The 2011 NFL Draft is in the books for the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. And what a three days it's been for Kevin Colbert and the rest of the Steelers player personnel team. The Steelers addressed needs, they found value, they didn't reach with any of their seven picks, and when it was all said and done on Saturday afternoon at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Steelers welcomed seven fresh faces to the organization that all have a chance to make their way on to either the 53-man roster or practice squad.
Before we recap the entire draft for the Steelers, let's first take a look at the team's seventh and final selection -- running back Baron Batch from Texas Tech University. Batch, a four-year start while in Lubbock, had his hands on the ball quite a bit, particularly during his final three seasons on the high plains. That's what happens I suppose when you play for Mike Leach for three years. Batch caught a combined 102 passes as a sophomore and junior (45, 57), before seeing that total dip down to 32 as a senior. Of course, last year Leach was replaced by Tommy Tubberville following Leach's dismissal by the university at the end of the '09 season. Last season however, Batch saw his rushing opportunities increase as Texas Tech took the first steps towards transitioning from Leach's pass-happy system to a more traditional offensive scheme. Batch did however set a career high in rushes in '10 with 177.
When the dust had settled on his career, Batch left Texas Tech in ninth place on the all-purpose yardage list (3,612), tied for eighth in touchdowns (32), and eighth in career rushing yards (2,501).
Here's a wildly inaccurate and off-point assessment of the pick from Jon Dove, who provided grades for each pick in each round as part of Mocking The Draft's coverage on CBS Sports:
Good production but will have to adjust to a new offensive system. The running lanes at Texas Tech were wide b/c of their spread system. GRADE: C-
Well, that's fine and dandy Mr. Dove, but let's first get on the same page about why the Steelers drafted Batch. It had nothing to do with what he might bring to the table as a rushing threat. The Steelers are set on that department with Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, and perhaps even Jonathan Dwyer. The Steelers in no way, shape or form made this pick hoping that Batch could make his way into the regular rotation as a ball carrier.
No, instead, the pick is purely about Batch's soft hands and ability to make plays in the passing game on third down. With Mewelde Moore currently a free agent, the Steelers might opt to part ways with the veteran Moore in favor of the younger, more shifty and most importantly, less expensive Batch. Were Moore to accept less money than what he might earn elsewhere as a team's third-down back, then Batch will have a hard time fitting in. But if Moore does in fact land somewhere other than Pittsburgh, the Steelers have a nice option in Batch to test out as a possible replacement.
Well done Mr. Colbert. That's no C- of a pick in round seven. That's an A- in my book. This team had needs heading into this draft, and of course, it's far too early to see if those needs will be sufficiently addressed by the new crop of picks. But this was also a team that was in the Super Bowl, a squad with well over 40 guys who you can pencil in as slam dunks to make next year's roster. That leaves very few spots for new rookies to find a niche, and this pick certainly opens up that possibility.
Finally, to get a taste of Batch the person, you might enjoy checking out Batch's personal blog. Lots of great stories, thoughts, etc. on there. LaMarr Woodley agrees with me - this is going to be a fan favorite in Steeler Nation if he's able to find his way onto the squad.
More soon. Go Steelers!