Friday, April 25, 2008

So Who Will the Steelers Take?

The speculation is almost over. For the last few months, the Steelers have evaluated and interviewed hundreds and hundreds of prospects, and sometime Saturday evening, barring a trade, they will exercise their 23rd selection and add another member to the organization.

So who will it be? Well, that’s what we’re going to try and figure out.

First, we need to start with a pool of candidates. I’ve mentioned numerous times already that for the most part, our first round selection has almost always been someone who has come into Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit. By my count, they have visited with ten such players who merit first round consideration. They are (in no particular order):

RB Jonathan Stewart (Oregon)
WR James Hardy (Indiana)
WR Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma)
OT Jeff Otah (Pittsburgh)
OT Gosder Cherilus (Boston College)
OT/OG Branden Albert (Virginia)
DE/OLB Quentin Groves (Auburn)
ILB Jerod Mayo (Tennessee)
CB Aqib Talib (Kansas)
CB Mike Jenkins (South Florida)

Right off the bat, I think we can eliminate a few guys from consideration:

- At one point, Albert seemed like the logical pick. That was before his stock skyrocketed. Now, he’s a sure-fire top 15 pick, with a chance at cracking the top-10. I don’t think he even comes close to us.

- Otah would look good in the black and gold as well, but too many teams ahead of us need offensive tackles, so I’m of the opinion that he does not make it to us as well.

- Mayo is another interesting prospect who’s stock has risen, but I can’t see the Steelers taking another inside linebacker in the first round. If we’re going to go linebacker, it better be for an outside guy who can rush the passer.

- Previously, I would have thought that the Steelers would give serious consideration to Talib, but reports came out that he tested positive for marijuana numerous times while in college. With the recent legal problems of Wilson, Harrison, and Davenport, I don’t think they would consider touching him in the first round.

- Jenkins is a guy I like a lot, but like Albert, doesn’t make it to #23 in my mind.

This leaves us with five guys: Stewart, Hardy, Kelly, Cherilus, and Groves. Stewart has an outside chance of reaching us. He has dropped a bit because of injury concerns, but seems to have recovered and now seems like a top-20 pick again. But, if Albert and Otah are gone and Stewart makes it to our pick, I’m convinced the Steelers would take him. He’s too talented. As it is, though, I don’t think we sniff him. Kelly was once thought to be a top-15 pick, but a slow 40-time and injury concerns have dropped him to the 2nd round. Hardy seems like an early 2nd rounder to me as well, so I don’t think we take him, although it wouldn’t shock me if we did.

Now, two guys remain: Cherilus and Groves. Before Starks signed his transition tender, I was leaning towards Cherilus. But with the recent talk of signing Starks to a long-term deal, I don’t see the need for Cherilus because he’s strictly a right tackle and is not a candidate to move to the left side. In addition, he’s a very similar player to Starks, further bolstering my belief that he isn’t necessarily needed. I also don't see that much difference between Cherilus and guys you could get in the 2nd or 3rd round.

That leaves us with DE/OLB Quentin Groves from Auburn, and he’s my pick. The Steelers have shown considerable interest in him, going so far as to have Colbert and Tomlin attend his pro day. We are already pretty much set at outside linebacker, but Harrison isn’t that young (30 years old) and I’m confident Tomlin and Lebeau would find a way to use Groves skill set. Plus, you can never have enough pass rushers, as the Giants exhibited in the Super Bowl. They were in a similar situation a couple years ago, with Strahan and Umenyiora as their bookends, but they went ahead and took Boston College DE Mathias Kiwanuka in the 1st round anyways, and by the looks of it that seems to have worked out. In my mind, Albert, Otah, Stewart, and Jenkins will all be off the board, leaving Groves as the next best option.

All of this is predicated on the fact that we stand pat at #23. If we trade down, which has been heavily rumored, all bets are off. Personally, I would love to trade down and stockpile some picks, because I think there would still be a decent chance the Steelers could land Groves if that’s the guy they are targeting. Watch for a potential trade down with the Dolphins, Falcons, or Chiefs, who all could be looking to trade back up into the 1st round for a quarterback. As a summary, here’s how I think the Steelers draft board would look, based on the ten guys mentioned above.

1) Albert
2) Otah
3) Stewart
4) Jenkins
5) Groves
6) Cherilus
7) Hardy
8) Kelly
9) Talib
10) Mayo

We’ll find out what happens on Saturday. Look for another post sometime Saturday before the draft begins at 3 PM, where we’ll see if I can out-project Mel Kiper.

Also, check out Mike Batista's post over at for some more draft insight. He's got some good stuff, and he mentions a few names I did not in my post because they never visited the Steelers. For the record, I agree with him on possibly choosing Chris Williams if he falls to the Steelers, but I view Cason as more of a round 2 guy. That's what makes the draft great, though. It's an inexact science.


Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

MIke Prisuta (who doesn't know squat anyway) said this morning on WDVE that after "checking around," his sense is that the Steelers plan to take Mayo. Which does not excite me.

Cherilus reminds me, too, of Starks, and that ain't necessarily a good thing. I don't understand the infatuation with Cherilus. He gave up something like eight sacks last year playing "out of position" at left tackle. If he was any good, he'd have been a left tackle all along. That's where colleges put their best tackles: at left tackle.

I'd be okay with Groves. Or trading down. Didn't the Steelers also bring in Kentwan Balmer? I'd be okay with him too.

Dave Wannstache said...

I cannot see them taking Mayo. We need a thumper at inside linebacker, a run-stuffing two down player. We already have our three-down inside linebacker who can cover in Timmons. Mayo just doesn't make sense to me. It all could be moot, because Mayo could very well go top-15.

I don't really want Cherilus as well. He struggled at left tackle, and he's strictly a right tackle. Tomlin has continually preached "position flexibility", of which Cherilus has none.

The Steelers did not bring in Balmer, thankfully. I want no parts of him and would be extremely pissed if they take him. He's said to be an underachiever with a questionable motor, and only had one year of production. Just seems like a prototypical bust to me.

Dave Wannstache said...

Also keep an eye on Clemson DE Phillip Merling.

Steelers attended his Pro Day yesterday, and it seems like he bulked up to 290 pounds, making him a candidate for 3-4 defensive end. He never visited Pittsburgh, but I wouldn't be shocked if he were the pick either. Wouldn't mind it also. Depth along the defensive line is a problem.

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

That's interesting about Merling. I figured he was too light for the Steelers' scheme. 290 would work, though. That's a huge jump in weight for him. Makes you wonder how he did it.

About Balmer: Yeah, I'm leery of the one-year wonder thing. You can't help but wonder if the light went on just in time to make a push for the draft ... and whether it will go off again after he signs his contract.

Anonymous said...

Mike Prisuta lost any credibility he had with that "It's Grimm" cover story. I can't believe he still has a job after that episode.

Pat said...

Wow Wieters, I forgot all about that. What a blemish on his resume. I mean yeah, mistakes happen (they do here all the time). But seeing as the Steelers are always the biggest story in town and the beat on them hiring a new coach happens once every few decades, that is not the story you want to mess up.