Thursday, April 30, 2015

If It Ain't Steel's Steelers 2015 Mock Draft

The wait is finally over. The day when half the teams in the NFL are assured a spot in the Super Bowl and when the season is already over for the other least if you ask their fans. 

That's right, the 2015 version of the NFL Draft is finally here. 

I had planned for at least two more articles breaking down the various potentially available players in the two biggest positions of need. But two computer glitches caused me to lose LOTS of research and hours of writing that would've been said breakdowns. So, despite saying several times that we would never do a mock draft, here is (*blech*) If It Ain't Steel's 2015 Mock Draft. 

Round 1 - Marcus Peters, CB, Washington: 
Aside from all the game film and the reading of the explanations and the mea culpas, what finally pulled me completely into the Peters camp was Kevin Colbert. At the Monday press conference with he and head coach Mike Tomlin, Colbert had two mini rants where he said it's "horrible" when people put out "much misinformation" via whatever means regarding "a kid’s...character," and that they themselves "don't pay attention to mock drafts (*ahem*) but rather do their own "due diligence." 

In my humble opinion, that had Marcus Peters' name written all over it. Add to that they met with Peters at the NFL Combine, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake was at Washington's Pro Day, and then Peters was also brought in for an official visit. It just seems to add up his being the pick at no. 22.
Alternatives: (our choice) Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest;
Byron Jones, CB, UConn;
Owamaghbe Odighizuwa DE/OLB, UCLA;
Danny Shelton, DT/NT, Washington;

T.J. Clemmings, OG/OT, Pittsburgh;
Eddie Goldman, DT/NT, Florida St. 

Round 2 - Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB, Louisville: 
"That which doesn't kill me makes me strong enough to kick your whiny butt." (That's how the saying goes, right?) Well, Mauldin endured in 16 different foster homes growing up and it made him stronger. It made him strong enough to be a productive pass rusher, but didn't kill his character. He sounds like a Steeler. 
Alternatives: Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami, OH;
Eric Rowe, CB/FS, Utah;
Nate Orchard, DE/OLB, Utah;
Preston Smith, DE/OLB, Miss. St.;
Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia.

Round 3 - (Split) Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary:
The Steelers need a no. 4 WR who could someday be more, McBride is worth the pick, and it's Mike Tomlin's alma mater. A very feasible selection. 
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: 
Ekpre-Olomu doesn't seem to get that he's on the smaller side. He tackles, he has power that belies his frame, he tackles, he battles on every play...oh, and he tackles: he had over 200 in three seasons at Oregon. But we can't take that many CBs, either. 
Alternatives: D'Joun Smith, CB, Florida Atlantic. 

Round 4 - Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss: 
Remember the Redskins' Pat Fischer...? Golson isn't very big, but all he does is make big plays. The Steelers could use someone like that.
Alternatives: Derron Smith, FS, Fresno St.;
Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma;

Steve Nelson, CB, Oregon St

Round 5 - Jesse James, TE, Penn State:
Can the "outlaw" and "biker" jokes. Ok? Good, because this is one player the Steelers have had their eyes on for a while. Big, strong, can block and has upside. Let's be Frank, James, I think you'll be riding right on into town very soon. (Sorry, I couldn't resist one after all.)
Alternatives: Shaquille Mason, G/C, Georgia Tech;
Davis Tull, DE/OLB, Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Round 6 - Max Valles, OLB, Virginia: 
Every time I watched film of Virginia's Eli Harold, I saw Valles doing something impressive. Young and raw, Valles may have come out too early. But that could also be to his advantage in that he could virtually be a tabula rasa for the right coaching staff. 
Alternatives: Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami, Fl.

Round 6 (Comp) - Kyle Emmanuel, OLB, North Dakota State:
A big fish in a small pond, but the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive MVP did lead the FCS with 19.5 sacks. Who knows, he might make a living as a valuable reserve with starting capability - every team needs those.
Alternatives: Dexter McDonald, CB, Kansas

Round 7 - Troy Hill, CB, Oregon:
Per Pro Football Focus, he actually grades out better than Ekpre-Olomu, the tackling guru mentioned above, but didn't get the press. That's ok, his the swagger caught my attention. 
Alternatives: Corey Crawford, DE, Clemson.

