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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Moving forward

With the Steelers apparently done with their flurry of free agent signings and things dying down in the Ben Roethlisberger saga - it has been nearly two weeks and no charges have been filed - it's time to start thinking more seriously about the draft.

The Steelers met with a number of rookies at the combine and will have more visiting Pittsburgh in the coming weeks. Normally, their draft picks come from the group of players they've checked out the most - though there have been exceptions to that rule over the years.

Here are the players with first-round or high second-round grades who they've already spoken to or will bring into Pittsburgh soon. I'm sure there are more, but these are the guys we know about so far:

Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Rolando McClain, ILb, Alabama
Earl Thomas, FS/CB, Texas
Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

Of those players, the last four would make the most sense to me.

With the signing of Antwaan Randle El, the Steelers really don't have room or the need for Tate, though I think he's one of the best offensive playmakers in this draft.

Robinson, to me, is more of a low-first, second-round pick. I watched him play a couple of times last season and just wasn't that impressed with him.

Weatherspoon could be added as the future replacement for James Farrior and if he were eventually paired with Lawrence Timmons, would perhaps give the Steelers more speed at ILB than they've ever had. But the signing of Larry Foote would make both he and McClain luxuries.

McClain has been viewed as a possible top-10 pick, but his admission to having Crohn's disease at Alabama's pro day recently, could cause his stock to drop. Fatigue, weight loss and abdominal pain are just a few of the symptoms of the disease and none are anything you want a player to suffer through during a grueling 6-month long season.

McClain would provide value at pick 18 to be sure, but like Weatherspoon, he would be something of a luxury item on this roster at this point.

That brings me to the last two guys who the Steelers have or will talk to.

Thomas played free safety for Texas and picked off eight passes last season. But he has the speed to line up at cornerback. In fact, he's actually faster than the player considered the top CB prospect in this draft, Florida's Joe Hayden.

The only knock on Thomas is his height. He's 5-10. Then again, so is Troy Polamalu.

Thomas would fill a definite need for the Steelers, even with the signing of Ryan Clark and Will Allen, particularly if he could be used immediately as a CB.

He would give the Steelers an immediate upgrade in terms of ball skills, something that is seriously lacking in the current group - Polamalu aside.

As for Iupati, frequent readers of this blog will remember that prior to the Senior Bowl, I touted the big man as a player to watch at the Senior Bowl as a possible first-round pick for the Steelers.

Nothing has changed in that regard. He's an excellent run blocker and though his pass blocking needs some work, that is often the case with kids coming out of college. His size and demeanor cannot be overlooked.

For the Steelers, a first-day pick – remember, the draft is three days long this year - of Iupati or Thomas would be outstanding.


Anonymous said...

nice article Dale. What would you do if both Iupati and Thomas are there? I think this is quite possible.

I would take Thomas and try to trade up for Pouncey. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance at all the 1st Round pick will be a NT? Have they closed the book on Dan Williams or do they think he won't be there at 18? I believe it would be a serious mistake to go for a NT during this draft, with so many teams changing into 3-4 the possibilities of getting a first grade NT will decrease, specially during the next offseason.

Anonymous said...

sorry a big mistake in not going for a NT during this draft.

alexrkirby said...

No Dan Williams but two ILBer's? Drafting another ILB 2 years after taking Timmons would be a terrible mistake and all but declare Timmons a failure. You just don't need a 1st round pick to man that spot in our scheme.

The only guy I like on this list is Iuputi.

Not even a look at Kyle Wilson?

Dale Lolley said...

I really don't see them going first round for another defensive lineman after taking one last season.
NT is certainly an important position, but remember, they've had a lot of success with Chris Hoke at NT in the past. Then think about guys such as Kelly Gregg. They can be found later in the draft.

As for which player I'd take, Thomas or Iupati, that's a good question and I'm sure there would be some serious debate in the draft room.

I would probably take Thomas since he's a guy who can take the ball away from the other team.

Benjamin said...

