Steelers rookie CB Terry Hawthorne could be diamond in the rough

Justin K. Aller

If Hawthorne lives up to Coach Lake's evaluation, the Steelers may have found an eventual franchise cornerstone which only needs a bit of polishing, in the fifth round of the NFL draft.

Before Keenan Lewis left for the New Orleans Saints, he was believed to be the eventual replacement for Ike Taylor as the Pittsburgh Steelers top cornerback. Now, Cortez Allen is the new Keenan Lewis; and Carnell Lake thinks rookie Terry Hawthorne could be the next Ike Taylor.

"He is fast. What I like about Terry is that he has a lot of upside potential that I see in him. I think he has all the physical tools. He is big. He is fast. He doesn't mind tackling, and he can play press coverage well, kind of in the same way as an Ike Taylor."

Hawthorne played like a first-round pick early in his collegiate career at Illinois, but slid to Pittsburgh in the fifth round after a somewhat disappointing senior season. Lake believes his problems lie in reparable technique issues.

"Just watching it, from my perspective, I think that if there is anything I can help him with, it will probably be his technique. I think he has maybe got himself a little bit out of position, and it is partly due to some of the things that I saw with him that I can help clean up. That is kind of where I see the potential in him. Right now, he is just raw."

"I would like to hone those skills and get him in the lab and really work with him on those things."

Lake already began working with Hawthorne at the team's rookie orientation camp this past weekend. Hawthorne accepted his coaching well, and looks forward to expounding upon what he has learned.

"I'm just trying to get my technique down. They've been correcting me on my technique. I had bad technique. As I'm getting my technique better, they're starting to get a little more comfortable with me."

"It gives me a great advantage for them to correct my technique now. When I leave and go back home, I can work on the things they want me to work on."

While no one is expecting Hawthorne to compete for a starting job in his rookie season, or anytime soon as long as Taylor is still employed by the Steelers; he does have a legitimate chance to compete with Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke for defensive and special teams duty. Hawthorne has experience receiving punts, which could play in his favor when cuts are made.

If Lake can chisel through Hawthorne's flaws, in a few years many experts could be talking about how the Steelers found their next great defensive back, in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft.

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