Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Steelers at the NFL Combine: The Week In Review

Beware the ides of March... (Ok, so March's ides are actually the 13-15. I'm a day off, sue me.)

March 12th, the start of NFL free agency, still looms large for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they have definitive decisions to make. While some are suggesting that the "March Massacre" will not be as bad as first expected, "change" will come.



"Obviously, change has to occur over time," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said on Thursday at the NFL Combine was starting. "And you hope that you've prepared and drafted or signed free agents to deal with that change as it occurs. It's inevitable that change is going to happen. And that's what this process is about."

That "change" is going to be a major one and it needs to happen. As a colleague and fellow blogger said recently, just "rip the band aid off" and get it done. If there are more cuts than in a fight between Edward Scissorhands and Freddy Kruger, so be it.

Colbert says that this situation isn't a novelty.

"It's really not unique," Colbert said. "When you have some success, you probably have good players, some of them probably have been a little bit older. As I stated earlier, they're probably going to move on. We've got to be prepared, both from a salary cap standpoint and a talent standpoint, to make these changes. It's really not any more sophisticated than in previous years."

That Salary Cap has been the center of many discussions this offseason and has had many Steelers fans complaining (read: whining) over what is in front of the team for 2013. Some potential good news came from NFL Network's Albert Breer on Friday.

Breer, from his Twitter (@AlbertBreer) account tweeted: "Word circulating through some teams that the cap could wind up being set around $123M, higher than expected. Some are skeptical. We'll see.

All will be waiting to see if that transpires because, as discussed in our previous post (http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/02/rebuild-or-reload-steelers-run-game-is_19.html), the Steelers will be in rebuilding or transitional mode for next season. Just don't tell that to Colbert.

"I don't want to say transition," Colbert said, "because that means that you're going to accept anything less than a Super Bowl in trying to get back."

In other words, he wants to ride the stairway to seven as soon as possible. The scouting combine affords Colbert and company the opportunity to evaluate talent that can aid them in doing just that.

All offseason If It Ain't Steel has provided various names the Steelers could and may even be looking to draft in April's NFL Draft. We did so specifically in the "...Drafting for Defense" and "Playmakers" articles. We'll readdress them before the Draft along with other names from the combine. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/01/fixing-steelers-starts-with-drafting.html
http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/02/whether-offense-or-defense-steelers.html

For the most part, those particular pieces highlighted ones who may find themselves drafted in the first or second rounds. But the Draft is three days of NFL grandeur and since this Draft is singularly important, the middle and later rounds needs to provide a steal or a diamond in the rough (or both).

Taking into the consideration the order in which they were presented, defense and playmakers, there are absolutely viable players that can be had the aforementioned rounds who could pact the team fairly quickly.

Much has been written, including by us, of safeties Matt Elam, Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid, D.J. Swearinger, Phillip Thomas Baccari Rambo and T.J. MacDonald. We're now adding another name to an already long list of safeties, a name made because of a winning performance at the Senior Bowl: SS Jonathan Cyprien from Florida International.

As Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com said of him: "In a talented safety group, Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien stood out on Monday with his aggressive playing style and active demeanor. He practiced at full speed and left it all out on the field, not shying away from getting physical. Whether it was a contact drill or not, Cyprien is going to meet the ballcarrier with a pop, refusing to let up." - http://tinyurl.com/aevr59r

Cyprien is 6’0” and 209 pounds, and has the ability to make both hard-hitting, run-stopping plays and to cover with his 4.56 speed in the forty-yard dash. In his senior year, Cyprien led Florida International with in tackles and also had four interceptions.

Colbert said he 'wants to have the guy who can strike the fear in guys within the rules,' well Cyprien can do that. It also would address what Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau earlier this week said he wanted, to "add some youth" at safety. - http://tinyurl.com/bzhxlow

Something else that LeBeau said was that he thought the Steelers were as good as the Baltimore Ravens and could have done the same thing they did.

"Do I feel we could have done the same thing they did? I do. I do,” LeBeau said as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It didn’t break that way. They got the right people back at the right time, and we continued to have more injuries, it seemed like. Many times that decides it.”

