Like most Steelers fans, I was expecting the team to select cornerback Aaron Williams from Texas with the 31st pick in round 1 in-order to fill their most pressing need. But I must say that I wasn't overly disappointed when they went a different direction and addressed another concern with defensive end Cameron Heyward from Ohio State.
From what I've read about Heyward from the many awesome contributors to BTSC and from what I've heard on the radio from Steelers insiders, most seem to be happy with the pick. I'm far from an expert on the 3-4 defense and don't pretend to know a lot about the 5-technique, but the experts are saying Heyward is the perfect fit for what the Steelers like in a 3-4 end. I guess we'll find out.
I think we can all agree that the quickest way for teams to get into trouble is by reaching on first round selections. Even though Williams was the projected pick for the Steelers on several mock drafts before Thursday night, I didn't sense great enthusiasm about him from fans and most draft experts. The consensus was that he wasn't exactly the fastest of cornerbacks and I believe I heard it suggested by more than one person that he may be better suited at safety down the road. Those are the kinds of things people used to say about Chad Scott. Remember him?
I know players like Williams, and Brandon Harris from Miami, graded out as end of the first round selections, but when it comes to grading players, I often wonder if a lot of it has to do with the needs of certain teams and where they happen to be drafting. For instance, would Williams or Harris be thought of as potential late first round prospects if a team like Pittsburgh (drafting 31st) didn't need to seriously upgrade at the corner position?
And there's a difference between addressing a position and being set at one. So many draft experts that you see on television talk in absolutes when a team drafts a player. For example: "The Carolina Panthers drafted Cam Newton at quarterback so they're set at that position." No, they're not set, they've just addressed a need--two totally different things.
The Tennessee Titans had to draft another quarterback in the first round Thursday night because the Vince Young pick from a number of years ago failed miserably. They sure weren't set at the quarterback position. There are obviously no guarantees.
Some people are disappointed that the Steelers didn't just roll the dice and draft a corner anyway in round one , but it isn't as if the defensive line didn't need to be addressed. The defensive line is probably the team's 3rd most pressing need behind cornerback and offensive line. But just because the defensive line is their 3rd greatest need doesn't mean they should automatically try to fill a greater need with a player that they feel grades out lower than the top DE on their board.
The age of the defensive line has been an obvious concern for the Steelers for a long time and it wouldn't take long for it to go to the top of the list and become the team's number 1 priority. By drafting Evander "Ziggy" Hood just two years ago and now Heyward this year, they've at least taken steps to reload at that position with players of high pedigree.
In the 2nd and 3rd rounds, the team went about addressing their top 2 needs when they selected right tackle Marcus Gilbert out of Florida. In the 3rd round, the Steelers did take a defensive back out of Texas after all in one Curtis Brown.
Some might say the Steelers addressed their top 3 needs in reverse order, but I'd say it's fairly reasonable to expect 2nd and 3rd round selections to someday start in the NFL.
Along those lines, in my opinion, the drafting of Gilbert pretty much signals Willie Colon's exit from the team. With Flozell Adams stating he'd like to come back for another year, that could be enough time to groom the young lineman and have him ready to start in 2012. The Steelers aren't going to pay second round money for a right tackle if they are at all serious about signing Colon.
As for Curtis Brown, as I said, it's not unreasonable to expect a 2nd or 3rd round choice to start and even if Brown only cracks the line-up as a nickel back in his first few years, it would still be a successful pick. As Michael, Maryrose, and many others have been stressing this weekend, in today's NFL, the nickel position is becoming more and more valuable. If you remember back to the late 90's, one Deshea Townsend cut his teeth as a nickel back in his first few seasons and eventually went on to have a great career with the Steelers.
As you know, it's far too early to judge this draft, but I'm happy that the team used its top 3 picks to address their most glaring needs. As a fan, that's all I can ask for.