Sunday, May 3, 2015

Third Day Recap Proves that Steelers will Draft for Need

The Pittsburgh Steelers have long claimed that they do not draft based on need, thus the "best player available" term that we all know so well. Their stance is that they draft according to their overall ratings of players. 

This is what Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said at the NFL Combine regarding drafting for need:

"We will never go into a draft saying we have to address that area, because if we do, we are going to over-evaluate a particular position and probably make a draft mistake."

This, now, is what Colbert said at the pre-Draft press conference last Monday:

"[We never look to] draft for need....If you pass up a great player at any position, you're making a mistake that you'll regret at some point."

Sound fairly similar, don't they? It's basically a script he and head coach Mike Tomlin follow. And while I believe that to be true to an extent, it does seem, when broken down per year, to be more the exception than the rule. 

This is especially so in the first round, but found itself being true in most of the this weekend. The third day of the NFL Draft filled needs from the very first selection of the day. 

ROUND 4 -
DORAN GRANT, CB, 5'10" 200LBs; 4.44/40 

The Steelers' pass defense was 27th in the NFL last season, plus they lost two CBs (one to free agency and one to retirement). Enter Grant. With 30 starts in his career, he recorded 146 tackles, 20 passes defended, nine interceptions and one sack. 

He is a very tough player who is also versatile as he excels as much in run support as he does shadowing receivers. Because of that, he had been looked at as a possible free safety option before the Draft, but defensive backs coach Carnell Lake has already made it clear where he will be used, saying that he is a "solid, physical corner that has decent speed." -  http://tinyurl.com/mps3xkc 

The drafting of Grant makes it five of the past six years that the Steelers have drafted a player from Ohio State.

ROUND 5 -
JESSE JAMES, TE, 6'7" 261LBs; 4.66/40 (Pro Day)

With Heath Miller aging and no true  backup designated as of yet, there was a need to get a tight end with upside to eventually take over the mantle. The Steelers like Rob Blanchflower, but more was needed. 

James has the functional athleticism to be a Move TE, but more could have been seen from him, especially with his lackadaisical approach to blocking. But the Steelers really like him.

"We feel like he is a young man who can come in and add something to the Pittsburgh Steelers next season," per tight ends coach James Daniel. "....He has enough talent to be good in all phases of the game." - http://tinyurl.com/kphtgt6

ROUND 6 -
LETERRIUS "LT" WALTON, DT/DE, 6'5" 319LBs

Hm...I can't think of any another 6th-round player from Central Michigan to ever be drafted by the Steelers. Can you?

Brett Keisel was released due to his injury having yet healed and Cam Thomas was worthless, that created the need to get depth. L.T. Walton is a massive man who's a 5-technique type who will be put at defensive end in the Steelers 3-4 scheme. Because of his balance and because of how thin they are at DE, Walton will have a chance to actually make the 53. 

Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell alluded to that balance at the press conference when he said, "He stays on his feet and that is the most important thing for a defensive lineman." - http://tinyurl.com/p9wepen

ROUND 6 (COMP) -
ANTHONY CHICKILLO, DE/OLB, 6'3" 267LBs

The Steelers lost one OLB and another is 37 years old, so they needed depth and to get younger at the position. Despite playing more with his hand on the ground at Miami, Fl., outside linebacker coach Joey Porter said that the Steelers will use Chickillo as an edge rusher.

"[Chickillo] adds depth to our pass rushing situation. ... He's always showing up on the field, he has a live motor." - http://tinyurl.com/ouc74r6

Porter also said that he told James Harrison that he will be limiting him to 25 snaps per game next season, and that there will only be four or five OLB spots. That's Jarvis Jones and the Silverback on the right, and Arthur Moats and rookie Bud Dupree on the left who are guaranteed. 

That likely leaves only one more spot to fill. But by whom? Howard Jones? Shawn Lemon? Jordan Zumwalt? Terrance Garvin? Chickillo? Time will tell, but that player will need to wreck shop in order to do so, and will have to excel on special teams as well. 

ROUND 7 -
GEROD HOLLIMAN, FS, 6'0" 218LBs

The least of the needs, but a need nonetheless. The winner of the Jim Thorpe Award led the FBS with 14 INTs last season at Louisville. He also recorded 63 tackles, six pass defenses and a sack.

Holliman's ball hawking skills are undeniable, and he has a good chance of making the team if he learns to do just one thing. What's that? Let me give you a hint: he got his contact skills from the Deion Sanders School of Tackling. Like Yoda said, he must unlearn what he has learned. If he does, he has a good chance to stick. 

So, two edge rushers, two CBs, a prime candidate for the No. 4 wide receiver spot and the possible future at TE? Funny how "the best player available" and team needs keep overlapping...

~

TIDBITS:
"@drinelli: @steelers have agreed to terms with 12 rookie free agents following the 2015 NFL Draft. Full press release & list: http://t.co/xjgAHxuYll/s/al1X