With nearly all the members of last year's Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers returning this year, it's going to be a hard-fought battle to make it on the squad. Here are the top five 2009 draft picks most likely to make the grade.
Mike Wallace (WR, Mississippi)- This guy is fast. Really fast.
You know that line in the ESPN commercial, "Would you describe your speed as blazing or incendiary?" That should now feature Mike Wallace.
There's a ton of competition at this position, with Ward and Holmes being the obvious No. 1 and No. 2 receivers.
Limas Sweed, drafted last year, looks to take the No. 3 spot, even with the Steelers signing veteran receiver Shaun McDonald. Let's not forget that Roethlisberger really wanted a tall receiver to throw to last year and got his wish when the Steelers drafted Sweed.
With a year under his belt playing in the Steelers offense he still has the advantage in this situation.
So it looks like the real competition is for the No. 4 spot in the lineup. Ultimately the signing of McDonald looks to provide some decent competition, so Wallace is going to really have to show what's he's made of once the pads get put on.
If McDonald takes the spot, it looks like Wallace will wind up mostly returning punts or kickoffs this season, with potential to take over at No. 4 following this season.
Evander "Ziggy" Hood (DL, Missouri)- With most of the Steelers front three getting long in the tooth, drafting a lineman was a definite need for the Steelers. This guy is a hard worker and fits right into the Steelers mentality.
Chances are he will wind up being second-string this year while he learns how to play on the Steelers 3-4 style defense. During college he was used to one-gap assignments and is going to need to get some experience before he can start for the league's best defense. Luckily he has some great mentors to help him in the process.
Frank Summers (RB, UNLV)- With one year left on Willie Parker's contract, there are some questions at the RB position. There's no question that Mendenhall will take the No. 2 spot at this position but with Summers' size and speed he reminds me of a young Jerome Bettis.
This guy's going to stick around and could possibly either fill in at FB or be involved in some short-yardage situations.
Keenan Lewis (CB, Oregon St.)- At nearly 6'1" and 208 lbs and some solid speed, Lewis looks to outplay J. Burnett (drafted in the fifth round) and maybe get a spot on the team. He performed well in the Steelers' first mini-camp last weekend.
The real test will come when they start practicing with full contact. The Steelers play a hard-nosed defense and expect that style of play out of everyone on that side of the ball.
He will really have to shine to compete with veteran CB Keiwan Ratliff who has experience in the Cover Two, so he might find himself as a backup at this position since the Steelers are in desperate need of depth at cornerback with the loss of McFadden this off-season.
Kraig Urbik (OG, Wisconsin)- Most people predicted the Steelers would sign someone to fill in on the front 7 with their first-round pick. Instead they invested in a lineman on the other side of the ball and picked Urbik in the third round.
At 6'5" and 328 lbs this guy could be part of the solution to give Big Ben some more time in the pocket and keep him off the turf.
There is some serious talent coming into the Steelers program this year. With nearly all the starters returning and some much-needed depth being added at certain positions, it certainly sets Pittsburgh up for success this coming season.
Let's hope it doesn't end up like the 2006 season where the Steelers had a major meltdown following their last Super Bowl win. The only thing we can do is wait and see.
I just wish it wasn't such a long wait until the season starts.
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