If the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't very interested in potential cornerback prospects, they sure are doing a great job masking it for the rest of the NFL. The Steelers have been to almost every major Pro Day watching plenty of defensive backs. The big names like Mackensie Alexander and Eli Apple, to the smaller names like Tavon Young and DeAndre Elliott.
However, the Steelers have dug even deeper into the potential prospect pool for their latest visit with Ryan Smith of North Carolina Central University, or NCCU.
I know what you are probably thinking, "The who from the where?!". I did the same thing, but upon further review the team got a glimpse of a solid defensive back when Smith was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, and turned heads with his invitation to the event.
At the Combine Smith ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, did 18 reps on the 225-pound bench press and a 36-inch vertical jump to boot. All this combined with his 5-foot 11-inch and 189-pound frame.
There isn't a ton of information out there on Smith, but his scouting report from NFL.com has several strengths and weaknesses listed:
Gets a solid pop in for his initial chuck at the line of scrimmage. Very smooth in his pedal and turn and does a nice job of reading a receiver's "tells" within his route. Quality footwork for mirror and match and sticks to the hip of his man. Plays with good ball skills and consistently turns to find the ball from man. In zone, slides according to quarterback's eyes restricting passing Windows. Works through combo routes and comes out on right side. Not big and strong, but isn?t soft either.
Needs advanced instincts and to take coverage chances because closing burst is just marginal. Average long speed in the chase. Can be stacked and big-boyed on vertical routes creating difficulties playing the ball. Small hands at the end of his short arms. Acceleration from change of direction is below average. Skinny and will always be challenged by size. Ankle-biter as a tackler.
Smith is projected to be a late-round pick, or to be an undrafted rookie free agent if not selected through the 7-round process. It should be noted Smith also was a return man in college, something which could make him an intriguing prospect for the Steelers as they are looking to fill that void with a player who is truly versatile.
Here is a highlight video of Smith's 2015 season (Editor's Note: Song used in highlight video uses some inappropriate language):