Alright, confession time:
I was a huge advocate of the Steelers taking a nose tackle early in the 2012 NFL Draft. The 3-4 defense depends on massive, physical nose tackle to anchor the defensive front. Consider Haloti Ngata in Baltimore and, for the last decade, Casey Hampton in the home colors.
Did I strongly advocate for Dontari Poe, believing his "small school detractors" and fixable (it's called coaching, jack!) flaws were superseded by his supreme strength, balance, and upside? You bet.
(And, for those folks saying, "I told you so!" who didn't put together 50-plus mock drafts of an event that happens only once. Which of you are ready to stand up and account for their own faulty predictions?)
Then, Poe put those hopes to rest with an immaculate performance at the combine, leaving me to wonder what approach the team should take? To be sure, I was still hopeful for an early selection of a dominant tackle.
Had I foreseen the Black and Gold's good fortune, or frankly, luck, would I have felt the same way? Hell no. In fact, I can't ever remember a draft falling so into place for my hometown team, at least not recently.
Seriously, folks, "we" got Alameda Ta'amu in the fourth round, after drafting Mike Adams, Sean Spence and David DeCastro! How can any fan not be giddy?
Consider the comments and responses made by our own fans with regard to Ta'amu just after the opening round of the draft, to no fault of their own. By all decent analysis, it would have seemed they were right:
Oh, before I forget, the one lesson I learned this year and so far it's holding true. In most cases, if a player is being mocked at a certain spot, most likely they'll really go at least 16 spots later. For example, I've seen Ta'amu as a late second, don't be surprised he's still available going into the 3rd. —Mike Popovich
personally I've always thought that taamu would go early- to mid-second round but thats just me so if they can get him at the end of the 2nd or like you say at the end of the 3rd that would be great. —Joseph Bruno
"I'll be really surprised if Ta'amu goes in the 2nd round after all of those players that fell out of the 1st last night. This is why I'm hoping the Steelers trade out of the 2nd so they can pick up an early 3rd." —Ahmad Rashad.
Frankly, whether or not we secured the position in the first round or fourth, a solid nose tackle will prove to be the most important investment of the coming decade if things pan out well for this husky "Husky."
Hampton's health and declining performance has been causing questions about his status for the upcoming season. Likewise, there are concerns about the inexperience and, let's be honest, lack of general faith, regarding the long-term (full season) ability of Steve McClendon to start at the cornerstone position of an acclaimed defensive front.
Fans and team brass hope that Alameda Ta'amu is the future of the middle of the modern day "Steel Curtain."
While most teams likely passed on Ta'amu due to his lack of pass rush ability, Casey Hampton surely wasn't renowned for the pressure he placed on the quarterback. Ta'amu's strength, in the same mold as the man he will look to replace in Pittsburgh, is taking up space, blockers and stuffing the run.
Any real fan of the 3-4 defense realizes that the job of the defensive front, particularly the tackle, is run containment and taking up blockers. This allows the linebackers and remainder of the defensive unit to wreak havoc as an unpredictable wrecking ball.
Most expect Ta'amu to be a two-down player that fulfills this exact role.
When asked by Ryan Divish of "Huskies Insider" about his thoughts on Hampton following his acquisition by Pittsburgh, he responded:
"He’s up the middle, he holds his ground. It takes more than one blocker to play him, and I’m going to try and do the same thing when I get there."
Sounds like a man who knows his responsibilities coming into town. No pressure, right?
The team, which surely felt the pressure to invest in a nose tackle for the future, obviously has high expectations for another draft selection that miraculously fell into their laps, having traded up with the Redskins to draft him in the fourth round at 109th overall.
If that isn't evidence of perceived value, what is?
Putting into perspective the beauteous nature of this year's team draft is the fact that Alamedu, despite being drafted by Pittsburgh against all odds, was amazingly not the top pick in terms of value.