Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers take the smart, patient approach to the draft almost every year and it is one of the key reasons why they are perennial contenders. While other teams reach to fill needs, the Steelers sit back and wait for someone to fall into their lap.

This year was no different as the Steelers landed David DeCastro, who will step into an immediate starting role and should be a key piece to their offensive line for the next decade.

Mike Adams was a calculated risk in the 2nd round. He’s had a number of off-field issues, including a failed drug test at the combine, and on the field often looks lazy and disinterested. But the Steelers did their homework on Adams and apparently feel comfortable bringing him aboard. He perfectly fits the mold of the type of lineman they like, so if they can keep him motivated, he’ll be a steal.

I was surprised by the selection of Sean Spence because I’m not sure how he fits into the scheme in Pittsburgh. He’s sort of a strong safety/linebacker ‘tweener, which made him an ideal fit at weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. But in Pittsburgh he’ll be forced to play inside. I have a hard time envisioning him as anything more than a special teams guy in Pittsburgh.

Alameda Ta’amu is another prospect who perfectly fits the Steelers scheme, but also comes with a lot of questions. Ta’amu is an elite talent, but can’t stay in football shape. He’s battled weight issues since high school and it’s tough to break those habits once you’ve reached this level.

Chris Rainey is an explosive offensive weapon. It will be interesting to see how the Steelers use him because they really haven’t had a player with his skill set in the Roethlisberger era.

Toney Clemons has the size the Steelers need at receiver, but he’s a longshot to make the final roster cuts.

I really like David Paulson but he’ll have a tough time finding a job in Pittsburgh. He’s a good fit for their offensive scheme, but Heath Miller and Leonard Pope already have two roster spots locked up. He’ll compete with Weslye Saunders for a job, but there’s no guarantee that either makes the final cuts.

Terrence Frederick will compete for a backup job with Cortez Allen, Walter McFadden and others.

Kelvin Beachum is a versatile lineman, which could help him earn one of the final spots on the offensive line. His upside may be limited, but he could carve out a career as a backup.

Overall, this was a fairly strong draft for the Steelers. They only landed one guy who projects as a guaranteed future starter (DeCastro), but Adams and Ta’amu have the upside to potentially develop into steals down the road.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Steelers 1 Comment

Steelers uncharacteristically gambling in draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers typically take a conservative approach to the draft, which has served them very well in years past. But they’re breaking the mold this year, and targeting players with a ton of upside who have fallen to due some off-field concerns.

The first gamble was with Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams, who failed multiple drug tests in college and failed another test at the combine. On top of the off-field concerns, Adams also shows inconsistent effort on the field. He has the size to dominate, but often does just enough to get by.

In the 4th round, the Steelers also gambled on Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu. While Ta’amu does not come with any major character concerns, he is still a risk due to issues with his weight. Ta’amu has played at 400 pounds at various points in his career and has never demonstrated the ability to keep his weight under control. In general, when guys can’t stay in shape in college they typically don’t turn things around once they’re collecting an NFL paycheck.

The Steelers are definitely in position to take these risks, but it is interesting that it seems to stray from their typical draft strategy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Steelers 3 Comments

1st Round Winners: Pittsburgh Steelers

This is exactly why the Pittsburgh Steelers are perennial contenders. They sit back, let everyone else around them panic and then take the best available player who falls into their lap.

The Steelers probably didn’t anticipate addressing their interior offensive line in the 1st round, but when David DeCastro was on the board, they simply couldn’t pass him up. DeCastro will immediately step into a starting role, likely at right guard, and help solidify an offensive line that needed a boost.

This move looks particularly strong since it immediately followed two division rivals, the Browns and Bengals, who reached to fill needs and who both would have been better off selecting DeCastro.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Steelers Comments Off

5 teams that will draft a quarterback

1. Indianapolis Colts/Washington Redskins
This is a done deal, so I’ll group these teams together.  We know that Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin are headed to Indy and Washington, respectively. But I will add this, don’t be surprised if Colts draft another quarterback to compete for the backup job with Drew Stanton. They own six picks in the final three rounds of the draft, and could add a guy like Russell Wilson or B.J. Coleman late in the draft.

