Rejoice!! The NFL Draft is almost upon us. Two days of hopes, dreams, triumph for some, heartbreak for others, quarterbacks waiting in anticipation with their hot girlfriends and Jet fans eager to boo whatever unfortunate sap is taken by their team.
‘Tis truly one of the most wonderful times of the year. I dare say it’s even better than Christmas. Yes, Mel Kiper is my Santa. Except this jolly old elf has perfectly-coiffed hair.
As you surf around the interwebz, you will probably come across a mock draft or two. Or four. Or three dozen. Concocting mock drafts seems to have become the second biggest time waster of choice behind only filling out as many March Madness brackets as a sports fan can get their grubby little hands on.
I will spare you such things on my site. Besides, this is a Steeler blog. I assume you come here to read about the Steelers. I also imagine you don’t much care who the Houston Texans may or may not take with their compensatory pick in the fifth round.
You care about the Steelers. So All-Steelers All-the-time is what I’ll give you. The following is a short synopsis of prospects you should keep an eye on because they are players the Steelers either have interest in or they should have interest in. If anybody has their own Players To Keep An Eye On, feel free to share your picks in the comments below.
Let’s hope somebody suffers the same fate as poor Brady Quinn. Watching him slide deeper and deeper down the draft board was high drama at its best. I would feel sorry for the kid except he’s still a multi-millionaire, his girlfriend looks like she could suck-start a lawnmower, and he plays for the Browns. Oh, and his name is Brady. I hate that name.
Brenden Albert OT Virginia – The crown jewel of the draft as far as the Steelers are concerned. Albert is a 6’6” 310 pound human bulldozer who plays either left guard or left tackle. He has the talent to start immediately and for our team, probably would. Unfortunately, he has flown up the draft boards in the last month, going from a late 1st rounder to a possible Top 10 pick. Highly unlikely he’ll make it to #23
Jonathan Stewart RB Oregon – A 5’10” 235 pound power back. Basically, a bowling ball with arms and legs. Has some durability issues as he’s suffered a number of injuries while in college which could be a problem in the pros. Tandem backfields are en vogue in the NFL so that’s what makes him an attractive option. Still, make no mistake, taking Stewart would be a case of taking Best Athlete Available. We’re already 3 deep at running back so unless the Steelers are lying about Willie Parker’s success at rehabbing his broken leg, we have much more pressing needs than at RB.
James Hardy WR Indiana & Limas Sweed WR Texas – I grouped these two together because they both fill a similar hole: the big-ass WR that will make Ben smile and Hines cry. Sweed is 6’4” but coming off a major wrist injury that has scared some teams away. Hardy is 6’5” and basically a poor man’s Plaxico Burress. His biggest knock is his 40 times have been a bit on the slow side so some wonder if he can create enough separation at the pro level. WR is a wild card area in this draft as some people project guys like Hardy, Sweed, and Desean Jackson (a tiny quick guy we wouldn’t be interested in) to be 1st rounders while others have them all slipping well into the 2nd. If either of these two fall to the Steelers, I’d heartily endorse either as my preference for their first pick.
Kentwan Balmer DT North Carolina – If you read the Saga of Booger or my posts on the inexplicable signing of Nick Eason, you know the Steelers are paper thin along the defensive line. Brent Kiesel, Casey Hampton, and Aaron Smith are still top notch players but they’re also getting older and the threat of injury is always there. Balmer, a smallish but explosive rusher, projects to being a defensive end in the Steelers 3-4. He’s a gamble, though, as speed guys are usually boom or bust plus he really only started to show any flashes of superior ability during his senior season.