There you have it - the first and last If It Ain't Steel Mock Draft. Let's just hope I get at least one right.

ADDENDUM: I don't know why it hadn't dawned on me that I had 4 CBs, so I adjusted it. In my defense, though, there are several CBs and edge rushers who will be available starting in the 3rd round who could be be with the team for years to come. Part of the reason for that also, though, is explained in the "Tidbits" section. 


DE/OLB Eli Harold, Virginia
DE/OLB Nate Orchard, Utah
CB Senquez Golson, Mississippi
TE C.J. Uzomah, Auburn
CB Marcus Peters, Washington
CB Alex Carter, Stanford
DE/OLB Max Valles, Virginia
WR Breshad Perriman, UCF
QB Tyler Murphy, Boston College
TE Wes Saxton, South Alabama
WR Sammie Coates, Auburn
TE Cameron Clear, Texas A&M
G Quinton Spain, West Virginia
TE Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
TE Kennard Backman, UAB
DT Xavier Cooper, Washington State
DE/OLB Randy Gregory, Nebraska
WR Devin Gardner, Michigan
WR Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
CB Steven Nelson, Oregon State
CB Darryl Roberts, Marshall
CB Bryce Callahan, Rice
CB Eric Rowe, Utah
CB Doran Grant, Ohio State
DE/OLB Kyle Emanuel, North Dakota State
S Landon Collins, Alabama
DE Preston Smith, Mississippi State:
DE/OLB: Davis Tull, Tennessee-Chattanooga.
(Over half were edge rushers and/or cornerbacks.)

RB Matt Jones, Florida
C Max Garcia, Florida
CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky
OLB Danielle Hunter, LSU
CB Jalen Collins, LSU
OLB Shane Ray, Missouri
OLB Markus Golden, Missouri
OLB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville
WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
CB Charles Gaines, Louisville
S Gerod Holliman, Louisville.
(3/4 of them were edge rushers and/or cornerbacks.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Troy Polamalu: One of the Greatest Steelers Ever...and a Greater Man Still

“When the time comes to leave, just walk away quietly and don’t make any fuss.” - Banksy, Wall and Piece

Thursday night, after an already full day of activity, yet more news surfaced regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers. News regarding quite possibly the greatest Steelers safety, and one of the best strong safeties to lace up a pair of cleats: Troy Aumua Polamalu has retired. 

Make no mistake, it was time for the former USC graduate to walk away. Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider, who first broke the news of Polamalu's decision, wrote that it came after a good deal of contemplation saying that he "started to debate whether [he] should come back or should [he] play....”, but that family was the main reason. -

And from a logical standpoint, one can truly breathe a sigh of relief as the team can now look firmly to the future, get younger on defense and focus on forming a strong defense again. 

But this isn't about logic or about the X's and O's of a team yet to be assembled. This is purely about emotion, the emotion engendered by a man who was gracious, yet relenting; tempered, yet tenacious; benevolent, yet beguiling and God fearing, yet fearsome and fearless.

Polamalu's legacy isn't simply about numbers - though he retires with 770 career tackles, his 32 interceptions aren't even among the top 150 of NFL players for a career. But every INT, every forced fumble and every fumble recovery he made simply seemed to be just what the Steelers needed at the time. Or to be a spectacular "Did you see that?!" moment. And often, it was both.

As the Steelers’ first-round draft pick in 2003, one for whom they traded up, Polamalu was considered a bust in his rookie season. But it wasn't long before he came to be known for uncanny instincts and an athletic prowess that was coupled with fearful physicality. It was that player who found his way into the hearts of fans and the sleepless nights of foes and offensive coordinators alike, and many of whom are lining up to praise him. - 

Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review once asked arch-rival Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh about Polamalu and Harbaugh said: "You had to account for him at all times. We had times when we didn't account for him, and I was like, 'He is wearing No. 43 and he has hair down to his shoulders. There's no way we should miss the guy, right? Block him. Block him, please.'" -

At his best he was a safety whom you could deploy virtually anywhere on the field - he had the speed to cover deep, as was memorably evidenced by his one-handed interception in 2009 against Kenny Britt and the Tennessee Titans, by his pick six off of Joe Flacco over the middle-left in the 2008 AFC Championship game or the numerous times he perfectly timed the snap count and caught the quarterback or running back before a second or third step could be taken. 

