Will the Steelers Select any of these Nose Tackle Prospects in The 2012 Draft?

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"Big Snack," batting down a "Ginger Spice" pass, is entering the twilight of his career. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

Well, it’s official: the Steelers are now in “dire straits” when it comes to the Nose Tackle position.  With Chris Hoke’s recent retirement, the soon to be 35 year old Casey Hampton needing ACL surgery, and Steve McLendon only tipping the scales at around 280 lbs., Pittsburgh is at the point where finding a 0-Technique, 3-4 Nose Tackle is of the highest importance.

Worries aside, this year’s Draft should provide Pittsburgh with a terrific opportunity to help to cure their ills at the center of their Defensive Line.  So sit back, relax, and ready yourself for a short breakdown of six potential Nose Tackle prospects which the Steelers could be eying in this April’s Draft:

Dontari Poe: Memphis (6’5″ 350 lbs.)

Dontari Poe appears to be the consensus #1 0-Technique, 3-4 NT of this season’s Draft class, and I would have a hard time arguing with that sentiment.  Poe is an absolute “mountain of a man,” and has improved each and every season while playing at Memphis.

Poe was an absolute beast at Memphis. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

Poe, a Junior from Memphis, TN, established himself as a force to be reckoned with during his three year collegiate career, and consistently improved over the 30 games which he started from 2009-2011.

In 2009, Poe earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors and racked up 27 Tackles in 6 starts, 7 TFL, 3 FF, and 2.0 Sacks.  Poe followed his effective Freshman campaign by accumulating 41 Tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.0 Sacks and earned Honorable All-Conference USA honors in 2010.  Finally, this past season, Poe made 33 Tackles, 8 TFL, 1.0 Sack, had 3 PBU’s, 1 FF, and was named the Tigers’ Team Defensive MVP.

Poe’s biggest drawback may be his age, as he will only be 22 when the 2012 season starts and left school with a year of eligibility remaining.  Dontari will likely face the same kind of extensive seasoning process as Ziggy Hood, but even though he may have left school after 3 seasons, he still started 2.5 of them, so that’s not a huge worry.

Hopefully, longtime D-Line Coach John Mitchell can help Poe to develop quickly, and Hampton can squeeze one more decent year out of himself so Poe could be playing some significant snaps by the end of the season if he is drafted by Pittsburgh.

I believe that inserting Poe into a Defensive Line consisting of DE’s Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward, could give Pittsburgh its “D-Line of the Future” in immediate the “Present.”  And by 2013, the Steelers Front 3 Base-Set would be a young force to be reckoned with and could be tearing up the League and striking fear into the opposition.  Maybe Poe will be the final building block, and you certainly can’t teach the kind of size and brute strength which Dontari possesses.

 

Alameda Ta’amu: Washington (6’2.5″ 341 lbs.)

Ta'amu kicking some tail in "The Apple Cup." Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article regarding Ta’amu which focused on him being a possible choice for the Steelers in Round 1 of this April’s Draft.  His stock was arguably at its highest, and many had him as a 1st Round lock when the season started.

Ta’amu’s performance slipped just a tad in 2011 though (partly due to double-teams, partly due to being a non-factor in certain games), and Ta’amu is now believed to be a Round 2-3 pick by many in the scouting community who don’t have a 1st Round grade on him anymore.

Over a span of 4 seasons and 45 starts, Ta’amu put together a great career at Washington and was one of the many holdovers which transformed an 0-12 program as Freshman into a program that has appeared in back-to-back Bowl Games.  And during the 2011 season, Alameda made 30 Tackles, 4.0 Sacks, and 8 TFL’s in 12 games, and earned 2011 Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 honors (earned same accolade in 2010).

At 340+ lbs., Ta’amu, like Poe, is a space-eater and has displayed the ability to play 2-gaps with discipline and occupy an Offensive Line’s valuable time and resources.  Much like most true 0-Technique NT’s, he relies heavily on his bull-rush to collapse the pocket and attack the QB if need be.  If the Steelers are serious about shoring up their Run Defense, Ta’amu could help be the man in the middle to alleviate some of their issues.

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  • SteelerFan209

    I think the interviewing process would be just as crucial as the players on field ability. Whoever they go with in the 1st round will be the right guy. NT is definately a need in the draft, but I’d like to see an O-Lineman in round 1. Peter Konz would be nice at guard. To me, Poe just seems to tall for a 3-4 NT. I saw the Ta’amu kid shed 2 O-linemen and a fullback to get to the QB before. I dont think the Steelers would have to trade down for him. *shruggs* All’s I know is I’m not too worried about it, cuz Kevin Colbert doesn’t miss in round 1.