Aqib Talib CB Kansas – Last year, the Steelers were all set to draft Pitt CB Darrelle Revis with their first pick. They probably would’ve cut Ike Taylor, who played so poorly in 2006 that Coach Cowher benched him for several games. Then those tricky Jets swooped in, swung a trade with Carolina, and slipped ahead of us one spot in the draft so they could take Revis. Talib is another wild card as he is generally considered the best cover guy available but his 40 times have been astonishingly slow which raises all kinds of alarms with scouts. If teams go by college performance, he’ll be long gone by our pick. If they don’t, he might slip. Would the Steelers take him? Like I said, we were looking at CB last year. Also, Talib returned punts and even played a little WR at Kansas like a mini-Deon Sanders (“Not-Ready-For-Primetime?”) so he could also help us out in the return game. This would be a bold, interesting pick so I expect the Steelers not to make it if given the opportunity.
Gosder Cherilis OT Boston College – Huge 6’6” 315 monster. Doesn’t have the best form and needs coached up some. He played some left tackle as a senior and looked bad so probably would be a right tackle on the pro level. The Steelers aren’t really that hurting for right tackles (need interior lineman more) so Cherilis would be a safe but unspectacular pick. In fact, a lot of draftniks have him as a 2nd rounder so taking him in the first might even be considered “reaching.” Probably not the worst pick they could make but not the most attractive option either.
Chilo Rachal OG USC – This is more a guy to look for in the 2nd round if we go another direction in the 1st. Not a spectacular college career but his measurables and potential are extremely high. Definitely seen as a future starter in the league, the only question is how soon and how capable. Will probably be gone by the Steelers second pick unless we trade up (or down) and pick up an early 2nd rounder.
Matt Forte RB Tulane - If the Steelers are serious about going to a shared backfield, they definitely need to find a power back to compliment Fast Willie. Forte is a 6’1″ 217 short-yardage specialist. In fact, some teams think he’ll be a FB at the pro level but either way, I think the Steelers could use him. His measurables kinda sucked as he didn’t appear to be notably fast or notably strong, which is why most teams see him as a late 2nd/3rd rounder. But those kind of things are sometimes misleading which is why I wouldn’t mind seeing him in Black and Gold next year.
Ray Rice RB Rutgers – Yes, he had a big college career but that actually works against him with the scouts because they see him as having a lot of wear on the tires. Rice could very well fall to the Steelers late in round 2. Would they take him? The problem with Rice is he runs like a power back, very strong, very straight ahead…but at 5’8″ 199 he doesn’t have power back size. I can see him turning into a Mike Alstott-type pro although I do have to admit I’m not sure his tough running style will be able to hold up over an entire season. Still, this would be another intriguing pick.
Jeremy Zuttah OG Rutgers – Zuttah has been flying up draft boards in the past few weeks. He’s still seen as a 2nd rounder but a month ago, he was a second dayer. Probably his best feature is he can play center, guard, or tackle and has played all three while in college. That kind of versatility is extremely rare and valuable. He also had a great Combine workout. Then again, so did Mike Mamula. Which is the big question on him: can his measurables translate to on-field ability? The Steelers were burned in this area before (Hello Jamain Stephens) but I’d take a flier on Zuttah if I was stuck picking at the ass end of the 2nd round.
Mike Pollack C Arizona State & Kory Lichtensteiger C Bowling Green – Two more centers for this team which badly needs to find a guy to bend over and let Ben stick his hands between his legs for the next 5-6 years. I grouped these two together because they’re both late 2nd/mid 3rd round types so they are within reach. I also grouped them because they are similar centers in the Mike Webster mold of small, quick, smart guys. Lichensteiger also has a really cool last name which sounds like a tasty German beer. And a team located in Pittsburgh could always use a Pollack. I’d be happy with either of these picks.
Chad Rhinehart OG Northern Iowa - Get this, he’s 6’5″ 325 pounds. Clearly, he’s on the seafood diet…he eats everything he sees. Supposedly he’s pretty athletic and can be coached up. Plus, at that size, if his supposedly decent footwork is decent, he’ll be hard for linemen to deal with. Of course, the knock here is he’s from Northern Iowa. I think they played Robert Morris this year so he’s not exactly been tested against top notch competition. Still, for a late third round pick, he could be a sleeper.
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