Reading up on all the scouting reports for the 2015 Draft, it's easy to remember all the prospects that Steeler Nation researched and gravitated towards last year. Below is a small insight into some of the signings we have made to our offseason roster that includes several familiar names. Needing both depth and impact players at positions such as OLB, TE, WR, DE, S, P, and T, the front office has done an amazing job of acquiring under-the-radar prospects that could play some key roles on next year's 53 man roster.
Here they are, ranked #1 through #15.
1. Roosevelt Nix - OLB - Kent State
A surprise at the top of the list, considering the Steelers just signed CFL standout Shawn Lemon. Nix was an undersized DT at Kent State, who was signed by the Falcons as an UDFA last year. But Atlanta played him out of position, lining him up at FB instead of OLB. He apparently showed some of his tremendous strength by breaking a tackling sled on "Hard Knocks." He also displays tremendous first-step explosiveness to burst into the backfield, as well as a natural ability to use his leverage - he only stands at 5'11". He is able to convert speed to power with ease, and his motor is always running red-hot. One of the overlooked reasons for resigning James Harrison may be to help this young man, who is eerily similar in stature and even played at his alma mater.
2. Shawn Lemon - OLB - Akron - CFL Signee
Lemon is a former UDFA who bounced around a couple of organizations until he flourished last year with a 13-sack season. He is also a strip-sack merchant who forced 8 fumbles in 2014 alone. Wow. Like Nix, he's of the undersized variety, standing at only 6'2", but he has good bulk and is very active in pursuit. Lemon is able to dip and bend around the arc, but also has a nice bull rush. He should compete for snaps immediately.
3. Howard Jones - OLB - Shepherd
Explosive - that's the one word that best explains Howard Jones. Undersized with long arms, an exceptional first step, and tons of untapped potential. Jones was a beast in preseason last year, doubling as a playmaker when he returned a fumble for a TD. With a season on the practice squad under his belt, along with an entire offseason of conditioning, he should be able to bulk up and gain the necessary strength to thrive. Jones has the chance to become an explosive all-around OLB. Along with Nix and Lemon, the future of OLB is in good hands.
4. Rob Blanchflower - TE - UMass
The Steelers' 7th Round pick last year stuck on the practice squad all year. He was affectionately nicknamed "Baby Gronk" at UMass because of his physicality and aptitude to running over people. Blanchflower is a good blocker who can in-line block as well as wham block, which is a big plus for the variety of ways the Steelers like to run the ball. He is a big, physical TE with soft hands who may not have tremendous seam-stretching speed, but it's good enough to make plays. Blanchflower will present his numbers to the QB and makes contested catches. Reports were that he was playing quite well in practice towards the end of the year. May be the heir apparent to Heath!
5. Joe Kruger - DE - Utah
The 2013 7th Round pick of the Eagles hurt his shoulder in his first season, then got passed up on the depth chart and bounced around the NFL until being signed by the Steelers. Kruger declared early to the 2013 NFL Draft from Utah, possessing all the prerequisites for a 5-Tech defensive end. He may also become a movable chess piece in nickel packages. Along with his very impressive size, Kruger plays with power, occasionally even showing an ability to "ragdoll" offensive linemen into the QB.
6. Alejandro Villanueva - T - Army
Villanueva is a converted DT who has a real chance to stick because of his athleticism. Fans may remember him skying up for touchdowns as a WR for Army. The Eagles had first crack at him when they signed him after his 3rd deployment for the Army, but much like what happened with the Falcons trying Nix at FB, the Eagles attempted to fit him in as a 5-Tech in their 3-4 defense. He has experience starting at LT for Army in the season prior to converting to WR. With a 6'9" frame and above average-flexibility, along with a willingness to learn from a Hall of Famer like his offensive line coach Mike Munchak, the Steelers may have found a diamond in the rough.
7. Michael Egnew - TE - Missouri
The highest draft pick amongst this prospect list, Egnew was a 3rd Round pick in 2012 by the Dolphins. Miami tried to develop him into a blocking TE, even though he wasn't asked to block much at Missouri. Though he'll give effort when blocking, he just doesn't flourish in that aspect. A position more closely matching up with his skill set would be akin to the new age pseudo WR/TE athletes. He led all TEs at the 2012 Combine with a 4.62 40yd time, adding a 36 vertical jump. Egnew is a mismatch for LB's and is too big for safeties, and could become a valuable Red Zone addition in the Todd Haley offense.
8. L'Damian Washington - WR - Mizzouri
A high-character player who works his butt off to hone his craft. He is tall (6'4"), but slender at 194 lbs. Washington has the speed to take the top off a defense, which was evidenced by his 4.46 40 yard dash time at the 2014 Combine. Seems to be the type of guy who would be willing to give up his body on special teams as well.
9. Brelan Chancellor - WR/RS - North Texas
A relatively unknown guy who is incredibly elusive with the ball in his hands. His best fit with the Steelers would probably be as a return specialist, allowing him to utilize his elusiveness, quickness, and patience in setting up his blocks for a potentially big return. Chancellor is an underrated WR with big hands (9 5/8"), good body control, a compact frame, and good short-area burst, but his most impressive stat may be his 41" vertical.
10. Richie Leone - P-Houston
A big, strong-legged, right-footed punter, who can also serve as a kickoff specialist. Much-needed competition for Brad Wing.
11. Matt Conrath - DE - Virginia
A former UDFA who signed with the Rams after the 2012 Draft and has been bouncing back and forth between the practice squad and active roster ever since. He has the requisite size for a 5-Tech in a 3-4 defense and was miscast as a DT in the Rams' 4-3, but still played to his strengths in holding up blockers with strength and length. Not being able to break into the starting unit along the Rams' defensive line isn't necessarily a knock on him.
12. Isaiah Lewis - S - Michigan State
Physical and aggressive safety in run support. He will make plays in coverage and is adept in zone coverage, but his calling card is definitely his aggressive thumping as a tackler. Would be a good addition to the special teams.
13. Alden Darby - S - Arizona State
His game is somewhat of a similar to one Robert Golden. He played all around the secondary, from CB and S to Nickel. Also was awarded with the Pat Tillman Practice Jersey for his leadership. Like Lewis, Darby would be a welcome addition to the Steelers special teams.
14. C.J. Goodwin - WR - Cal(Pa.)
Signed because of a tip of the hat from Mel Blount. He's a nice-sized WR at 6'1", with speed (a 4.46 40 yard time) and a 40" vertical. Goodwin has good measurables, but needs development.
15. Kevin Fogg - CB - Liberty
A decently-sized CB, who was the opposite corner to Walt Aikens in Liberty's defense. He's adept in coverage, but not spectacular in any facet. Has good eyes to find the ball in the air, along with good ball skills. Was a consistent performer at Liberty.
Kevin Colbert and the Steelers front office has been doing diligent work already to kick off the 2015 offseason. Some of these highlighted players may make even take away pressure from having to take a player in the draft to fill a pressing need.