Polamalu will certainly be remembered as a safety who transformed the position in the NFL. My most endearing memory, though, isn't a game-winning INT or a pick six or even a vicious hit he levied against a ball carrier. 

My greatest memory might just be the scene that unfolded after he had made a mistake on a play that could've resulted badly for the Steelers. Troy recognized his mistake and walked off the field with his head down and headed straight for his defensive coordinator - "Coach Dad" - Dick LeBeau. 

LeBeau hugged him while taking his helmeted head in hand and consoled him. Troy's approach and demeanor was that of a child in his father's embrace. Troy just stood there listening to Coach Dad's sage words. 

The relatively short time the camera captured the two seemed more like several minutes - time wrapped its heavy hands around each second and brought us all into that embrace with them because we had all already been in that position. 

That's who Troy was. He was a humble, soft-spoken, everyday man whom you could be proud to let your sons emulate or to let your daughters swoon over. He was the player whose jersey you were never ashamed to wear. He was the player you knew one day you'd see giving a dignified and deflective Hall of Fame speech. 

One day he'll do just that. Until then, though, you won't hear from him. He won't seek out fanfare or a self-aggrandizing press conference. He'll relax with his family until it's time for his luxurious and curly locks to adorn his bronzed bust in Canton. 

That's the man he is. He knew it was time to leave, and so he just walked away quietly and didn't make any fuss.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bell Suspended, DeCastro Extended, Steelers Scheduled Presented and CBs Visited

Thursday proved to be a busy day for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was good news, there was bad news and there was Hall of Fame news. Well, sort of...

Early this morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell has been suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the season: "@AdamSchefter: Pitt RB LeVeon Bell suspended 3 games, fined additional game check for violating substance abuse policy, per league sources. He is appealing."

As reporter Gregg Rosenthal posted regarding the August 20, 2014 incident, "Detective Brian Kohlhepp of the Ross Township, Pennsylvania Police Department confirmed to NFL Media that running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were pulled over Wednesday around 1:30 p.m. ET. They, along with an unidentified female passenger in the backseat, were taken into custody and admitted to marijuana possession." The arresting officer had found a "20 gram bag of marijuana inside the car."

Regarding the appeal, Steelers beat writer for ESPN Scott Brown doesn't believe the suspension stays at three games saying, "...there is no way the three-game suspension sticks. The collective bargaining agreement -- not to mention common sense -- won't allow it." -

Regardless, as it is that the Chong to Bell's Cheech, erstwhile teammate and current New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount, was also suspended (one game) for his part in the incident, the NFL will likely no longer pair the two teams on its opening weekend Thursday Night Football kickoff as both teams will be without two of their stars.

Next came word Thursday that Steelers exercised the extension on right guard David DeCastro. Picking up DDC's option means he'll make the average of the salaries for the "3rd-25th highest paid" OG's in NFL, per Pro Football Talk. Being that the option is for injury only, and that he is set to receive a salary of $8,070,000 in 2016, a longterm deal is likely imminent.

Signing him to a new deal would seem especially prudent considering that DDC truly established himself this past season and should've been a Pro Bowl participant. The last thing the Steelers want is for the player many are calling 'the next Alan Faneca" to become...the next Alan Faneca.

Embedded image permalink"Steelers Live" announced the team's preseason schedule at 4 pm EST and probably drew a greater audience than whatever baseball game was on at the time. The only date known at present "obviously" is the Hall of Fame game on August 9, 2015. -

Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant had already visited the Steelers, then Thursday saw more CBs making trips to the Southside. As first reported by Steelers Digest's Bob Labriola, Stanford's Alex Carter, Washington's troubled-yet-mega-talented CB Marcus Peters and Virginia linebacker Max Valles made visits.