Dale, do you think McClain's crohn's disease is serious enough to keep the Steelers from drafting him? Guy seems like a hell of a talent, but the thought of losing him for weeks at a time to a chronic illness is troubling.

I think the Steelers have set themselves up so they can draft the true BPA every round. They have needs, but because of their FA moves, none are glaring. McClain has top-10 talent. If he's there at 18, do you take him?

Patrick said...

Put me down for Earl Thomas if hes there, if not Iupati.

Earl Thomas is a young guy who could use a yar leaning but in the mean time hopefully make some noise on 3rd down and special teams.

Patrick said...

year learning.......

alexrkirby said...

Where is Earl Thomas going to play, at cb? A position he has never played? Are you going to sit Troy or Clark for him? Does he just come in on 3rd down for the next two years?

Earl Thomas would be a bad pick. After signing Clark we have no need at safety and taking a guy in the 1st round to play a position he has never played would be terrible.
The steelers have a hard enough time scouting cb's as it is, now we are going to try and convert a guy to cb?

Iuputi, Dan Williams or Kyle Wilson would be much safer picks that address bigger needs.

Patrick said...

at CB we have: Taylor, Gay, (he was awesome last year wasn't he?), Burnett (total ?) and Lewis (could barely get on the field due to injuries)

Yeh I'll roll the dice on Thomas being able to play CB and if not having valuable back up at either S spot (as compared to Mundy or Allen) with a look to the future.

Also, they have a 3 safety package.

(and lets not forgot Troy isn't exactly bullet proof and Clark is 30)

Iupati, I like as a pick but thats basically admitting Urbik sucks.

Dale Lolley said...

I'm quite sure Thomas could play the slot in the nickel, taking Deshea Townsend's old spot, right away.

I'm also pretty sure he and Polamalu teamed at safety as early as the 2011, would give the Steelers the best safety duo they've had in years.

As for McClain, the Crohn's would make me cautious with him.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if Iupati is the pick, does that mean the plug is already pulled on Urbik?

I think they absolutely need more talent at DB. We never got to see Lewis or Burnett, so I don't know if they're the answer.

joseph said...

I agree with your best guess. I'm pimping Thomas. Iupati would be my 2nd choice. I like Weatherspoon too. Much more than the thought of Larry Foote.

Dale Lolley said...

They won't pull the plug on Urbik yet. This is a big year for him. He didn't show much last year.

Anonymous said...

Looks familiar.

Steve said...

As bad our secondary was last year let us not forget that when Troy was on the field it was fine. In effect we are getting a huge upgrade by way of a healthy Troy.

FS is one of the least valuable positions in football. Follow the money, it is one of the lowest paid positions.

marc said...

thomas might help take the ball away, but a top-notch run blocking lineman will help keep the ball away as well.

does it mean urbik is done? i don't know and really don't care. we need better o-linemen to run the ball more effectively and take some pressure off our defense.

draft iupati, let them battle it out at camp, and kick urbik to the curb if he can't make the cut.

Joe said...

Looking at positions they have I think it is safe to say NT, WR and LB won't be pick areas in the first round. I would venture a guess that the Ben situation will have come to a head long before draft day one way or another at QB. My guess right now is we are looking at RB (luxury), OL, CB & perhaps a DE (luxury) if they fell into our laps. From there, I would lean towards OL & CB in the first round and who fits the Steelers better out of the top 4 OT (doubt they are available), Iupati and either Haden (I doubt is available), Thomas or K Wilson. Long and short I would lean towards Iupati (plus drafting a fullback in the later rounds!) thinking that being able to run the ball to control the clock, the healthy return of Polamalu and A Smith, and the development of either Lewis or Burnett will be enough to put a bandage on CB play this year.

Another Dale said...

Any chance the Steelers would take Maurkice Pouncey, the Center from Florida?

When ESPN was showing Tebow at Florida's Pro Day this morning, they had a shot of Tomlin observing. I don't think we'd take Tebow (especially in the first round), but Pouncey was likely there and he has a chance to be a special player.

