Yesterday, members of the Steelers’ Coaching Staff, most notably Linebackers Coach Keith Butler, attended Kansas State University’s Pro Day.
Inside Linebacker Arthur Brown and Wide Receiver Chris Harper enjoyed strong workout sessions at the Manhattan, KS event, and both players could potentially interest Pittsburgh’s brass when “Draft Weekend” rolls around next month.
Oddly enough, Brown was actually a teammate of, and backup to currently-injured Steeler Inside Linebacker Sean Spence at the University of Miami (FL). Three years ago though, Brown transferred to Kansas State to play with his brother Bryce (of the Philadelphia Eagles), and in his home-state of Kansas. Although Bryce did not last long in Manhattan, Arthur in fact did. And ever since he started his career as a Wildcat, Brown has been nothing short of a tenacious “Tackling Machine” in the middle of Kansas State’s Defense.
As a Junior, Brown registered 101 Tackles, 9.5 TFL’s, 2.0 Sacks, and 1 Interception and was named 1st Team All-Big XII. Brown only continued his steady play last year as he made 100 Tackles, 7.0 TFL’s, 1.0 Sack, and 2 Interceptions!
I for one have always liked Brown as a prospect, but I like many had concerns about his frame. Although nobody questioned Brown’s toughness, he was only listed at 228 lbs., and definitely looked skinny when he manned the Middle Linebacker position for the Wildcats.
Since the offseason period began though, Brown has packed on weight (240 lbs.) to his solid 6’ frame. Once considered to be more of a fit in a 4-3 scheme due to his skinnier frame, Brown’s weight gain has allowed his stock to rise amongst teams who employ 3-4 Defensive schemes and need an Inside Linebacker.
Overall, Brown wowed those concerned with his “straight line” speed, and he blazed a 40 Yard Dash in the 4.56-4.66 Seconds range. In addition to his speed, Brown also illustrated that his weight gain has helped him get stronger too. At his workout, the Linebacker bench-pressed 225 lbs. a total of 21 times.
If Brown continues to impress over the next month and a half, he could challenge Alec Ogletree to be the #1 Inside Linebacker taken off of the board in this year’s Draft. Unfortunately for the Steelers, if they decide to pass on the talented Linebacker at #17, Arthur is unlikely to fall to them in Round 2 at #48 overall. I for one would love to see Pittsburgh trade back into the mid-20’s somewhere, pick up an extra 3rd Round selection, and then select Brown. Regardless of what the Steelers do on Draft Day, I am sure that Linebackers Coach Keith Butler came away impressed with Brown’s performance.
Kansas State’s highly touted Linebacker however was not the only player to impress at the Manhattan Pro Day. In fact, a former Wildcat Wide Receiver enjoyed a pretty solid workout as well.
I liken Chris Harper (6’1” 229 lbs.) to a “poor-man’s” Anquan Boldin, a player who flourished under Todd Haley from a productivity standpoint. While neither guy is particularly blazing in terms of raw speed (4.47-4.49 at Pro Day in 40 for Harper), both guys are tough, physically imposing, and have the ability to work the field at different levels (short, intermediate, and deep).
Harper enjoyed a productive career with the Wildcats, and registered 58 Catches for 857 Yards and 3 TD’s as a Senior last season. Like Boldin was at Florida State, Harper was actually a former college Quarterback at Oregon before he was switched to Wide Receiver after he transferred to Manhattan. Plus, with his signal-caller experience, Harper should have a solid understanding of passing-routes and the passing-game overall.
Granted, I understand that the Steelers have Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, and Plaxico Burress on their roster at the moment. But Pittsburgh’s Offense lacks a young and physical play-making threat who can not only work different areas of the field, but chip in with some help in the Red Zone too. Harper could be a solid addition to a young and talented Wide Receiving corps, and also bring an added dimension to a unit sorely in need of it. If the former Wildcat pass-catcher is available on Day 3 (Round 4), and the Steelers have not selected a Wide Receiver by that point, I would hope that he would be on the franchise’s radar.
As we all know, Pittsburgh could definitely stand to use some depth and talent upgrades at the Wide Receiver and Inside Linebacker positions. Whether or not they believe that Brown and/or Harper will be able to help them is another matter entirely, and will eventually be decided on “Draft Weekend.” Nevertheless, I am sure that those in attendance, including those affiliated with the Steelers, were intrigued by how well both players performed.