2010 NFL Draft: After Taking Maurkice Pouncey, What's Next for the Steelers?
Pittsburgh stayed put at the 18th pick and addressed the interior line Thursday night, taking center Maurkice Pouncey out of Florida.
Pouncey has been high on the Steelers’ board since the combine, and when Idaho guard Mike Iupati went one pick earlier to the 49ers, they decided not to wait around at risk of losing him.
Several teams, including Atlanta at 19, were extremely high on Pouncey, and when it came down to the decision, the Steelers decided that the interior line, and specifically Pouncey, was their biggest need.
But what did they get in Pouncey, and who will they be targeting in Day Two?
What the Steelers Got in Pouncey
Pouncey is a mauler with quick feet, long arms, and a mean streak that comes out in his run blocking.
At 6’5", 318 pounds, Pouncey moves like a man half his size. His pulling ability as a center brings back fond memories of Steelers great Dermonti Dawson.
In college he won the 2009 Rimington Trophy (awarded to the nation’s best center), was a 2009 Walter Camp Award finalist (player of the year) and a CBSSports.com, Sporting News, and FWAA first-team All-American. He was also on the 2009 Outland Trophy Watch List and was selected as a 2009 first-team All-SEC pick by the AP and the league’s head coaches.
Florida head coach Urban Meyer had this to say about Tim Tebow’s batterymate, according to GatorZone.com:
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and he’s only the second guy that I’ve had start as a true freshman. It’s hard to do, and he did it.
"He (is) one of the best to ever play at the University of Florida. That’s how much confidence I have in him. He loves to play football. He loves to train. He likes to be coached. He’s not asking me why are we not going 18 periods instead of 20 periods. He really likes to work. That’s a special player."
After looking at his stats and tape, you can see how special he is.
In 1,793 snaps he was penalized only two times while giving up just one sack. While some had questions regarding his durability due to a surgically repaired torn labrum in his shoulder, it has yet to affect his play.
Pouncey played in 41 games at the University of Florida, and he started in 39 of them. During those games he received credit for 234 knockdowns/key blocks that incorporated 36 touchdown-resulting blocks.
How Will the Steelers Use Him?
Head coach Mike Tomlin said in his press conference last night that he intends to start Pouncey out at the right guard position.
His position flexibility, as Tomlin pointed out, leads you to believe the Steelers have the intention of moving him to center once he gets acclimated to the speed and demands of the pro game, much like Urban Meyer did with him at Florida his freshman season.
This will enable Pouncey to learn to recognize coverages and make calls on the line without being responsible for doing so right off the bat. Tomlin stated that initially they want to lighten his workload as far as pre-snap responsibility goes, but I can’t see the situation lasting very long with him at guard.
Justin Hartwig was statistically ranked the worst center in the NFL last season, and Pouncey, even as a rookie, would seem to be an instant upgrade even with the learning curve added into the equation.
Look for Pouncey to spend the season getting acclimated to the NFL and to slide one position to his left by 2011.
Where Do the Steelers Go from Here?
The second and third rounds pick up tonight where the first left off, and with a whole day for teams to talk trades, Round Two could be even more action-packed than its predecessor.
The Steelers, while not loaded with picks the way some teams like the Patriots, Broncos, and Browns are, have some leverage to deal with in order to move up and get their guy in Round Two, should they feel the need.
After addressing the offensive line in Round One, the Steelers will most likely address their needs at cornerback and wide receiver tonight.
Here are the possibilities, assuming the Steelers stay put:
Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest
Ghee is blessed with excellent speed and good size for a corner. While he has the burst to be a solid cover guy in the NFL, it was his lack of agility and his inconsistent pad level and body positioning that dropped him to the second round.
If the Steelers coach him up right, he could become a great corner in the NFL, but he has that boom-or-bust potential that has been all too prevalent in the Steelers' recent drafts.
Trevard Lindley, CB, Kentucky
Lindley is one of the best corner prospects in this year’s draft. I call him a prospect because he has some growing to do physically (only 179 pounds) but little to do as far as instincts and technique are concerned.
Lindley combines outstanding speed with great height and ball skills. So much so that if he gains the weight and muscle necessary to play bump and press coverages in the NFL, he has the makings of a shutdown corner. Lindley would be an absolute steal for the Steelers.
