Despite Notre Dame Senior LB Manti Te’o's ‘girlfriend’ issues, there are mock drafts out there that currently have him slipping to the Steelers in the first round. But, in light of all that has been said (and even bigger – unsaid), would Te’o be a good fit on the Steelers roster?
One such publication that recently has Te’o going to the Steelers is Peter Schrager and Fox Sports. Schrager writes:
Do I think this bizarre Internet love romance seriously damaged Manti Te’o’s draft stock? Perhaps. Put him on the right team, in the right defense and in the right locker room and it’ll all be an afterthought once actual football is being played. I can’t imagine a better place for the kid than Pittsburgh. Larry Foote’s played well in the middle, but the Steelers could use a blue-chip inside linebacker talent for their aging linebacker corps. Jason Worilds, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons are going to be three-fourths of that unit for years to come. Te’o would be a great final piece to that puzzle.
Aside from him seemingly writing off James Harrison, Schrager also excludes 2012 pick Sean Spence. Harrison, coming off of a knee surgery during 2012, did not pick up to his regular form until well late into the season. That’s to be expected, but Harrison seemed to regain the low angle of attack that he is so well known for. Are his ‘glory days’ over? Quite possible, but it will be another year or two before Worilds replaces him outright. Spence had a season ending injury before he could really make a long lasting impression on the team. His days in training camp were very promising, and it at least seemed that Spence would find a slot on the LB depth chart quickly.
Is there a rush for LB? Technically, no. There was a time when many of us here at NPC would be doing cartwheels in the streets were the Steelers to select Te’o. But after ‘Catfish-gate’ (meh?) those same folks (including myself) wouldn’t mind so much if the Steelers passed. It’s well known now that Steelers GM Kevin Colbert will not shy away from players with a poor or suspicious off the field track record. It’s part of the inherent risk when drafting new players.
But, I think there’s a big difference between assuming a risk for a player that has a ‘past’ and a player that is so up to his neck in the media circus that he becomes Inst-O-Distract-O. And that’s exactly what I think Te’o will be for a looooooong time – Captain Distraction. This spells doom for a locker room that has already seen two draft picks from 2012 have trouble with the law, and a coach who (though the front office would never admit) is beginning to lose a bit of control in that locker room. I don’t know about you, but I would get pretty sick pretty quick hearing all the Keaku talk on draft day, in training camp, in Week 3, in Week 7, in Week 16. It won’t go away. And while the Steelers will do their damndest to try and silence all of that, it will somehow find a way to rear its ugly head.
So, though while Te’o's talent would be a welcome sight to a LB core that certainly had downswing in production in 2012, all that baggage that comes with him is certainly not worth the time and effort.