Draft Review – Pittsburgh Steelers

by Tommy Lawlor  –  http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com

Pittsburgh Steelers

1 – DE Cam Heyward – 6’5, 290 – Ohio State
2 – OT Marcus Gilbert – 6’5, 330 – Florida
3 – CB Curtis Brown – 6’0, 185 – Texas
4 – CB Cortez Allen – 6’1, 197 – Citadel
5 – LB Chris Carter – 6’1, 248 – Fresno State
6 – OG Keith Williams – 6’4, 318 – Nebraska
7 – RB Barron Batch – 5’9, 200 – Texas Tech

I’m glad that Steelers GM Kevin Colbert is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves. He is just as good as any GM in the NFL right now. Colbert does a great job of making subtle moves (signing Mewelde Moore for instance) and making solid picks (LaMarr Woodley for instance). Colbert isn’t always going for the “wow” move that some guys are. It does help that he’s got a great foundation, but so does Bill Belichick. Still, seems at times Bill outsmarts himself in some personnel matters. Sometimes the obvious move is the smart move.

Colbert stuck with this philosophy and took Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward in the 1st round. Heyward is an ideal fit for the 3-4. He was excellent value at the end of the 1st round. Simple, obvious pick, but one that works for the Steelers more often than not. Pittsburgh needed some help at DE. Aaron Smith is so old that he remembers Brett Favre as a Green Bay Packer. Smith is a key guy for the Steelers. He’s got the ability to pressure the QB and play the run. In the last 2 years injuries limited him to just 11 total games. Factor in his age (35) and you can see where the Steelers needed to add a DE with good ability.

Heyward has big time potential. There were a handful of games where he looked like a dominant player that would be a Top 10 pick. Ask Penn State fans or Arkansas fans and they’re convinced Heyward was Ndamukong Suh and Reggie White rolled into one. Heyward didn’t play to that level each week and that’s one of the reasons he fell. He has good athletic ability for a big guy. He could play LDE in a 4-3. He’s strong enough and physical enough to be a DT as well. He’s got all the potential in the world. Heyward just needs some nudge to keep him at his best. He’s a good fit for Pittsburgh’s 3-4 and can also be a DT when they use a 4-man front in some Nickel/Dime situations.

Marcus Gilbert was an interesting pick in the 2nd round. That was less obvious, but still makes a ton of sense. The Steelers don’t seem inclined to keep Willie Colon around. That means they need a long term solution at RT. Enter Gilbert. Pittsburgh was obviously impressed with former Florida OL Maurkice Pouncey last year. We’ll see if they can have anywhere near that kind of luck with Gilbert, another UF alum. Gilbert is a big physical blocker. He’ll fit in well with the Steelers run oriented offense. I’m not sure Gilbert is ready to start right away, but he had a good Senior season and then helped himself in the postseason. He seems to be a guy on the rise. And we saw last year with Pouncey that the Steelers aren’t afraid to play a rookie OL if he shows that he can handle the job.  

In the 3rd round Pittsburgh went after Texas CB Curtis Brown. He is an excellent fit for their scheme. Brown is a physical, aggressive corner. He likes to press and battle WRs as they release. This fits in well with the Steelers style of defense. Brown is also a really good tackler. If you can’t tackle, you can’t play CB for the Steelers. Brown lacks top speed, but that’s okay since the Steelers play so much zone. Brown was good value in the 3rd and is a real good fit. Pittsburgh is likely to lose Ike Taylor in free agency so adding a CB was important.

Next up was another CB, Cortez Allen from Citadel. He is a big CB at 6’1, 197. That’s close to the size of Taylor. The Steelers hope Allen can be a physical press corner for them. He’s got great measurables. Even runs a 4.5 at that size, which is a hair faster than the smaller Brown (4.51). Allen has the physical tools to be an NFL CB. He’s raw and that’s what made him a mid-round guy. The level of competition is also a major concern. Good value in the 4th. I also like the fact that the Steelers took 2 CBs at this point. Finding mid-round CBs is tough. I think you increase your chances by taking 2 of them.

In the 5th round the Steelers may have gotten a major steal. They landed Fresno State pass rusher Chris Carter. He was a DE in college, but at only 6’1, 248 will need to be a 3-4 OLB in the pros. Most 3-4 teams like big, tall OLBs that can set the edge and handle TEs if needed. The Steelers have had a lot of success with OLBs that are 6’1, and 6’2. Carter fits them just fine. He’s quick, fast, and relentless. He could thrive in their 3-4 attack if he can adjust to playing LB. Carter put up really good numbers in college. He finished with 19.5 sacks, 38 TFLs, and 7 FFs. He made a lot of plays. Great fit and value.

The Steelers added another OL in the 6th round when they took Nebraska G Keith Williams. He’s exactly what you would think – big OL who can really run block, but has some physical limitations. Pulls pretty well and can block on the 2nd level. Another guy who is a good fit for what the Steelers want. Has a bit of a nasty streak and loves to mash on smaller defenders. Can he handle athletic DTs? That’s the big question.

Pittsburgh’s final pick was interesting. They went for Texas Tech RB Barron Batch. He rushed for 2,501 yards and 27 TDs in his career (what Barry Sanders would have called a good year when he was at Okla State). Batch wasn’t a workhorse runner for the Red Raiders. That’s not their style of offense. They don’t feed one guy 25 carries. Batch did catch 140 passes in his career, a very high total for a RB. He projects as a 3rd down back in the NFL. Batch has the right size and skill set. We know the Steelers know how to make good use of RBs. I didn’t think they’d go for someone like Batch, but if Moore leaves in FA that will make an opening for Batch. There isn’t anything great or compelling about Batch, but he could be a good role player and fill a hole in Pittsburgh’s roster.

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