A View from the SteelCage…Some things cannot be taught and a Steelers kind of Draft

          I started this one a while ago, but haven’t had a chance to finish it up.  We all know our defense is struggling to get interceptions and has dropped nearly as many picks as our WRs have dropped catchable passes.  Being in position is not always difficult, it is making the play that is difficult, ask Ike Taylor.  When you think of ball hawk style DB, we all know the usual suspects.  Ed Reed, Darren Sharper, Charles Woodson.  All these guys follow what I call the 7/13 rule.  The 7/15 rule is as such, during a player’s college career, if he has at least 15 interceptions with one year of 7 or more, he will be a pick machine.  Darren Sharper went to Tomlin U (William and Mary) where he finished his career with 24 picks, with 10 in his senior season.  Charles Woodson (Michigan), the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman.  Only played three years, 5/5/8 (Jr year).  Total is 18.  Ed Reed (Miami) played 4 years and his picks per year 2/2/8/9 (21 total). 

           Now for the exceptions (Rod Woodson) it is more a crapshoot, but a player that does returns or also plays offense seems to help.  Once again, Reed, Sharper and Charles Woodson all did just that.  Rod Woodson was the only real player on Purdue and did everything, so he is not surprising.  So what does that mean for Buffalo’s Jarius Byrd, who has 8 picks so far this season.  Well, 5/7/5 total of 17, expect to see him up top yearly.  Do we have anyone like that, well close but not quite on the 7/15.  Joe Burnett had 16 total but 6 was his single season high.  He was an All-American return man, there is hope.  He gets a pass for the dropped pick, he was just trying to fit in (that was sarcasm).  With rumors he and Lewis could end up starting this weekend we may yet see.  Let them take their bruises now right?  "Big Play" Willie Gay had 6 in his final season but only 7 total, and his most memorable moment is when he singlehandedly blew Louisville’s BCS Championship hopes in his final year by jumping offside on a field goal attempt against Rutgers.  Look at the video.  Willie is the gunner on the left that jumps offsides.  Field Goal misses, is reattempted, and Rutgers handed Louisville their only loss of that season.  Ike Taylor, 8 passes deflected no picks, much like his career.  Troy, 6 total, 3 high.  Keenan Lewis, our other rookie had 3/4 in his final two years for 7 total.  We need some hands in our defensive backfield, and I think we can find these guys in this year’s draft which I will talk about following the jump.




         So we all know we most certainly have needs on this team.  Farrior is not playing as well as last year, that is undeniable.  What has also become apparent is that Kevin Colbert and company have a better idea about our roster than the coaches in that as much as resigning Clark was pushed by the coaches, Keisel was signed.  Keisel is playing lights out and Clark is apparently is playing without the lights on.  FYI, I am wondering if that is not quite true.  Is there a possibility that the coaches didn’t want to resign him.  Passing the blame to the front office could take a lot of awkwardness out of the locker toom.  Just saying.  Willie Gay, I have already taken my shots at him.  Here are starters we could lose this offseason:


Willie Colon – Isn’t it ironic how different the opinion of him is from the offseason.  Maybe Bill Belicheck wasn’t blowing smoke up our butts when he called him one of the best RT in the NFL two seasons ago.


Santonio Holmes – Will he search for the “former Superbowl MVP” paycheck or work out a mutually beneficial deal to stay home.


Ryan Clark – I do love some of the things he does for us, but in my opinion a FS needs to ensure he is the last guy.  If that means playing the ball at the expense of the SportsCenter top 10 hit, so be it.  Besides, a turnover is much more beneficial than a big hit.  Sorry, that is a fact.


Willie Parker – He is going to have to take a hometown discount or a plane ticket elsewhere.  I love Willie Parker, he is the consummate professional, something he learned from Bettis.  I hope is stays because when healthy, he is still a good change of pace back.  Or maybe that is my sentimental side.


Casey Hampton – Big Snack is still a great NT, but if he wants top 5-10 NT money he will have to walk.   Still valuable but only a two down player for the past couple years.


I see a the following needs: 


ILB/OLB Depth (what is God forbid Harrison or Woodley goes down)




OL Depth (a C/G and another T)


The Steelers draft principles are as follows: 


1.  Draft young guys with big potential and give them time to develop (Timmons, Mendy, and Hood). 

2.  Draft value, better known as best player available.


4.  Trust the scouts and trust the Personnel Department.


          If the Steelers can stop the bleeding, I see us picking between 18 and 23 (if we can make playoffs).  If not, this will be a mash because Eric Berry could actually be within reach.  That would be bittersweet, Berry would be awesome, but at the expense of tanking the rest of the season and trading other picks, not so much.  I also put us as getting a 3rd Round Supplemental for FA losses (I am hoping but think 4 or 5 is probably more likely).


