing my heart. Johnathan Dwyer saw his rookie deal out in Pittsburgh, a rarity for 6th round picks, and spent a year with the Cardinals after that. He wasn’t flashy, mediocre might be a push, but if you played Madden 12 as the Steelers then you know Dwyer’s truck move was money.

3. Shamarko Thomas 4th round pick – 2013

Oh man, Kevin – this is Limas Sweed territory. Troy Polamalu was on his last legs and Pittsburgh were as stingy as ever in free agency, going into the draft it was certainly a position that required attention and so Colbert traded up (I’m not sure I’ve got over that myself just yet) with Cleveland to add their new impactful safety.

It didn’t work.

Shamarko Thomas would train with Polamalu in the offseason, say the right things, look the part (if a little undersized) and yet when the ball was in play, he was a fish out of water. If such a thing exists, I assume Shamarko Thomas holds the NFL record for ‘fair catch interference’ penalties.

4. Cortez Allen 4th round – 2011

I still look at number 28 and think “Allen.” Cortez Allen was never a superstar, what Steelers cornerbacks are? But crucially – he could catch the ball. After years of watching Ike Taylor look like he was wearing oven gloves, Pittsburgh had a corner who could make a play on the ball. Though not seeing much time in his first two years, he picked off Andy Dalton twice in a week 16 game vs the Bengals and a man crush was born. He would follow up with 2 more interceptions in both ’13 and ’14 before being benched for Brice McCain. 2015 began and ended in a hurry for Allen, getting injured in the season opener – he would go to IR and never properly be seen in the NFL again.

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