With just more than a month and a half to go until the 2010 NFL Draft, the Steelers are addressing team needs through free agency.
After re-signing Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh is expected to return all 22 starters. The Steelers added depth at several positions by signing Will Allen, S; Jonathan Scott, OT; Antwaan Randle El, WR; and Arnaz Battle, WR.
With no immediate need to fill a starting position, Kevin Colbert and the rest of the Steelers front office and coaching staff can focus on drafting the best available athletes. The Steelers now have the freedom to address any area on the team without feeling the need to find a starter at a certain position—and as a result, the possibilities are nearly endless for their first round. Here is my first seven-round mock draft:
1.18—Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
With Casey Hampton signed to a new three-year deal, the Steelers can be sure that they have a big nose tackle to clog up the middle of their defense. However, Hampton is on the wrong side of 30—and while he may be able to play effectively for three more seasons, a player such as Williams will ensure that the Steelers can have a dominating defense for years to come.
Williams has been moving up draft boards and is ranked by many as the third-rated defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. He is the perfect size for a 3-4 nose tackle and would provide the Steelers with another young defensive lineman to allow them to continue to build toward the future while still keeping an eye on the present. It is essential that a 3-4 defense has a dominant force in the middle—and Williams would be just that.
This was a very tough selection, with the expectations that players such Earl Thomas, S; Jared Odrick, DE; and Maurkice Pouncey, C, could all be available. This will certainly be a selection that will require a lot of thought. The good news: Pittsburgh will have plenty of options at taking an excellent prospect.
2.52—Matt Tennant, C, Boston College
Ideally, the Steelers will be able to find a defensive back or inside linebacker in the second round, but there is a chance there will not be a player of value available. Tennant is one of the top centers in this year’s draft, starting the last 41 games at that position. He has good size for a center, standing at 6’4”—which is necessary to handle the big defensive tackles found in the AFC North. This is particularly important to match up with the Ravens defensive line. Boston College has also produced quality NFL linemen over the years.
Pittsburgh would also be putting a focus on a position that has had excellence for about 40 years—with Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings. Recently, the Steelers have struggled to fill the position with Sean Mahan and Justin Hartwig. With a year of development, Tennant can step in and provide a major upgrade at the position.
3.82—Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan
After watching the defense last season, it is evident that the Steelers need to upgrade at cornerback. Ike Taylor is the only starting-caliber cornerback on the roster. William Gay struggled in that role this past season—and Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett are still unknowns.
Considering Warren ran a slow 40-yard dash at the combine, he should be available in the third round. Despite this performance, Warren started three years for the Michigan Wolverines and was named to the 2009 All-Big Ten First Team. He has good size for a cornerback, and he plays a physical game.
Another year of seasoning would have been beneficial, but he will get quality coaching from the Steelers staff. He should eventually become a starter.
4.113—Pat Angerer, ILB, Iowa
While Angerer does not have the pure physical tools as Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons has, he was a very productive player at Iowa. A tackling machine, Angerer ranked fourth in the nation in tackles per game. He could be a “glue player,” performing much of the dirty work and allowing other players, such as Timmons, to use their playmaking abilities. It would be expected that James Farrior would start for one more season as Angerer develops and learns the Steelers defense.
5.147 – Charles Scott, RB, LSU
At 5’11” and 238 pounds, Scott could be the short-yardage back that the Steelers have been missing. Last season, Pittsburgh struggled in short-yardage situations—particularly in the red zone. In addition, a player such as Scott could mean that the Steelers no longer go to an empty backfield on 3rd-and-short. After only having a productive junior season, when he rushed for 1,174 yards and 18 touchdowns, Scott would be an excellent value late—as he could potentially carry the load. He would also provide much-needed depth with the impending departure of Willie Parker.
6.178—Nate Byham, TE, Pittsburgh
Tight end is not near the top of the Steelers needs, but at this point of the draft, Byham would be a good fit. With the emergence of Dorin Dickerson as a receiving threat, Byham finished with only 10 receptions for 108 yards this season. Despite the lack of receptions, Byham is an adequate receiver who could develop into a solid No. 2. More importantly, Byham is a solid blocker who helped lead the way for freshman sensation Dion Lewis. Considering the Steelers plan to put an emphasis on the ground game, the addition of a blocking tight end to compete with their current group, particularly Matt Spaeth, would be beneficial.
7.209—Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State
There is a possibility that the Steelers will not re-sign Charlie Batch given the development of Dennis Dixon last season. Batch has been unable to stay healthy—and Pittsburgh may decide to go with a young third-string quarterback. Canfield would be an ideal late-round prospect. Coming off a solid senior year, when he completed 67.9 percent of his passes for more than 3,200 yards and 21 touchdowns, Canfield is the ideal physical specimen at 6’4” and 220 pounds. While Canfield has a lack of experience, he sits back and develops behind Roethlisberger and Dixon.
Overall, this draft adds four offensive and three defensive players. Offensively, Tennant would have the opportunity to challenge for the starting job at center or guard, while Scott could see time as a short-yardage back. Byham and Canfield would be third-string developmental players. Defenisvely, Williams could step in from day one, and at the very least, rotate in and out of the lineup to keep Hampton fresh. Warren and Angerer need time to develop, but both could see time on special teams and in situational situations throughout the season.