With that, here is my draft Steelers style.  I rated each draft pick based on the following five criteria all on a 1-10 scale:

Size – Based on the position drafted for 5/6 is average for position.

Fit – Based on player’s fit on Steelers 5/6 is average fit.

Readiness – NFL Ready or Developmental pick higher than 6 is contributor, lower than 5 is project.

Potential – Self-explanatory.

Position – Draft position.  Below 5 is a reach 6/7 is right where you want 8 and up a steal.


Round 1


Von Miller – Linebacker, Texas A&M, 6’3”/240 lbs

Size – 9  Fit – 9  Readiness – 9  Potential – 9  Position – 7  Total 431003aggies_medium


          Undecided if he is coming out or not, but I think if he does, he is the top linebacker on my board.  Here is why, first off, very Timmons-esque in that he can play inside and out in the 3/4.  A 4-star recruit coming out of high school, he came in and played LB for a couple years.  This year, they put him as Jack, a DE/LB Hybrid that lines up all over and plays standing up, so the transition will be very easy for most part.  This season he broke out with 44 tackles, 21 TFL, 17 sacks, 5 BU, 5 PD, 4 FF.  That is a career for some college LB.  And that line is in the Big 12, we aren’t talking about the Big East here.  Here is what impresses me most about him.  And we aren’t talking about He isn’t just a speed-rusher, he can switch from one to another and with fluidity.  Look at 1:14 and 1:30 on the film, speed to the outside, and he can swim or spin to the inside if necessary.  Look at his speed to the QB, about 3 seconds.  He shores up two needs, back-up OLB/pass rush specialist and possibly the future ILB.  Imagine the pass rush of Wood, Timmons, Miller, and Harrison.  Pass rush helps improve coverage and vice versa, right.



Round 2


Jacoby Ford – Wide Receiver/KR/PR, Clemson, 5’10”/185 lbs

Size – 7  Fit – 8  Readiness – 8  Potential – 9  Position – 8  Total 40



          Imagine having C.J. Spiller a round later and add in a little Antwan Randel El.  He has passing, rushing, KR, PR, and receiving TD in his career and is one of the most explosive players on the field every game.  Not just that, but he is an NCAA champion runner.  He hasn’t lost an indoor 60m race in two years with a 6.52 at the NCAA finals (6.51 in the prelims).  His outside 100m best is 10.01.  Take his 60m time (the race is at about the 3 minute mark of the first video), put it at a 40 yrd time and you are looking at about 3.96.  Now, he won’t run that because the first 20 is slower than the rest of the race.  I do think he could possibly be a 4.2 guy.  Who knows, maybe he can break the 4.1 marker.  Look how quick he pulls away after breaking the tackle in the attached PR.  This year’s Percy Harvin.  Especially important if Holmes is gone.





Round 3a


Akwasi Owuso-Ansah – Cornerback/KR/PR, Indiana University – Pennsylvania (IUP), 6’1”/205 lbs

Size – 9  Fit – 7  Readiness – 7  Potential – 10  Position – 6  Total 39



          Small School Prospect who some of you might have more info on than I do.  4.4 forty, with great hands, the anti-Ike.  He had 8 picks and 10 PD as a junior so they stopped throwing his way this season and ended with 2 and 6 this season.  In the last two years he has 3 KR TD, 3 PR TD, 1 INT TD, 1 FR TD.  Might be a little reach this high, but with a good showing in post season all-star play and a good combine and he might not even last this long.  The one question mark is run support, as he only had 32 tackles in the last two years.  Not quite a 7/15 guy, but 8/10 and opponents avoiding him like the plague this season, he could be something special.  Goodbye Willie Gay, hello AOA.


Round 3b


Thomas Austin – Center/Guard, Clemson, 6’4”/315

Size – 9  Fit – 9  Readiness – 8  Potential – 6  Position – 7  Total 39Ncf_i_austin_300_medium


          Mel Kiper’s #1 ranked center although he played LG all season.  Sophomore season, 4 starts at RG, 8 at center.  Junior season, 6 at guard, 7 center.  Senior season, 13 LG, with 34 straight.  Could push for playing time right away at G or C or be a viable backup and take over when Hartwig departs in 2012.  Solid base, good trap and short puller.  Look at Clemson’s running game the last three years, here is the best lineman on all three of those lines.