With five losses of three points, a loss by six when having eight turnovers, a loss by 12 when after being up 19-17. Add that to all the injuries and a new offensive coordinator, and LeBeau would seem to be correct.

In order for that to have been completely accurate, at least going forward, the Steelers need more legitimate playmakers - one area in which the Ravens are definitely ahead of the Steelers. And since Colbert said they won't make any decisions on their free agents until after the combine, the Draft is to be the main focus.

This is despite talk of wide receiver Steve Breaston being a favorite of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Per NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala: "Told Steelers have interest in PIT-native Steve Breaston. But so do DET, DAL, TN... He likes Haley. Do Steelers offer enough $?” Do they indeed? Again, the Draft is the focus.

One player many have the Steelers taking as high as the first round is Tennessee Volunteers wideout Cordarrelle Patterson. At 6’3” and 205 pounds, Patterson is a big and physical target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Add his 4.46 speed and you have someone who can beat the press.

It's just doubtful that it happens. It's more likely, if they go that route, that they'll wait until the middle rounds. If so, two choices stand out who may remind Steelers fans of a couple of someones.

On Friday, Steel City Insider's Jim Wexell posted this to his Twitter account:


Robert Woods represents both value and talent that can be found in third or even fourth round. He definitely has his upside, but there are also concerns.

Per Brugler again, "he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle in December 2011 and was bothered by the injury much of the spring and summer. Woods looked mostly healthy throughout the 2012 season, but his long-term stability will still be under scrutiny if there is any issue with his ankles." Sound familiar? That's the caveat.

He is 6'1" and 185 lbs. with sub 4.4 speed, runs a "21.07 in the 200 meters and 46.02 in the 400 meters" and has "true separation ability." Sound familiar? That's the upside.

He would be a very good replacement for Mike Wallace in that he has similar scoring-threat speed, but is a better route runner and has slightly better hands. He tends to rely on his speed a little too much in order to make plays, but, well, that didn't exactly impede Wallace. Did it?

Another possibility in that area of the draft is Texas A&M wideout Ryan Swope. According to a few Draft experts, Swope has earned a "fourth-round grade." Wexell said of him that he's "a steal" in that round and that he is "closer to HWard {with a} large sac." (Brackets ours.)

He's 6'0", 204 lbs., is tough, is a very good blocker and simply loves playing the game. Don't take our word for it, though, just watch: http://tinyurl.com/bjfg78f

Going back to Colbert for a moment, he said touched on the LaMarr Woodley, Ryan Clark and Antonio Brown locker room issue. He said he isn't overly worried about team chemistry and said that, though he was "bothered" by it, he expects his team to respond.

"We have lot of young guys ready to take the next step," Colbert said. "I'm not concerned about our locker room. We feel we have our finger on the pulse and we're comfortable."

"I'm more bothered it was anonymous," he went on. "{Woodley will} be first to tell you he was disappointed."

Hines Ward had a different take on it, however, says that the Steelers locker room is in "total disarray." He explains why, and what he thinks must be done about it. - http://tinyurl.com/agfql3x

One of the "young guys ready to take the next step" is Brown. He echoed the words spoken by Ward when he said that a team must be a "band of brothers." Brown handled himself well and showed he's willing to step up and take the lead, and should be commended for it. - http://tinyurl.com/bzorn7d

All-in-all, it was an interesting if not busy week in Steeltown. There was even more that could have been disseminated, but still more is going on as we type. Because with the potential Salary Cap increase soon-to-come, more players than first thought may avoid the nearly-ides of March and find themselves back in Steelers uniforms next season.

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TIDBITS: NFL Scouting Combine schedule - http://www.nflcombine.net/players/schedule

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Larry Foote says contract talks have begun between his agent and the Steelers. Ed Bouchette provides the whole story: http://tinyurl.com/apk8ztd

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Another young player who wants to step up, at least from an on-the-field standpoint, is offensive tackle Mike Adams, who wants to start next season. - http://tinyurl.com/ay3m4d6