It may have not been in the order that most projected, but the Steelers addressed their three primary needs in this draft through two days. They took the best player available left on their board in the first round in 6-5, 295-pound Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense and a tremendous talent who would have gone much earlier had this not been the deepest defensive end draft in NFL history.
In the second round the Steelers made a risky pick in Florida Marcus Gilbert, a powerful, 6-6, 330-pound right tackle prospect who has the footwork to potentially start at left tackle in a few years. Gilbert will be counted on to start at right tackle in 2012 when Flozell Adams (retirement) and Willie Colon (finally an unrestricted free agent, maybe?) are expected to leave the Steelers.
The key will be to motivate Gilbert, who often was lazy and inconsistent for the Gators. Although I am not high on Gilbert, I am more optimistic with this pick than I would have been in years past now that the Steelers have offensive line coach in Sean Kugler. I thought the front office should have taken a right tackle/guard prospect in Round 3 or 4, but Gilbert has more upside and the Steelers clearly preferred a pure tackle prospect in this draft since Max Starks is the team’s only tackle signed past 2011.
I realize I am much higher on Curtis Brown than most, but he was rated as the highest remaining player on Mel Kiper’s overall board at any position when the Steelers selected him. As the former editor of a magazine that covers University of Texas football, I watched nearly every Horns game over their careers and have been preaching to anyone who would listen that Brown was a better pure cover corner than Aaron Williams, who I predict will end up an NFL disappointment.
Now, I still think the Steelers should have traded up to get Miami’s Brandon Harris in Round 2, especially when he fell within a few spots of Pittsburgh’s No 63 spot before Houston traded up to get Harris at No. 60.
Brown, though, has the potential to be a good nickel back by the end of next season or 2012, and possibly a starter by 2013. He is also an excellent gunner on special teams who will be a much better No. 4 cornerback on the dress roster than Anthony Madison, who should not be re-signed. Of course if No. 1 corner Ike Taylor is not re-signed, the Steelers are in deep trouble at corner for 2011 regardless if they drafted Harris, Brown or both.
Having addressed their primary needs in rounds 1-3, the Steelers can now truly go best-player available and may well double-up at cornerback or the offensive line in Rounds 4 and 5.
There are plenty of great prospects still on the board for the Steelers. Here are few, with the rounds where they would represent the best value. These are not the rounds where I think these players will be drafted, but rather where they best fit the Steelers’ BPA philosophy. Every player listed will not fall as far as listed, but few thought Curtis Brown would be there at the end of the third round, and some guys could even go later than listed.
Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington, Round 4
Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State, Round 4
Bilal Powell, Louisville, Round 5 or 6
Dion Lewis, Pitt, Round 5 or 6
Da’Rel Scott, Maryland, Round 6 or 7
Mario Fanin, Auburn, Round 6 or 7
Jamie Harper, Clemson, Round 7
Edmond Gates, Abilene Christian, Round 4
Darvin Adams, Auburn, Round 5 or 6
Cecil Shorts, Mount Union, Round 5 or 6
Terrence Toliver, LSU, Round 6 or 7
DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss, Round 6 or 7
Virgil Green, Nevada, Round 4
D.J. Williams, Arkansas, Round 4 or 5
Clint Boling, Georgia, Round 4
Lee Ziemba, Auburn, Round 4
Marcus Cannon, TCU, Round 4 or 5
Zach Hurd, UCONN, Round 5 or 6
Jason Pinkston, Pitt, Round 5 or 6
Ian Williams, Notre Dame, Round 4 or 5
Jerrell Powe, Ole Miss, Round 5 or 6
Anthony Gray, Southern Miss, Round 6 or 7
Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, Round 4
Casey Matthews, Oregon, Round 4 or 5
Bruce Miller, UCF, Round 5 or 6
Scott Lutrus, UCONN, Round 5 or 6
Mario Harvey, Marshall, Round 6 or 7
Mario Addison, Troy, Round 6 or 7
Shioh Keo, Idaho, Round 4 or 5
Deunta Williams, North Carolina, Round 5 or 6
Brandon Burton, Utah, Round 4
Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State, Round 4
Davon House, New Mexico State, Round 4 or 5
Rashad Carmichael, Virigina Tech, Round 4 or 5
Kendric Burney, North Carolina, Round 4 or 5
Cortez Allen, Citadel, Round 5 or 6
Alex Henery, Nebraska, Round 5 or 6