Round 4


Brian Lainhart – FS, Kent State, 6’1”/207

Size – 9  Fit – 9  Readiness – 7  Potential – 8  Position – 6  Total 39Get_image_medium



Could be the steal of the draft if my theory is correct.  Here is his last three years:

2009 – 87 tkl, 7 int, 4 PD, 4 FF

2008 – 106 tkl, 6 int, 5 PD, 3 FF, 1 FR

2007 – 63 tkl, 2 int, 3 PD, 2 FR


          He can do the run support thing, but is not a liability when playing centerfield.  He would pair with AOA in round 3 to give us a future defensive backfield that isn’t a liability if Polamalu is sidelined.  If he is not available, Robert Vaughn of UCONN is similar with slightly less upside.  He is 6’0” 200 lbs with 13 career picks, 7 in 2007 just shy of the 7/15 rule.


Round 5


Derek Hardman – Offensive Tackle, E. Kentucky, 6’6”/305

Size – 8  Fit – 7  Readiness – 5  Potential – 8  Position – 5  Total 33Hardman1129-510x467_medium


          An all-state hurdler in high school, was recruited as a TE and moved to Tackle.  Very fluid athlete, can mirror rusher.  Decent power, but some room to add strength when he gets into a professional strength program.  Really good hip bend, I think this kid can play LT in the NFL.  I still want to see his workups.  Another option for the right side is Edwin “Jared” Veldheer, Hillsdale.  6’8”, 321 lbs (Steelers size).  Supposedly ran a 4.9 forty during last spring practices.  Will he be a workout warrior or a small school steal?  Some draftniks think with good coaching he could play LT.  One thing Zeirlein does well, like him or not, is teach technique.  If you remember during the offseason Colon talking about how much that is emphasized by Coach Larry.  He has some power (see below video) and shouldn’t get pushed around.  The key to this lift is explosiveness, but I think Hardman is a little more polished.






Round 6


John Fletcher – Defensive End, Wyoming, 6’7”/272 lbs

Size – 7  Fit – 8  Readiness – 6  Potential – 8  Position – 8  Total 3724f6185df0_colt_09132009_medium


          I only gave him a 7 on size because of his current size, he would have a couple of years behind Smith, Keisel and Hood to pack on 10-20 lbs but at 6’7” could easily carry the extra weight.  4.85 forty.  The next Keisel wedge-buster.  Here is what is really stands out look at the last three years and tell me this isn’t a great late round grab if he is still available:


2009 – 46 tkl, 12.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 5 PD, 2 FF, 1 FR, 3 BK

2008 – 54 tkl, 6.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF, 0 FR, 0 BK

2007 – 60 tkl, 14 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 BK

2006 – 9 tkl, 3 TFL, 2 sacks

Total – 169 tkl, 36 TFL, 22 sacks, 7 PD, 4 FF, 2 FR, 4 BK


That, my friends, is production!!!!!!


Round 7


Travis Ivey – Defensive Tackle, Maryland, 6’4”/325 lbs

Size – 9  Fit – 9  Readiness – 6  Potential – 8  Position – 6  Total 36



          I really like this kid.  Not huge numbers and played for Maryland, but has the size and drive to succeed.  Taller than Hampton, and almost looks sleek at 325 lbs and from the game I watched had a motor.  Big and strong, able to hold at the point of attack and at 6’4” could get his hands up in the passing lanes to delay passes for the pass rush.  Here is what I like most, he seems level headed and willing to work his butt off (unlike former Maryland DT Dre Moore who Tampa Bay cut for being lazy).  After giving Coach Mitchell Hood and Harris this year, Fletcher and Ivey further add youth to our D-Line.  Some people like Kade Watson of Georgia and Cam Thomas of UNC, Kade is a one year starter and will be available after the last pick, and Cam Thomas looked lazy in every game I saw.  He was the least impressive of the UNC D-Linemen.


         This is how the Steelers draft, you start out confused and surprised, but they work.  And by the way, some of you may remember me picking a few of the draft picks this last year, including Urbik, who I still think will produce.  I am now ready for the butchering.  Bring it on, I can take it. 


Next time...If coaching changes are made, who would be good.

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