2011 Steelers Draft: Strong Start, Still Plenty to Do

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.

Running Back
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

Wide Receiver
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

Tight End
Virgil Green, Nevada, Round 4
D.J. Williams, Arkansas, Round 4 or 5

Offensive Line
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

Nose Tackle
Ian Williams, Notre Dame, Round 4 or 5
Jerrell Powe, Ole Miss, Round 5 or 6
Anthony Gray, Southern Miss, Round 6 or 7

Linebacker
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

Safety
Shioh Keo, Idaho, Round 4 or 5
Deunta Williams, North Carolina, Round 5 or 6

Cornerback
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

Kicker
Alex Henery, Nebraska, Round 5 or 6

This entry was posted in 2011 mock draft, Cool Stuff, Draft, Front Office, Offensive Line and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Anonymous

    This would look real nice to me:
    4 – Marcus Cannon
    5 – Jerrell Powe
    6 – Deunta Williams
    7 – Cortez Allen

    I think BPA but at least 1 more DB of any kind somewhere where you think you get the best value. Don’t force it and take garbage if there’s just never any DB available of course, but I can’t see that happening.

    Cannon is a risk, but you could very well steal a great value from a projected top 50 guy. If Powe is gone, Ian Williams looks pretty much just as good to me.

    If I go by just the rounds you’ve listed, which for all I know are spot on – I think it’s pretty unpredictable in these rounds really – then Cortez Allen is gone before 7. In that case pick one of Deunta Williams and Cortez Allen in 6 and Da’Rel Scott in 7.

    • Ted

      I would do cartwheels with that third day. As you correctly noted, you really can’t predict rounds on day three and I could see any of the first three available at those spots. However, I see almost no chance that Allen falls to round seven, because he is a corner with good physical skills (size and speed) and they almost never fall to round seven. The knock on him was that he was never a great player at Citaldel and could not start at that school despite its lack of talent until he was a junior.

      Here is the interesting thing about your draft. We do not need that much depth for 2011 and instead are drafting more for 2012 and beyond at this point. In Cannon and Williams, you get two guys who would likely go on IR as rookies. No problem. You also get two guys who might have been top top 50 picks if not for Williams’ horrific leg injury against Tennessee in the bowl game and Cannon’s unfortunate late discovery of cancer before the draft, although he is expected to eventually make a full recovery and probably be fine for 2012. He will, however, undergo chemo over the next few months, will almost assuredly lose lots of weight and will need to be on IR for 2011.

      But we have plenty of depth on the 0-line for 11. At this point, I think we end up moving Colon to RG and starting Starks, Kemo, Pouncey, Colon and Adams. Even if a CBA is reached that lets Colon leave, we bring back Scott or Essex as a sixth man, start Foster again at RG, and still have Legursky, Gilbert and Chris Scott as No. 7 through 9. But from that list, Colon, Scott, Adams and Essex are not signed beyond 2011, with Essex and Scott not signed for 2011. If Gilbert starts at RT in 2012, Cannon could also easily beat out Foster for RG that year.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Ted, I didn’t know about your Texas connection. An interesting post would be your take on Mack Brown’s ability to get his players mentally prepared for the NFL. There are some notable examples of guys who weren’t, such as VY and Sweed. I don’t know if that had been Tony Hills’ problem or not. And hopefully it won’t be an issue for Curtis Brown.

    • Ted

      Mack is a great and an highly successful, awesome program coach who focuses on recruiting, networking with alumni, fans, media, and keeping the talent flowing. He lets his assistants do the coaching at this point and runs a pretty loose ship. Vince was babied too much at UT and he can take some blame for this. Sweed had some drops as a college frosh like most players, but then was very reliable and dependable. He did not develop psychological problems and major drop tendencies until he got to Pittsburgh.

      Hills was seen as a boom/bust pick and more likely a bust. A HS TE who never has had the mentality to play o-line, but has the feet to be a LT. Mack actually through Brown was too scared when he started recruiting him, but he was actually just a shy smalltown kid. Four years in Austin took away the shyness part. Like every CB, he has his ups and downs psychologically but will never become a basket case. Heck, Ike was a basket case in two different years during his career and is now easily our best CB since Woodson.

      • EasyLikeSundayMorning

        Thanks… interesting info and insights…

  • Caleb336

    Superb site.

    I am surprised that you omitted Chris Neild, who seems to be a prototypical Steeler interior defensive lineman. He had a great pro day, and is the classic run-stopping fireplug that Pittsburgh loves.

    And if you look at him, it quickly becomes apparent that Brett Keisel must be his father:

    http://static.nfl.com/static/content/catch_all/nfl_image/combine/headshots/2495319.jpg