2012 NFL Scouting Combine: Hightower Interviewed with Steelers, Speculation Surrounds Burfict

MADISON WI - SEPTEMBER 18: John Clay #32 of the Wisconsin Badgers is tackled by the fask mask by Vontaze Burfict #7 of the Arizona State Sun Devils at Camp Randall Stadium on September 18 2010 in Madison Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It's nearly a picture of night and day.

On one side, Alabama's Dont'a Hightower, outstanding character and college production, but limited mobility. On the other, Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict, a reputed locker room brawler and immensely talented hothead

Could Hightower's lower athletic ceiling but high football IQ be a good combination for the Steelers with the No. 24 overall pick? Or could Burfict's temper and penchant for post-whistle personal fouls be secondary to his athleticism?

Just how far up the Steelers draft board they'll climb with largely depend on their workouts today at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Burfict will almost certainly post better numbers than Hightower, but the Combine tests pure individual athletic skills. Football is played by combining all of those skills. It's also played as a team, and issues such as Burfict punching a teammate after an off-season 7-on-7 drill isn't going to help his stock much.

Nor is his declaration to reporters his "coach messed (him) up)" in 2011, when asked to explain his lack of dominance this past season. He said, "I didn't know whether I was going to start a game, or whether I was going to be benched."

It doesn't seem a stretch to suggest anyone with first-round talent wouldn't wonder if he would start a college game unless he's really in the coach's doghouse.

There's something to be said about a change of scenery though. Some environments are simply toxic.

Hightower had a silver spoon in his mouth, by comparison. The insanely talented Alabama Crimson Tide had several players among their defensive unit who will be drafted this year and next, leading to questions about how good Hightower the individual really was.

His workout today will likely be the most watched by scouting personnel. Some have suggested he'll likely run in the 4.7 range, which would make it doubtful the Steelers would go with him at 24, but if he exceeds that, the Steelers will give him a long, hard look.

The Combine is on NFL Network at 9 a.m. ET today, and it can be viewed online on NFL.com (link here).

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