Anonymous said...

Pouncey's the goods. He's the clear #1 interior OL in this class,in my mind. I like him a lot more than Iupati.

That said, I'd want neither at the 18th pick. You don't draft interior guys top 20. And if you're forced to do so, they better have ZERO questions(a la Hutchinson when he came out). Iupati's pass blocking is flat out bad. Bad enough to make him not worth the 18.

If the draft breaks a certain way and it's a question of CB(and for Thomas to be worth that pick he'd need to be viewed as a CB) or Iupati, I hope they take the CB and then attempt to trade up into the early second to have a shot at Pouncey. He could play G at first if they want to stick with Hartwig, but Pouncey is absolutely elite and could probably start for quite a few teams at C tomorrow.

There are several other guards who are just as projectable as Iupati is as a run blocker. John Jerry's probably as good(and better in pass protection) and Mike Johnson probably is too, just to name a couple. Neither of them will require a #1 pick to acquire and neither of them played against the yawner competition in the WAC.

I don't think Iupati blows, but I think he's being overrated. He's a guard. Period. Remember how long Duke Robinson was thought of as a 'lock for the first round' a year ago? Where'd he get selected again? I won't be totally ticked if Pittsburgh takes Iupati at 18....but I will feel like they didn't get the best value for their pick. He'll need to be the next Faneca to justify it.

datruth4life said...

Dale, would you take S Earl Thomas over CB/KR/PR Kyle Wilson?

marc said...

if they got thomas at 18 then traded up to get pouncey that would be the best of both worlds.

datruth4life said...

I really hadn't thought about taking Earl Thomas at no. 18 and then moving him to CB. That would be a projection pick, and I don't know how comfortable I'd feel projecting a player to corner and then trying to get him ready to play the position from Day One this season. The Steelers need someone who can come in and start at CB RIGHT NOW. Ike can't catch and is coming off a bad year and Gay can't play corner -- PERIOD!

Thomas is intriguing, though, because you know he could come in and play in the slot and nickel D right away. I like the thought of giving Dick LeBeau another playmaker in the secondary with Troy, though. Thoughts?

Dale Lolley said...

When Troy was on the field early in the season, there were no problems with the corners. They could play as they had in the past and knew they had Troy behind them.
With Troy out, I think they got tentative and started thinking too much.

You can't have enough playmakers in your secondary. Thomas, in my opinion, is the best playmaker in the secondary in this draft.

As for Wilson, I have not yet seen anything about the Steelers meeting with him. Doesn't mean they haven't or won't. In fact, I would bet that they will if they haven't already. If you read the intro into the piece, I state that I'm looking at guys the Steelers have spoken to already or have scheduled a meeting with in the near future.

Patrick said...

I just wrote a long comment that got killed by the internet somehow.

I think Thomas could play either 3rd CB or S on passing downs in his first year or two and then be a dominant safety with plenty of time to learn the system. In 3 years I think he'll still be 24, 25 at most, and by then there will be a glaring hole at safety.

And like Dale said, this team needs a playmaker back there besides Troy. Rewatch the 2009 season for evidence. One big play by the secondary in 4 or 5 games this year and the Steelers win.

datruth4life said...


I agree that the Steelers desperately need another playmaker back there. Our current corners make no plays on the ball at all. I wonder if Earl Thomas could be a starting CB for this team when the season opens because that is what they need.

The Steelers could do a lot worse than Thomas at no. 18 but he does fit their recent profile for no. 1 draft picks: Younger than the average senior, athletic, productive and coming from a Big Time program. Mike Mayock from loves this kid (has him rated higher than Eric Berry), which is enough for me.

datruth4life said...

Jim Wexell said he expects the Steelers to get 2 5th round picks and a 7th round pick in compensatory picks at next year's NFL meetings. That would give the Steelers 10 draft picks in one of the deepest drafts in a decade. Time to plug some holes and get this team back to the show.

datruth4life said...

