Reviewing the Steelers' 5 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways
With the closing of the combine comes the end of one of the many various opportunities that NFL teams have to catch a glimpse of the future stars of the league. All 32 teams flooded Indianapolis along with independent scouts and media members to feast their eyes on freakishly large men in freakishly small attire running some strange drills they'll probably never do again in their lives.
But there are some aspects of the event that do help coaches and GMs weed down their selective field to create an early big board.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the teams that needs to nail this draft this season. Coming off an 8-8 year in which we're now learning of the dysfunction that's occurred within the locker room, Pittsburgh needs to rebound in a serious way.
Let's check out some of the things the Steelers learned while spending the long weekend in Indianapolis.
Stars May Be Falling the Steelers Way
It was once crazy to think that players like Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones would be available outside the top 10 picks much less No. 17 overall. But after this weekend, that could all be changing.
Early on Saturday, it was revealed in a somewhat shocking manner, that around 10 teams had removed Jones from their draft boards due to concerns surrounding his spinal stenosis condition that forced him to transfer from USC. Jones has subsequently reported that his back is fine and doctors have checked him out, but teams in the top 10 may not be willing to risk a priority pick on such a risky player.
It's the same news for Lotulelei.
While taking a physical at the combine, it was discovered that Lotulelei had a previously unknown heart condition that allows his left ventricle to pump at only 44 percent efficiency instead of the normal 55 to 70. Lotulelei was not allowed to work out at the combine and is headed back to Utah for a second opinion.
Both injuries are very concerning, and the issue surrounding Lotulelei is especially sad. But if the Steelers feel these guys are okay, they could end up getting a steal with the 17th pick. It'll all depend on how they check out with each individual team.
There's Plenty of Speed at Wide Receiver
For a team that will almost certainly lose what many have dubbed the fastest receiver in the game to free agency in Mike Wallace, the Steelers may have picked the perfect draft to do so.
This year's crop of receivers is exceptionally fast, and a lot of guys pose potential big downfield threats that could help ease the loss of Wallace. Five wide receivers at the 2013 Scouting Combine ran sub-4.4-second 40 times, including West Virginia's Tavon Austin (4.34 seconds) and Texas' Marquis Goodwin, who blazed a combine-best 4.27 seconds.
Overall, 14 receivers ran sub-4.5-second times and, although they'll never be running down a football field in spandex shorts again, it still goes to show just how fast these guys truly are.
Replacing Mike Wallace will be more than about simply finding a guy who can run straight down the field, but that speed is a huge factor in his game. Pittsburgh may be able to find a guy with a similar skill set and plug him in.
Manti Te'o Not the Athlete Most Were Expecting
When it comes to playing the game of football, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o is one of the best in this year's draft. When it comes to brains, well, we just won't go there. But many were surprised to find that when it comes to pure athleticism, Te'o doesn't grade out too well
Te'o struggled more than many hoped at the combine, with the big headline being his below-average 4.82-second 40-yard dash time. Te'o was also simply average in the other drills.
For what it's worth, I could really care less what Te'o's combine numbers look like at the end of the day. What matters most for him and his draft stock is what happens when he meets with NFL head coaches. It's plain as day that the young man can play football, teams just need to know where his head is.
Generally speaking, to play inside linebacker, one doesn't need to be the best athlete, and Te'o certainly isn't going to win that award in 2013. It's just something for the media to again focus in on.
There Are Some Seriously Athletic Pass-Rushers
Two names really stood out from the 2013 Scouting Combine in terms of pass-rushers. BYU's Ezekiel Ansah and Oregon's Dion Jordan both improved their stock leaps and bounds by showing off some big-time athleticism.
Ansah really did everything well, especially for a 270-pound man. His 40 time of 4.63 seconds was mind blowing, and he showed excellent explosion both in the broad and vertical jumps. Scouts seemed to be really impressed with his quick change-of-direction skills.
Jordan's day may have been the best at the combine, however. He added weight pushing himself up to around 240 pounds and still blazed a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time. His 122" broad jump score showed how explosive he can truly be, and his pass-rushing drills were on point.
I've been on Jordan from day one and, although his stock will most likely drop some with the shoulder injury, he's still a very talented prospect. But keep in mind with both Jordan and Ansah, as talented and athletic as they are, they're both very raw in terms of football skills.
These skills can be honed and taught unlike their raw abilities, but it's worth noting.
We're Still a Long Way from Knowing Much
And as the combine comes to a close, it's still very apparent that there's a long way to go in the offseason.
What happens in the draft that's still over two months away has yet to be determined by influences like free agency, pro days and all the off-field incidents we'll hear about.
For the Steelers, this is a big year in free agency. With the cap situation being what it is in Pittsburgh, it could be some time before we get a clear picture of what it is that the Steelers truly need in the 2013 NFL draft.
But that'll be time well spent. Like I said earlier, the Steelers can't afford to miss in this draft. They should take all the time they need and know what they want when they're up.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
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