I make it a personal vow every April: Do NOT get enamored with prospects. There is no guarantee that these players will even end up with the Steelers and may even wear the dreaded purple and black of Baltimore.
However, while looking at potential future Steelers, one player looks to be a future cornerstone of the Steelers defense. This young man would be Kelvin Sheppard, ILB from LSU.
Before I even go into my personal observations of the future star, take a look at what CBS Sports' draft scouts had to say about the LSU senior captain:
"Characterized as a leader by Les Miles and is liked and respected by his teammates. Gives his teammates the credit when he's individually recognized. ... Undisputed team leader for the Tigers as a senior in 2010 ... Known for his fiery pre-game speeches to the team..."
Steelers fans, am I the only person who thinks that this player may very well be James Farrior 2.0?
Farrior has been the defensive leader ever since he joined the Steelers back in 2002. A former top 10 pick, Farrior has shown his value not just as the solid all-around linebacker he is, but as the pregame motivator for a defensive unit that has been at the top of league standings for the last decade.
While Farrior is under contract until 2012, he will be 37 next year, an age when many players have retirement on their minds. While we all love Troy Polamalu, he is not the vocal leader Farrior is, and thus it would behoove the Steelers to look for a replacement.
Enter Kelvin Sheppard, somewhere in the third or fourth round. Sheppard is not going to be like Farrior and drafted within the opening moments of day one, but that does mean his talent will be any less than Farrior's.
Sheppard is a solid open-field tackler who is almost always going to go for the safe wrap-up over the big hit, something Farrior also does well. Furthermore, Sheppard would be in the perfect situation to grow as both a player and a leader if he joined the Steelers this year.
Obviously, Farrior would be able to mentor the young linebacker, but Sheppard would be coached by two of the best minds in the business. Dick LeBeau is well known throughout the league and is enshrined in Canton, but the most influential coach would be Keith Butler.
Butler was not allowed to speak to either Arizona or Dallas when the two teams were looking for new coordinators, mainly because it is believed he is the heir to LeBeau's Blitzburgh. Also, it was Butler who has been working since 2006 to build the LB corps of James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley. Butler would be able to add Sheppard to that list of Pro Bowl and All-Pro linebackers.
So Steeler fans, I am breaking my vow. This NFL draft, I am rooting for Kevin Colbert to snatch up Sheppard so that the Steelers linebacking group can continue its dominance in the NFL.