2. Miami Dolphins
I’m not convinced the Dolphins will take Ryan Tannehill, but they will draft someone to compete with Matt Moore for the starting job. If they pass on Tannehill, Brandon Weeden or Kirk Cousins could be options on Day Two.

3. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are another candidate to land Tannehill. But even if they miss out on the Texas A&M signal caller, they’re likely to bring in someone to groom as Matt Cassel’s replacement in the 2nd or 3rd round.

4. Cleveland Browns
The Browns will have the first crack at Tannehill, but they’re unlikely to pull the trigger at No. 4. In fact, the Browns may simply chose to stick with McCoy and pass on most of the top signal callers in this draft. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find someone. Mike Holmgren is a quarterback guru, and is likely to pick out someone in the 3rd round or later that he would like to develop.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers
Obviously the Steelers aren’t in the Tannehill sweepstakes, but they’re also unlikely to enter the 2012 season with Jerrod Johnson and Troy Smith as Roethlisberger’s backups. Look for them to add a quarterback at some point, potentially as a early as the 3rd round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns, Chiefs, Colts, Dolphins, Redskins, Steelers Comments Off

Draft Needs: Pittsburgh Steelers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers [full archive here].

Season Recap: The Pittsburgh Steelers compiled a 12-4 record in 2011, but were upset in a shocking overtime loss to the Tebow-led Denver Broncos. The Steelers once again dealt with numerous injuries throughout the season, and had to make some cost-saving roster moves this offseason in order to get under the cap. Gone are longtime Steelers, Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, and Chris Kemoeatu. Pittsburgh will field a younger team in 2012, but should be in the playoff mix with QB Ben Roethlisberger in charge.

Team Needs:
1. Inside Linebacker: James Farrior, a starter since the 2002 season, was cut in March, leaving a vacant spot next to Lawrence Timmons. The Steelers need a new starter, and should be able to select one in the first round. If Dont’a Hightower last until the Steelers, he would be a perfect fit.

2. Offensive Line: The Steelers continue to get by with average play along the offensive line. The Steelers need depth at offensive tackle, and possibly a new starting guard. Mike Adams and Cordy Glenn would be good fits.

3. Nose Tackle: Casey Hampton is getting up there in age, and suffered a torn ACL at the end of the season. It’s now time for Pittsburgh to find Hampton’s replacement in the upcoming draft. Josh Chapman from Alabama is capable of starting his rookie year. Chapman could be had in rounds two or three.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Steelers Comments Off

Could Steelers draft a RB to replace injured Mendenhall?

ESPN is reporting that Pittsburgh Steelers franchise running back Rashard Mendenhall, who torn his ACL in their regular-season finale, could miss the entire 2012 season.

If Mendenhall does sit out the entire year, he will have missed 28 games in five years and will be a 26-year-old injury-prone free agent heading into the 2013 offseason.

While the Steelers could certainly attempt to re-sign Mendenhall at a discount at some point during the course of the next year, a running back with two major injuries in five years isn’t exactly someone you want to build around.

So could this be the end of the road for Mendenhall in Pittsburgh?

Even if they do intend to bring him back for 2013 and beyond, this could be the year to find his long-term replacement. The Steelers obviously need a short-term solution at running back, and they could use an insurance policy behind Mendenhall if he does return [and no, 27-year-old Isaac Redman is not the future].

The best fit for Pittsburgh’s offense in this year’s class is Boise State’s Doug Martin. Like Mendenhall, Martin is short in stature but is a tough, physical, between-the-tackles runner. As an added bonus, Martin would offer the Steelers an upgrade over Mendenhall in terms of his playmaking ability in the passing game.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Steelers Comments Off

Steelers draft plans becoming clear?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have released veteran cornerback Bryant McFadden, making an already weak secondary even more thin.

McFadden played sparingly in 2011, after starting every game – including the Super Bowl – for the Steelers in 2010. His release now leaves Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen as the only cornerbacks who saw action in 2011, still under contract for the 2012 season.

With so many question marks at the position, one has to wonder how the Steelers plan to improve one of the league’s weakest units. While the Steelers do have money to spend this offseason, there are relatively few options at cornerback in the free agent market.

