Some of Pittsburgh’s brass were in attendance for two Pro Days in the state of Ohio over the past week: one for former Ohio State defensive end John Simon, and the other for N.F.L.-hopefuls at Miami University (OH).
Simon, who sustained a shoulder injury and was unable to perform at The Combine or at the Buckeyes’ Pro Day earlier this Spring, finally got a chance to strut his stuff today in front of N.F.L. personnel. According to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, Steeler G.M. Kevin Colbert was there to check out the prospect.
A three-year starter with the Buckeyes (37 games), Simon was one of the defense’s most effective players during his junior and senior campaigns. Back in 2011, Simon registered 53 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, and 7.0 sacks. This past year, the defensive end set a career high for sacks during a regular season with 9.0, and filled out the rest of his statline with 45 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss.
Like most of the outside linebacker prospects the Steelers have targeted over the years, Simon was a defensive end during his collegiate career. Because of the fact that he was a down-lineman, the former Buckeye did not gain an excessive amount of experience as a stand-up outside linebacker, nor did he have to play very often in space.
As a pass-rusher, Simon’s athleticism, agility, and explosiveness were “average at best” in the games I watched him play (example) and the spin move he employed was slow and rarely effective against Penn State. Due to his lack of fluidity as an athlete, I for one have my doubts as to whether or not he can stick and stay with running backs and tight ends in pass-coverage. Furthermore, Simon must also prove that he is strong enough to engage and shed blocks from N.F.L.-sized offensive tackles too.
To his credit though, Simon did his best to silence critics about his speed and agility, and had a terrific workout session. He measured in at 6’1″ 257 lbs., clocked in with 40 yard dash times in the 4.62-4.7 range, recorded an impressive vertical jump of 34″, and posted a solid short shuttle time of 4.42 seconds.
I personally believe that the Steelers should not worry too much about acquiring the former Buckeye on Day 2 of the Draft, especially because there should be far more athletic pass-rushers available at that time like Corey Lemonier, Jamie Collins, and Brandon Jenkins. But if Simon is available in Round 4 or early on Day 3 of the Draft, and Pittsburgh has yet to take a pass-rushing prospect, he might be a worthy investment at that point in the draft process.
According to Gil Brandt of NFL.com, Pittsburgh’s quarterback coach Randy Fichtner was at Miami’s Pro Day last Thursday to scout the Redhawks’ former signal-caller, Zac Dysert (6’3″ 227 lbs.).
A four-year starter with the Redhawks, Dysert broke or came close to breaking most of Ben Roethlisberger’s records at the school, and has the tools to be a solid developmental Quarterback. During his collegiate career, Zac started 45 games, and set career highs in completions (302), attempts (480), and touchdown passes (25) last season to go along with 3,483 passing yards and a 62.9% completion rate.
While I agree with Brandt that Dysert is not ready to be a starter at the professional level at this point in his career, there is a lot to like about the young prospect. As I alluded to before, Zac is an experienced player (45 starts), a tough guy, possesses the ability to make plays and escape trouble (not as well as Big Ben though), and has more than enough arm strength to make every thrown on the field. In fact, Brandt said that Dysert completed 54 of his 64 pass attempts at his Pro Day which was held in 25 degree weather with the wind blowing up to 10 miles per hour.
I for one would like to see the Steelers draft “Roethlisberger Lite” as NFL.com referred to him as in the heading of the post. As a Rookie and even a second year player, Dysert will have the luxury to sit behind Big Ben and Bruce Gradkowski/Charlie Batch while he fine tunes his game and learns the offense. Pittsburgh must have some sort of viable “transition strategy” in place at quarterback before Big Ben finally calls it quits. Thus, I am sure that the franchise has their eye on a number of developmental signal-callers like Dysert (and Tyler Bray) in this year’s draft class.