Though we believe Carter is a potential Steelers 2nd-round selection, the focus was definitely on Peters. Even though he was kicked off of his college team, Peters is considered by many as the best CB in the NFL Draft and that he would be a good fit with the Steelers. Interestingly, in addition to Thursday's visit, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met with Peters at the NFL Combine. Further still, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake and former Steelers tight end and current scout Mark Bruener were at Washington's Pro Day.

If It Ain't Steel's preference may be Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson in the first round, but we wouldn't be in any way hurt over Peters' being selected instead. Just sayin'...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The 2015 Steelers 1st-Round NFL Draft Possibles, Alternates and the Borgias.

Approximately a month ago we were asked to post our thoughts on whom the Pittsburgh Steelers might and/or should take in the first round of April's 2015 NFL Draft. Well, going over each of the players we believe would be viable choices for the Steelers turned out to take longer than expected as well as causing data to accumulate. In doing so, either we needed empirical data to back up what we already believed, or we needed to masticate on whether a potential draftee was deserving of his post-NFL Combine and pre-Draft rise. We may not have been writing under the If It Ain't Steel Blog umbrella, but it didn't mean that the work wasn't going into the evaluations. So, barring a trade down, and without further ado, here are the 10 men we feel may hear their names called in association with the team in Steel Town, USA.

ALVIN "BUD" DUPREE: 6'4" 269 LBs, 4.56/40, 42" Vertical -
Many of you whom we have interacted with on social media are probably thinking we must've been drinking the Kool-Aid regarding this one. Bear with us, though, there is something that puts him over the edge. Our original thoughts were that the game film dictated his being better with his hand on the ground than he is standing up. Also, that he's an inconsistent pass rusher who doesn’t always exhibit good hand use, his speed rush can be a little out of control, he doesn't have a good amount of pass rushes in his repertoire even causing him to being pancaked a couple of times (from the right side) and has trouble anchoring against the run.

BUT....Dupree has an excellent and explosive first step, his speed rush has at times forced tackles to cheat their kick-slide which allowed them to be beaten inside, he also has explosive speed, his long arms cover over other ills in his run defense, and we fully admit to loving his motor and hustle.

Unfortunately, we saw a player who we felt translated better to an NFL 4-3 DE than to a 3-4 OLB because of his being so very raw. What pushed us, though, over from the Con to the Pro side is something his bio at said. And we quote, "He must continue to improve as a pass rusher, but his traits are undeniable. Difference between being good and great might be his coordinator." Sage words that could be prophetically descriptive of defensive line coach John Mitchell, outside linebackers coach Joey Porter and defensive coordinator (and former linebackers coach) Keith Butler. All of that and his being an underclassman, something the Steelers love, he is slightly ahead of the other edge rushers.

OWAMAGHBE ODIGHIZUWA: 6'3" 267 LBs, 4.62/40, 39 Vert., 25 reps Bench Press -
Personal choice. A huge and ripped Zulu Warrior-built weapon who can get off the ball and convert speed to power. He has huge (11") hands making him very strong at the point of attack, especially against the run. He is relentless and versatile, but he has one definite downside in that he isn't really a pass rusher. That, also, could be what very well keeps the Steelers from drafting him.

PRESTON SMITH: 6'5" 271 LBs, 4.74/40, 34" Vert. -
Certain pundits and mocks have chosen defensive end Nate Orchard as a possible pick here, presumably if the other edge rushers are gone. We prefer, though, to go farther south to get DE/OLB Preston Smith in such a "best player available" eventuality. Why? He's bigger and faster than Orchard, and he uses that power and speed well. He comes off the edge with the intent to do harm and looks like he's always in a bad mood on the field. He can even slide inside to the one-technique and attack the A-gap. And while he has the quickness to do so, he still doesn't have the quickness of some, say like that of the aforementioned Orchard. He also has the tendency to give up on a play that goes away from him. This one is possible, but not necessarily probable.

DANNY SHELTON: 6'2" 340 LBs, 5.64/40, 34 reps Bench Press -
Look, we don't expect Shelton to fall to no. 22 to begin with, but the idea has been tossed around that a run on other positions, like edge rusher, cornerback and/or offensive lineman, could push him down the line. In such a scenario, he'd likely be the best athlete available and could fall to the Steelers. Now, we don't believe this is overly likely as we are not down on current Steelers NT Steve McLendon as others are. But the best player available is the best player available. Especially one who is a bona fide run stuffer, often faced and handled double teams, plays the requisite gaps and techniques and even got to the quarterback (9 sacks in 2014).

