The Steelers were riding the stairway to seven, their seventh super bowl that is, but couldn’t finish the season as Super Bowl champion. Many put the blame for that loss on the coverage by the secondary. I am not one to disagree with this assumption. The Steelers will likely go after a cornerback early in this year’s draft and may even look for insurance at that position later on. Don’t rule out an early defensive line pick either. Ziggy Hood stepped up admirably in Aaron Smith’s absence, but Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel are both over 30.
In 2010 the Steelers had immediate impact from three different rookies. Center Maurkice Pouncey made the Pro Bowl and receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown seem poised to replace Hines Ward and be the No.2 and No.3 receiver, respectively. The offensive line did play better than Steeler fans had become accustomed to in 2010, but injuries ravaged the offensive line and will force the Steelers to add depth as well as a future starting right tackle.
The Steelers always build through the draft and more often than not will take the best player available when they don’t see good value at their pick. Some think the Steelers will try and trade up in the draft to go after Mike Pouncey, G, from Florida but I expect the Steelers to keep a cool head and pick this year’s draft as they would any other.
RD 1, Pick 31 (31) Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami
Franklin has played both guard and tackle in college, something he will likely do both of with the Steelers. Franklin is one of those “football guys” that Mike Tomlin loves. Franklin is incredibly hard working, and had all the backing from his coaching staff when asked about his passion. Franklin’s strong suit is run blocking, but the big guy can take on an edge rusher if he is needed at tackle too.
RD 2, Pick 31 (63) Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
Dowling was one of the most productive comebacks in college football. His speed and height combination put him in to a different category than any other cornerback in this draft and he is much like Franklin in that he fits the Mike Tomlin bill. Dowling is a very good zone coverage corner and his speed make him dangerous in man to man. I like the Steelers investing a high pick in the cornerback position and it will pay dividends come the regular season, whenever that is.
RD 3, Pick 31 (95) Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh
GM Kevin Colbert came out and said that he really liked this year’s class of offensive tackle. Was it a smoke screen so other teams would go after certain players? Was it just to put a scare in impending free agent Willie Colon? Or was Colbert hinting to the fact that the Steelers know they can wait a few rounds and get a guy good enough to start on either side of the line?
I choose the last option.
The Steelers will have to address the tackle position in the draft. Flozell Adams had a great 2010 and could come back to do it again in 2011, but that is probably the ceiling. Willie Colon could go, and starting Left Tackle Max Starks is coming off of a neck injury and has been spotty throughout his career. Anyway, I think the Steelers have spent some time looking at tackles and why not take a guy who spent his college career playing at your stadium?
RD 4, Pick 31 (128) Austin Pettis, WR, Boise St.
The Steelers are in love with Pettis and know they can get him later thanks to a fairly deep second tier of rookie wide receivers. Ben Roethlisberger seems to ask for a tall receiver every year. Pettis may not be the tallest (the Steelers won’t have a chance to nab Jon Baldwin), but he is the second tallest in that group and has a pretty good set of mits. Pettis won’t burn anyone deep, he is actually more in the Hines Ward frame. He is a big guy that can throw his weight around. Give him an offseason under Ward’s tutelage and AFC North defenders better watch their heads.
RD 5, Pick 31 (162) Da’Rel Scott, RB, Maryland
Scott is one of the fastest backs in the draft and the Steelers want to add his speed to their mix of running backs. Mewelde Moore is on his way out leaving an empty spot on the Steelers roster. They recently had a visit from Scott and raved about his intangibles. Scott had some injury concerns and has been called a diva. He will battle with a fifth round pick from last year, Jonathan Dwyer, for the last spot. Neither should a major impact in 2011 but I like Scott to make the team because of his home run capabilities.
RD 6, Pick 31 (196) Cortez Allen, CB, Citadel
Allen is a hard worker and comes from a military school with a military mentality. Starting to see a trend here with these picks? Almost all quality guys off the field as well as on. Allen has some learning to do as his instincts will hold him back especially in a tough defense like that in Pittsburgh. Give him time however, as Allen should make the team over guys like Anthony Madison or Crezdon Butler.
RD 7, Pick 29 (232) Elijah Joseph, ILB, Temple
I actually have the Ravens drafting Joseph as well. The last few round are a crap shoot so its really up for grabs anyway, okay?! The Ravens and Steelers would both love Joseph though, as he is an incredibly hard worker and motivator who produced despite lacking ideal speed and agility.