Arellious Benn, WR, Illinois
Benn is a big receiver with great hands and above average speed. He is an extremely versatile receiver that can run the deep routes or get through traffic and move the chains.
The Steelers will most likely have to trade up to get him if they want him. The reason I put him at No. 3 is because I think the Steelers are as sold on Mike Wallace as I am. I am not sure that the Steelers won’t wait a round or sit back for a chance at the No. 4 man on my list.
Damian Williams, WR, USC
While there are sure to be faster receivers in the draft, there may not be a better route runner in this year’s class. Williams has drawn many comparisons to former USC standout Steve Smith, who led the NFC in receptions last season.
Williams is a tall, tough receiver that has a frame that will allow him to get bigger. Perhaps the thing that stands out the most is his ability to chew up yards after the catch, and Pittsburgh certainly loves a guy that can break it open after making the catch in traffic.
Terrance Cody, DT, Alabama
Say what you want, Mount Cody has the potential to be a force in the NFL, and he almost certainly will be there when the Steelers pick at 52.
At 6’5", 365 pounds, "Mount Cody" provides a physically imposing force up the middle and has the potential to become a great nose tackle in the Steelers' 3-4 defense.
Since Cody came to Alabama, no individual has rushed for over 100 yards in a game against the Tide. It’s hard to see it as a coincidence considering the massive physical presence Cody brings to the interior defensive line.
He’s a project, but he could turn out to be something special if Tomlin gets back to his taskmaster ways of 2008.
Late Second Early/Third Round
The Steelers are definitely looking to get another back somewhere in the next two nights, and they are certainly going to draft a linebacker. Let’s remember they are the Steelers, and they do need depth.
A great opportunity lurks at the end of the second or early third rounds to pick up a player that will fill a void and be an impact guy for years to come.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
The Steelers’ offensive line has been less than spectacular for the past several seasons, causing the running game to be less than “Steeleresque” as a result. The addition of Pouncey in round one will help, but it’s not going to cure the problem over night.
Willie Parker left in free agency, and the Steelers are going to need some depth at the running back position. Rather than going out to get a small “scat back,” they should look to get a wrecking ball like Gerhart.
Gerhart was not only the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy race this season, but he proved to be exactly what the Steelers have been lacking since Jerome Bettis retired a few years ago.
He was often faced with extra men in the box as a result of being Stanford’s only offensive threat, but he proved to be too powerful for many linebackers and defensive backs to bring down once he got through the line.
Gerhart has excellent hands out of the backfield, and he makes up for his lack of breakaway speed with his quick feet and balance. The Steelers desperately need help in the red zone, and a power runner like Gerhart has the potential to be an asset to a team that is having trouble opening holes in the running game.
Sean Lee, LB, Penn State
An unquestioned leader on the field and off of it while at “Linebacker U,” Lee has the ability to become a great replacement for James Farrior in the near future.
While health has been an issue, it may be the only reason Lee is a late second-/early third-rounder instead of a late first- to early second-rounder.
Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
Campbell is a complete sleeper pick here. While he has raised questions concerning his raw untested ability and maturity, Campbell is a physical specimen at the left tackle position.
Standing at 6'7", he has the length and reach that NFL teams salivate over when it comes to left tackles. He is abnormally fit for a man of his size and football position.
Weighing in at only 310 pounds, the junior has the agility and quickness of a much smaller player. (He has been timed running a sub-4.9 in the 40-yard dash).
Overall, the big left tackle’s pass-blocking skills are what set him apart from the rest of the field. Having Campbell protecting Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side would be a welcomed addition to an offensive line that gave up 50 sacks last season.
Summing It All Up
Tonight promises to be action-packed. There will most likely be tons of movement, especially early on.
If the Steelers stay put at the 52nd pick, there may be a real possibility of them moving up again if one of these “tweeners” are still around in the last couple of picks.
Overall, look for the Steelers to address their defense tonight, either by adding a corner or picking up some depth on the defensive line or at linebacker.
On the offensive side the Steelers could look for a receiver but will most likely have to look for a trading partner in order to move up.
Follow me on Twitter (@PrEcherMan) for live updates and analysis throughout the night.