NFL Draft 2011: Rookies Guaranteed Not to Be Part of Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were hit with a bit of bad PR at the beginning of the year. You may have heard about it. There was an instance concerning franchise Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and an underage coed in Milledgeville, GA. Of course you heard about it, everyone did and it was all the more shocking he would play for a team like the Steelers.
The Steelers franchise has been heralded for their commitment to having players that are both great on the field and off of it. Lately there have been some chinks in the Steelers armor, however. Besides Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers saw former first round pick Santonio Holmes run in to the law far to often during his tenure as a Steeler and even James Harrison was accused of assaulting his girlfriend in recent years.
A few rotten apples can't ruin what 78 years of history have done for the Steelers organization, but the team can't afford to make a habit of signing players with character concerns. In the 2011 NFL Draft there are players that will make or break the futures of certain franchises. Some of those players come with off-the-field baggage that will be ignored because of their athletic prowess. Certain organizations will ignore the red flags to take a game changer, hopeful for success.
The Steelers won't be one of those organizations. The Steelers will have to be even more careful not to make a personnel mistake in this year's draft considering they are more under the microscope than they ever have been.
The list of possible Steelers is long and has some big names involved. The list of guaranteed Non-Steelers in this years draft may not be as long, but it does have some big name players.
The Steelers only have one pick in each round, so there is no point in making a laundry list of 50 players with anything from a serious red flag to a few parking tickets. I will list the players that will be available around the time the Steelers will pick, but we can be sure won't be selected because of their own red flags.
Round 1: CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
Jimmy Smith is a stud. He could be the best of the first three cornerbacks likely to be drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft. Smith sees himself falling toward the back end of the NFL Draft because of a list of character concerns.
Smith failed multiple drug tests while in college as while as facing some separate legal issues off the field. Smith draws far too many comparisons to 2006 first round pick, Santonio Holmes.
Holmes and Smith both are phenomenal athletes with game changing ability. They both also come with baggage, and the Steelers saw Santonio smoke himself out of town. They will likely shy away from taking Smith for similar concerns.
Smith probably won't be around when the Steelers make their pick at No. 31. If he were to fall he could make the Steelers stop and think.
The Steelers ignored off field issues to draft for a need in Santonio Holmes, but their relationship ended poorly. Holmes may still be around if Roethlisberger never got himself in trouble, that much is debatable but the Steelers were tiring of his antics.
Then again, the Steelers did get a Super Bowl victory thanks to Santonio in the back of the end zone...so maybe they could go after Smith in hopes of a similar payout. All signs point to NO.
Round 2: WR Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh
I want to preface this by saying I still feel Baldwin could be a Pittsburgh Steelers. Just not in the second round.
Baldwin grades out to be the perfect pick at the No. 63 overall selection, and if it weren't for his own character concerns I think the Steelers would actually take Baldwin.
The Steelers tried to get Ben Roethlisberger the tall receiver he wanted in Limas Sweed and to no success.
The Steelers are moving more towards a pass first offense than they ever have been before, and Baldwin would supply a very dangerous red zone and deep threat. Baldwin would tower over any AFC North cornerback, the tallest in the division is Ike Taylor.
Baldwin quits on plays though, and has some off-field concerns coming out of college. Baldwin could have had a very successful career in his hometown, but it looks like he may have ruined a professional football career in the Steel City.
Unless Baldwin drops to round three, he won't be a Steeler.
Round 3: DT Kenrick Ellis, Hampton
The Steelers are getting old on the defensive side of the ball, and that is no more obvious than on the defensive line.
Only up and comer Ziggy Hood is under the age of 30, so it would make sense for the Steelers to draft a future starter.
One person in need of an heir would be Casey Hampton, but it is hard to find someone with the proper skill set to play nose tackle in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. Ellis has those skills. Kenrick Ellis is a 6'5", 350 pound mammoth of a man that could make waves as a nose tackle in the NFL.
As much talent and upside as Ellis may possess, he has twice as many red flags about his character.
Ellis was originally a South Carolina Gamecock, but was kicked out after his freshman year. Since then Ellis has failed drug tests, been arrested and missed playing time.
Ellis has Santonio Holmes' ignorance, Ben Roethlisberger's stupidity and James Harrison's anger all wrapped up in Casey Hampton's eating habits. Write that down.
Round 4: WR Niles Paul, Nebraska
Paul possesses very good speed to go along with his bigger frame, making him a solid option as a Hines Ward-type possession receiver.
The Steelers are going to look for a receiver in the draft, the third or fourth round should be about when. You can cross Niles off of the list of Steelers' candidates despite his skill set however.
The Steelers had their party animal in kicker Jeff Reed, who may have been too busy kicking it at the Pittsburgh bars instead of on the field. Sorry, poor attempt at humor. Reed couldn't keep his head above water in Pittsburgh and Niles could face the same outcome.
Niles has had multiple alcohol related arrests in the past two years, one for a DUI and another for public urination.
Niles has been credited as being active in community service however, which could help him save face.
Round 5: DT Cedric Thornton
The Division II standout is just one of many defensive line prospects that will impress at the next level.
Thornton is smaller than the prototypical Steeler nose tackle, but has the toughness required when taking on multiple defenders.
The Steelers will pass on Thornton here though, his reputation isn't exactly strong.
Thornton missed multiple games from suspension throughout his college career and has been investigated thoroughly by NFL scouts.
Round 6: CB Chris Rucker, Michigan St.
Rucker is the poor man's Jimmy Smith. Rucker has adequate height, size and speed while being active in run support.
His coverage skills should have him graded out to higher than a sixth round selection but has too many red flags to be considered earlier.
Rucker was one of the many Michigan St. players arrested for fighting in 2009. After serving his suspension Rucker was reinstated, only to be arrested for DUI in 2010 and spent 10 days in jail. Lastly, Rucker was suspended two games in 2010 for violating team policies.
If there is one bright spot to Rucker's character, its that he was named the team's humorist in 2010. Yeah... that should do it...
Round 7: RB Noel Devine, West Virginia
The West Virginia Mountaineer and Steeler fan basis tend to be connected, and this is more of a "don't get your hopes up" analysis.
Devine was one of the college football's hottest recruits out of high school but had a tumultuous college career that has him taking a back seat to other running back prospects.
The Steelers are looking for a change of pace back that can help int he passing game, and Devine has the skill set to be that guy.
Noel comes from an incredibly hard upbringing and has had some legal troubles of his own. Devine was one of the first Deion Sanders' "mentorees" that didn't work out.
At one point Deion tried to adopt Devine, but Devine up and left the Sanders' household to go home without telling Deion. Their relationship has been rocky since.