However, there is a wealth of talent at the cornerback position in this year’s draft class with as many as 10 prospects potentially earning late 1st or 2nd round grades. If the Steelers are planning to target this position in the draft, they can be reasonably certain that at least three or four worthy prospects will be on the board at No. 24.

One potential target that comes to mind is Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley. While he is undersized, he would be a nice compliment to the bigger Ike Taylor, who is likely to remain their No. 1 corner. Hosley’s speed could be of particular interest to the Steelers, who know they need to find a way to contain the Ravens’ Torrey Smith twice per  year.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Steelers Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Pittsburgh Steelers

This wasn’t the sexiest draft by the Steelers, but when you’re this close to the Super Bowl your primary goal is to simply fill your needs. The Steelers did exactly that, and with some solid contributions from their rookies they’ll be back on top in 2011.

The selection of Cameron Heyward wasn’t as much about need as it was about value, and about planning for the future. No team is better an filling holes before they open up than the Steelers. Heyward will play a backup role in 2011 but will step in to a starting role for the aging Aaron Smith or Brett Keisel sooner rather than later.

I’m not a huge fan of Marcus Gilbert, but I do think he’s a great fit for the Steelers. He could play right tackle or right guard in the pros, and will likely be starting at one of those two positions by 2012 at the latest.

Curtis Brown is another player that didn’t necessarily have great value, but fills an immediate need for the Steelers. Both he and Cortez Allen will compete for playing time immediately and one of them could end up winning a starting job opposite Bryant McFadden.

The Steelers got back to the value picks with Chris Carter in the 5th round. He was one of the most underrated players in the draft in my opinion and should be able to make a smooth transition from end to linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense.

It’s rare that a 6th round pick comes to camp with a legitimate shot at winning a starting job, but Keith Williams is definitely in the mix for the right guard position. The Steelers definitely need an upgrade there and, while Williams may be the dark horse, it would be foolish to rule him out.

The only confusing pick of the draft for the Steelers was Baron Batch in the 7th round. His experience as a receiver out of the backfield could be valuable, but if that was a priority for the Steelers they should have filled that need earlier. There were much better players on the board, even in the 7th round.

Overall this was another great draft for a franchise that continues to reload ever year. They may not have added any immediate starters, but the depth they added will be crucial to making another deep run in the playoffs. And in two or three years we should see at least three players from this class in the starting lineup.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Steelers Comments Off

Top 10 Draft Day Decision Makers

10. Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons
This Bill Belichick disciple rebuilt the Falcons in one draft, possibly even one draft pick, with Matt Ryan in 2008. What Dimitroff has accomplished in three drafts is impressive, and makes you wonder just how good he could make the Falcons in another three years.
Best 1st-round pick: Matt Ryan (2008)
Best late-round pick: Kroy Biermann (5th round, 2008)
Biggest bust: Peria Jerry (1st round, 2009)

9.  Mike Reinfeldt, Titans
Reinfeldt’s first two 1st-round picks (Micael Griffin, Chris Johnson) have already developed into Pro Bowlers, and Kenny Britt is poised for a breakout year in 2011. Reinfeldt has also started to get production from some late-round picks such as Jason McCourty, Gerald McRath and Alterraun Verner.
Best 1st-round pick: Chris Johnson (2008)
Best late-round pick: Jason McCourty (6th round, 2009)
Biggest bust: Chris Henry (2nd round, 2007)
Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Falcons, Giants, Packers, Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Titans 1 Comment

Draft Needs: Pittsburgh Steelers

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers [full archive here].

Season Recap – Many people believed the Steelers were going to have trouble contending in 2010 with star QB Ben Roethlisberger suspended the first six games due to rape charges. The suspension was later reduced to four games, and the group of Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, and Dennis Dixon managed to lead the Steelers to a 3-1 record during that time. Roethlisberger returned and led the team to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Green Bay Packers. Expect the Steelers to make a run for a trip back to the Super Bowl in 2011.

Needs:
1. Right Guard – What was once a weakness, remains a weakness for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They continue to win games with a below average offensive line. The Steelers need to solve the spot next to All-Pro Maurkice Pauncey- and are hoping his twin brother, Mike, falls to them in round one. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2011, Steelers Comments Off