Pittsburgh Steelers: 2013 NFL Combine First Impressions

Joe TordyAnalyst IFebruary 25, 2013

Pittsburgh Steelers: 2013 NFL Combine First Impressions

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    With a large number of needs across the board, the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely watching the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine with increased interest.

    The Steelers will be in the market for at least one running back and at least one wide receiver.  In addition, Heath Miller's knee injury creates a question mark at tight end.

    I think that the team's brass will leave the combine far happier than when they arrived.  After watching the offensive skill players work out, here are my impressions of the combine so far.

    All stats and times are according to the NFL.com Combine Tracker.

This Year’s Wide Receiving Class Can Run

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    If there’s ever a good year to lose Mike Wallace and his blazing speed, it’s this one.  This is the fastest wide receiving class that I can remember.  No fewer than 14 wideouts broke the 4.5-second mark in the 40-yard dash.  That’s exactly the kind of speed that Pittsburgh is looking to replace.

     

    Tavon Austin

    The West Virginia product silenced the critics with a dominant performance at the combine. 

    He set the pace with a 4.34 40-yard dash in the first run of the day for wideouts and never looked back.  Austin ran crisp routes and showed explosiveness in and out of cuts. 

    He also looks very compact and well-built.  In my opinion, he’s become a legitimate first-round option for the Steelers, albeit a long shot.

     

    Ryan Swope

    Texas A&M’s Swope posted the same time as Austin, but he’s four inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier.  That took me by surprise, as I didn’t expect to see that kind of speed from the Aggie.

    He didn’t blow me away during positional drills, but he ran routes with precision as advertised.  He could be an option in the second-to-fourth round range.  Call him a combine winner in my book.

     

    Denard Robinson

     I have no idea what position the Steelers would have Denard Robinson play.  As far as I’m concerned, though, Robinson can do whatever he wants.

    The former Michigan quarterback has shown enough grit, determination and athleticism to succeed at the next level, and it showed at the combine.  He also posted a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash.

    Robinson may need surgery to correct the nerve issue that kept him out of the bench press, but all in all he has shown tremendous improvement as a receiver since the Senior Bowl.

    The Steelers could give him a look as an Antwaan Randle-El or Dexter McCluster-type who can do damage in a variety of ways on the field.  He’s also much more solid than I thought he was when I watched him at Michigan, so with the right coaching he could potentially punish defensive backs like Hines Ward did.

The Running Backs… Not So Much

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    I was considerably less impressed with the tailbacks group after watching them work out.  There were some bright spots and pleasant surprises, but I expected more out of the top-tier backs.  In particular, the failure of Giovani Bernard, Joseph Randle and Mike Gillislee to break the 4.5 mark was a bit troubling.  Let’s look at the backs who took advantage and demanded the Steelers’ attention.

     

    Knile Davis

    I’m not sure that the Steelers will be able to overlook Davis’s injury history or issues with ball security, but if they’re ever going to, it will be after the combine.

    The Razorback’s 4.37 40-yard dash called Darren McFadden to mind, but it’s his bench press that sent my eyebrows skyward.  The 5’10”, 227-pound runner hoisted the bar 31 times.

    From a physical standpoint, Davis impressed. It got a lot easier to picture him in black and gold after his workout.

     

    Rex Burkhead

    In the events that Davis wasn’t decimating, Academic All-American Rex Burkhead was making his mark.  The former Nebraska tailback leaped nearly forty inches and excelled in the agility drills.

    He was the other back who really stuck out to me.  Burkhead could be a contributor to the Steelers right away, especially if he improves his lower-body strength.

Tight Ends Are in Play

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    Lots of football fans knew the names of Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz as premier tight ends, and they didn’t disappoint at the combine.  Granted, Ertz was in the middle of the road during the workout, but both players did excel at the pass-catching drills.  Some other tight ends stood out as well, but in particular one player looked like a solution to the Steelers’ problem—dealing with Heath Miller’s injury.

     

    Jake Stoneburner

    I’ve been high on the Buckeye all the way, and he definitely helped his stock at the combine.  Stoneburner turned in a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, and had strong showings in the vertical jump, broad jump and both shuttle runs.

    I’ve mocked him going to the Steelers in the sixth round, but now the Steelers might have to make an earlier commitment to him.