I meant in next week's NFL owners meeting, where they normally announced the awarded extra compensatory picks. Considering the Steelers finished behind both the Raven and the Bengals, the front office and scouting department has to hit paydirt with this draft. Thoughts?

Patrick said...

accoridng to Mr. Wexell, the Steelers have lined up a visit with Benn (WR).

something is up here, either Holmes is in trouble, on the trading block, or not going to be resigned. Or Ward told them this is his last year. And Sweed is mostly likely gone.

Why waste a visit with a WR? Something is going on.

Patrick said...

For once, I agree with Patrick. Something is going on at WR.

I had said last season that I thought the Rooneys would not re-sign Holmes when his contract is up. Dale disagreed then, and he said the team really likes Holmes. I think Ward will stick around a few more years, so maybe something is up with Wallace.

datruth4life said...

I think that is just the Steelers covering their bases. If he falls later than what they expect and he's deemed great value at where they'd be picking at, then they might still take him. Who knows? There is a lot of smoke and mirrors at this time of the year, but with them bringing him in for a visit does say there is some interest there.

Let's not be so quick to get rid of Santonio Holmes. No. 1 WRs about to enter their prime don't grow on trees in the NFL and they can have his services for the next 2 years if they want to (let him play out his last year this season and then franchise him for the next) without giving him a long-term contract.

But just like they usually do, I'm sure they will talk contract extension with both Woodley and Holmes (and Coach Tomlin) after the draft and just before training camp begins.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that people pimp McClain so much. I wonder how much tape they have watched of him. There is about an hour available online and I unfortunately watched all of it. It shows his coverage skills, pass rush, run stuffing etc. He does everything adequately but nothing spectacularly well. Also he tackles high and missed quite a few tackles. I also saw him eliminated from quite a few plays and out of place on coverage a few times. He is not lousy but to say he is a top 10 pick with all of the question marks with his health, come on. I think that people get mock draft fever without watching the tape. I know the steelers will watch the tape and I agree with Dale that of all of the prospects we have a shot at, Earl Thomas is the best. Speed, hands, dynamic hitter, tackles low, and gets his man. Even if he doesn't translate to corner, he with troy is freekin scary. We won't even need corners with the two of them.:)

Anonymous said...

There's something up at WR alright: Sweed blows and they're getting ready to push the handle down on his final flush. Randle El, Battle and Ward are all over 30 as well IIRC. In a couple years they could have Holmes, Wallace one.

That's what's going on at WR. But in regard to Benn, I'd say it's pretty clear: Sweed's days on the roster are numbered.

Dale Lolley said...

Some of the guys they bring in just may be for medical check ups. Perhaps the guy had something physically wrong with him or something showed up on his tests that they want to re-check.

And, as mentioned, Ward isn't getting any younger.

Anonymous said...

How much do you trust Troy playing all 16 games next year? I'd rather not have a "house of cards" secondary that falls apart when Troy isn't in.

I thought Benn was supposed to be very inconsistent, like Limas Sweed 2.0.

Anonymous said...

Benn was actually getting better each year....until 2009. Last year he pretty much stunk comparatively.

Some stuff I've seen written blame a lot of that on Williams' inconsistency in '09 rather than Benn's. I think it's a decent sized red flag regardless.

keevin said...

I'd be really happy with Rolando McClain or Earl Thomas.

McClain can take a year to learn the system and then replace Farrior. Earl Thomas can play nickelback as a rookie and then replace Ryan Clark as the starting free safety. Clark would be a good 3rd safety and special teams guy.

keevin said...

btw, it would be a huge mistake if the Steelers don't re-sign SB MVP Santonio Holmes

please keep us updated Dale

Anonymous said...


Any word on how Frank Summers is doing? Is he all healed and ready to go? Do you think he'll start at FB?

Anonymous said...

The Steelers are drafting OC/OG Maurkice Pouncey with the 18th pick overall.

Nuf said. Peace.