  • SteelerFan209

    I think the interviewing process would be just as crucial as the players on field ability. Whoever they go with in the 1st round will be the right guy. NT is definately a need in the draft, but I’d like to see an O-Lineman in round 1. Peter Konz would be nice at guard. To me, Poe just seems to tall for a 3-4 NT. I saw the Ta’amu kid shed 2 O-linemen and a fullback to get to the QB before. I dont think the Steelers would have to trade down for him. *shruggs* All’s I know is I’m not too worried about it, cuz Kevin Colbert doesn’t miss in round 1.

  • DomDiTolla

    @SteelerFan209 Poe gets pretty good leverage for somebody as tall as he is though. Dude is one of the strongest players in the country in terms of raw strength, and the proper coaching could make him an unstoppable force.

    As for Konz, the Steelers could pounce on him in Round 2 if he falls. Colbert could take a look at Cordy Glenn from Georgia in Round 1. He has experience playing both Tackle and Guard in college (he’ll likely take his 340+ frame to Guard), so that would be a plus in terms of versatility. I mocked Dont’a Hightower, ILB from Alabama, to the Steelers in Round 1 last week which is also a position of need and a spot for value for a player of his caliber as well. If they could pick up Glenn or Hightower in Round 1 and then Ta’amu in Round 2, I’d be a happy camper that’s for sure.

  • DomDiTolla

    @SteelerFan209 Poe gets pretty good leverage for somebody as tall as he is though. Dude is one of the strongest players in the country in terms of raw strength, and the proper coaching could make him an unstoppable force.

    As for Konz, the Steelers could pounce on him in Round 2 if he falls. Colbert could take a look at Cordy Glenn from Georgia in Round 1. He has experience playing both Tackle and Guard in college (he’ll likely take his 340+ frame to Guard), so that would be a plus in terms of versatility. I mocked Dont’a Hightower, ILB from Alabama, to the Steelers in Round 1 last week which is also a position of need and a spot for value for a player of his caliber as well. If they could pick up Glenn or Hightower in Round 1 and then Ta’amu in Round 2, I’d be a happy camper that’s for sure.

  • SonnyDrysdale

    Any tackle can play the nose position. Its not rocket science. Hampton played very little the last two years

  • SonnyDrysdale

    If Poe was an absolute beast at UM, why wasn’t he all conference. Thats a pretty bad conference for NFL prospects

  • SonnyDrysdale

    Any tackle can play the nose position. Its not rocket science. Hampton played very little the last two years

  • SonnyDrysdale

    If Poe was an absolute beast at UM, why wasn’t he all conference. Thats a pretty bad conference for NFL prospects

  • DomDiTolla

    @SonnyDrysdale Let me enlighten you on a couple of things. First, Poe was actually named All-Conference 2nd Team, so it’s not like he wasn’t all-Conference. Second, the reason he wasn’t named 1st team is because all of the 1st Team D-Linemen named ahead of him (Vinny Curry, Tyrrun Walker, Cordarro Law, and Taylor Thompson) were DE’s, OLB tweeners, and 1-Gap DT’s that light up the stat sheet due to the nature of their position. If the conference rated the top 0-Technique NT it would undoubtedly be Poe.

    The reason Poe doesn’t accumulate the “sexy” stats is because of the nature of his position and the role he plays on the Defense. His number one job is gap-integrity and to eat up blockers, not shooting one-gap, pass rushing, or running freely to the ball. Your assumption that because a guy wasn’t a 1st Team player makes him not a “beast” overlooks Poe’s role as a Defensive player and what he brings to the position.

    Poe is the consensus #1 NT on the board because of what he brings to the table in terms of size, speed, and his upside at the position. And I would say that most scouts and draft analysts would agree with that idea.

    Your notion that any tackle can play the Nose is ridiculous. Sure, you could stick any guy up there, but to run an effective 3-4 it takes a special player like a Casey Hampton or a Vince Wilfork to man the Nose and play unselfish and disciplined football.

  • SonnyDrysdale

    @DomDiTolla Was told by those who know that most any tackle can fit in @ NT. Hampton hasn’t played anything close to the number of snaps that he played 5 years ago. The steelers have learned to adapt their DL to fit what they have in their rotation. Ziggy Hood would be better than Poe would ever be. Look for them to draft someone for tackle in rounds 3-4. Poe isn’t first round value and we all know the Steelers don’t reach in the first round. If he is there in round 2 they may take a look. Personally I think they will trade down to the bottom of the round for an extra late 2nd round pick.. If an ILB is available to them at 24 they would go there rather than a DT. Of course, they could go just about anywhere but they most always choose BPA.

    As for Memphis and the conference, I still think its below par, remember Hampton was a first team All america out of UTA. Comparing him and Poe is like night and day. IMO. Some experts say Poe may be too tall and not be able to handle the cut blocks that the Ravens utilize these days.