EDDIE GOLDMAN: 6'4" 336 LBs, 5.27/40, 26" Vert. -
Take every argument and superlative just said about Shelton and apply it to Goldman. Then add that he's actually much more explosive than Shelton, but take away from him the fact that he's nowhere near as polished, nor is he as mighty a pass rusher. But, his raw qualities make him enough of a tabula rasa that he could be molded into exactly what would be desired. You have to have at least one out-of-the-box pick in any mock or breakdown and this is ours. (What? Did you think Mike Tomlin was at Florida State's Pro Day just for cornerbacks Ron Darby and P.J. "Joyride" Williams???)

KEVIN JOHNSON: 6'0" 188 LBs, 4.52/40, 41.5" Vert., 6.79 3-Cone Drill -
Pardon me while I wipe the drool away...
Personal choice to say the least. We love Johnson. Great feet, is great at flipping his hips, is smooth with great balance, squares up greatly, has a great backpedal...aww, hell, he's just great. Yes, we know that Trae Waynes is the consensus top cornerback, and for good reason, but there are three CBs who are just head-and-shoulders above the rest. Johnson fits the Steelers' mold, though: he uses great technique, he likes to throw his body into ball carriers, and he is a natural athlete - maybe the best athlete at the position. There are only two knocks to him and his game - he has a bit of a thin frame for an NFL CB, especially in the legs, and while he played both man and off coverage, he had the tendency to be too aggressive resulting in pass interference calls. -

MARCUS PETERS: 6'0" 197 LBs,4.53/40, 37.5" Vert. -
If not for being kicked off of his college team, amongst other run-ins, Peters would be ahead of Waynes as the top CB pick in 2015. Pure talent. Prototype body. As fluid and as natural a pair of hips as you will find. An intimidator. Virtual textbook man-cover corner. Tracks and high-points the ball with the best of them allowing him to come away with the interception. Honestly, not too much negative can be said of him. Though, maybe, his long speed isn't the best, and he actually is a bit handsy at times when in tight spaces, but that's about it. If Peters drops to, or past, the Steelers, it's purely because of his behavioral/emotional issues.

T.J. CLEMMINGS: 6'5" 309 LBs, 5.14/40, 22 reps Bench Press -
Local kid, long and athletic, versatile- can play 3 positions, has a fluid kick-slide and has the strength to make virtually any block ... yeah, we could see it. After all, the Steelers are known to stay close to the ball in there first pick. Check their last 15 first rounders.

SHAQ THOMPSON: 6'0" 228 LBs, 4.64/40, 20 reps Bench Press, 6.99 3-Cone Drill -
The limb will probably break beneath us, but we're out here nonetheless. Thompson is talented, athletic and relentless. His biggest impact in pass coverage rather than as a pass rusher. He'll also be better in pursuit (including backside pursuit) as a run defender. Bulk up and play inside/middle linebacker? Slim down even more and stay light and quick? How about stay where you are and be the hybrid defender that the NFL is going to anyway? He could be the right team's X-factor. But if you're going to be a 6'0" 228-pound hard-hitting safety type, then why not just take...

LANDON COLLINS: 6'0" 228 LBs, 4.53/40, 35" Vert., 16 reps Bench Press -
Easily the best safety in a year wanting of safeties. Plays down in the box a lot, but can cover with good speed. Lacks recovery speed, though, and has hands of stone - good for Roberto Duran, bad for a defensive back (just ask Ike Taylor). But Collins has a definite career on Sundays. Will it be with the Steelers? That depends on Shamarko Thomas' hamstrings.

There you have it, the players we feel are amongst those on the Steelers board. If you were looking for particular names that weren't here, there was likely good reason. Names such as the aforementioned Waynes (gone), Vic Beasley (gone), Shane Ray (gone), Eli Harold (2nd rounder) or Maxx Williams (LOL). But, depending on the reception this receives, a follow-up piece covering rounds two and three might just cover them as well. Stay tuned.