  • DomDiTolla

    @SonnyDrysdale @DomDiTolla They’ll likely go O-Line at 24 if somebody drops, at this point because there are some mid-round guys at ILB that will be available. I agree with you though and them going BPA though abut likely trading up before they trade down.

    As for Poe being too tall, Ngata is of similar build. Ngata’s bit more athletic, but I think Mitchell could coach Poe up enough for a season of spot duty before being inserted full time. The dude is ridiculously strong and uses his leverage well, which is to his advantage. The upside is there, and if anybody can bring out the finished product it’s Mitchell.

    I still disagree on Hood at the NT spot. He plays a bit too high for my taste and would get manhandled inside by the more athletic Centers. Playing him as a non-1 gap DT could be risky, although if they move to a 4-3 he would be perfect as a 1-Tech DT. I don’t understand the desire to see him play there permanently, because he’s a fine 5-Tech DE and to also say he is better than Poe will ever be is a bit of a stretch.

    They need to fix the NT position. I don’t care who it is with, but if it’s Poe, it’s Poe, if it’s somebody else, it’s somebody else. If they don’t find an adequate replacement for Hampton to shore up the inside, the Ravens and opponents like the Texans will continue to eat them alive on the ground.

  • DomDiTolla

    @SonnyDrysdale Let me enlighten you on a couple of things. First, Poe was actually named All-Conference 2nd Team, so it’s not like he wasn’t all-Conference. Second, the reason he wasn’t named 1st team is because all of the 1st Team D-Linemen named ahead of him (Vinny Curry, Tyrrun Walker, Cordarro Law, and Taylor Thompson) were DE’s, OLB tweeners, and 1-Gap DT’s that light up the stat sheet due to the nature of their position. If the conference rated the top 0-Technique NT it would undoubtedly be Poe.

    The reason Poe doesn’t accumulate the “sexy” stats is because of the nature of his position and the role he plays on the Defense. His number one job is gap-integrity and to eat up blockers, not shooting one-gap, pass rushing, or running freely to the ball. Your assumption that because a guy wasn’t a 1st Team player makes him not a “beast” overlooks Poe’s role as a Defensive player and what he brings to the position.

    Poe is the consensus #1 NT on the board because of what he brings to the table in terms of size, speed, and his upside at the position. And I would say that most scouts and draft analysts would agree with that idea.

    Your notion that any tackle can play the Nose is ridiculous. Sure, you could stick any guy up there, but to run an effective 3-4 it takes a special player like a Casey Hampton or a Vince Wilfork to man the Nose and play unselfish and disciplined football.

  • SonnyDrysdale

    @DomDiTolla Was told by those who know that most any tackle can fit in @ NT. Hampton hasn’t played anything close to the number of snaps that he played 5 years ago. The steelers have learned to adapt their DL to fit what they have in their rotation. Ziggy Hood would be better than Poe would ever be. Look for them to draft someone for tackle in rounds 3-4. Poe isn’t first round value and we all know the Steelers don’t reach in the first round. If he is there in round 2 they may take a look. Personally I think they will trade down to the bottom of the round for an extra late 2nd round pick.. If an ILB is available to them at 24 they would go there rather than a DT. Of course, they could go just about anywhere but they most always choose BPA.

    As for Memphis and the conference, I still think its below par, remember Hampton was a first team All america out of UTA. Comparing him and Poe is like night and day. IMO. Some experts say Poe may be too tall and not be able to handle the cut blocks that the Ravens utilize these days.

  • DomDiTolla

    @SonnyDrysdale @DomDiTolla They’ll likely go O-Line at 24 if somebody drops, at this point because there are some mid-round guys at ILB that will be available. I agree with you though and them going BPA though abut likely trading up before they trade down.

    As for Poe being too tall, Ngata is of similar build. Ngata’s bit more athletic, but I think Mitchell could coach Poe up enough for a season of spot duty before being inserted full time. The dude is ridiculously strong and uses his leverage well, which is to his advantage. The upside is there, and if anybody can bring out the finished product it’s Mitchell.

    I still disagree on Hood at the NT spot. He plays a bit too high for my taste and would get manhandled inside by the more athletic Centers. Playing him as a non-1 gap DT could be risky, although if they move to a 4-3 he would be perfect as a 1-Tech DT. I don’t understand the desire to see him play there permanently, because he’s a fine 5-Tech DE and to also say he is better than Poe will ever be is a bit of a stretch.

    They need to fix the NT position. I don’t care who it is with, but if it’s Poe, it’s Poe, if it’s somebody else, it’s somebody else. If they don’t find an adequate replacement for Hampton to shore up the inside, the Ravens and opponents like the Texans will continue to eat them alive on the ground.

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