Friday, April 29, 2011

Steelers draft Ironhead's son

By Mike Batista

If there's anyone out there who still wishes the Steelers had drafted Pitt running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward in 1988, hopefully they have more than made up for it by drafting his son Thursday night.

The Steelers chose Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward with the 31st pick. The 6-foot-5, 294-pounder was one of my thumbs-up guys in my draft analysis. He can stop the run and rush the passer.

Heyward fills a need on the Steelers' aging defensive line. Who knows if 35-year-old Aaron Smith will ever be the same, and Brett Keisel is 32.

So now it becomes that much more important that the Steelers choose a cornerback in the second round. Many mock drafters had Aaron Williams of Texas going to them in the first round. I would have been pissed if they picked him. He's more of a safety.

Franco Harris will announce the Steelers' second-round pick tonight. I want to hear him say either "Ras-I Dowling of Virginia" or "Davon House of New Mexico State."

Hopefully one of those guys will be available when the Steelers pick at No. 63 overall. Besides Williams, Miami's Brandon Harris is likely regarded as the best corner still available. Hopefully other teams snap them up and increase the likelihood that Dowling or House are still on the board when the Steelers pick. If I had my choice between the two, I'd go with Dowling.

I hope the Steelers don't pick Brandon Burton of Utah, Curtis Brown of Texas, Johnny Patrick of Louisville, Shareece Wright of USC or Chimdi Chekwa of Ohio State.

If the Steelers have to trade up in the second round to ensure they get Dowling or House, I could probably live with them giving up a third or fourth round pick this year or a mid-round pick next year, because they will have addressed the defense with their first two picks.

The other good news from the first round of the draft is that Mike Pouncey, Maurkice Pouncey's twin brother, was not drafted by Team Evil up in Foxborough.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011 Steelers Draft Preview

Oh, brother, don't do it

Maybe Coors can make a new "twins" commercial with the Pouncey brothers both wearing black and gold Speedos.

As unsettling as that sounds, it's the least of the reasons why the Steelers should not trade up in the draft to get Mike Pouncey.

Rumors are flying around this morning that the Steelers want to move up in the first round to take Pouncey, the guard from Florida and twin brother of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.

Maurkice Pouncey kicked ass as a rookie. So I could see why the Steelers might have googly eyes for someone who looks just like him.

The word is that if Pouncey slips to No. 20 in the first round, the Steelers might try to make a trade with Tampa Bay, which owns that pick. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is close with Buccaneers' coach Raheem Morris.

Making that trade wouldn't completely gut this year's draft like a trade into the top 10. According to the draft pick value chart, to get the 20th pick, the Steelers would have to give up their first and third round picks this year and maybe a third round pick next year.

If the Steelers pulled the trigger and got Pouncey at No. 20, they'd have just one more pick in the first three rounds. Not good for a team that needs to get younger on defense.

Sure, it would be cool to have brothers on the same team. But this is the NFL, not Pop Warner. The Steelers don't go to Friendly's after the game.

I don't think the Steelers will let sentiment get in the way of ensuring that they remain an elite team in the coming years.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 Steelers Draft Preview

Will Ike stay or will Ike go?

By Mike Batista

It's hard to say right now whether Steelers free agent cornerback Ike Taylor will take his
"swagger" elsewhere.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review says that
Taylor is as good as gone, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, the dean of Steelers scribes, isn't so sure.

Either way, cornerback needs to be a high priority in the draft for the Steelers.

Because he's currently unsigned, the Steelers seem to be entering the draft as if Taylor is not part of the team.

Without Taylor, the knee-jerk reaction might be to trade up in the first round to land an elite cornerback like
Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara, both likely top-10 picks. But the Steelers don't operate that way, nor should they in this case.

To trade into the top 10, the Steelers would have to sacrifice a lot of picks in this draft and probably next year's draft. That wouldn't be a good idea, because this team isn't getting any younger. Without a lot of new blood coming in, the Steelers might be OK at cornerback with an Amukamara or Peterson, but areas of need will sprout up everywhere else as players age and their skills decline.

If anything, the Steelers should trade out of the first round. They enter this draft with the standard stock of one pick in each of the seven rounds. Trading out of the first round will give them a couple of extra picks. That would help combat the team's aging process and increase the Steelers' chances of landing that hidden gem.

The other reason the Steelers should trade out of their No. 31 pick in the first round is because the players I'd like to see them get either will be gone by the time they pick or aren't worth a first-round pick and would be a better value in the second and third round.

According to the
value chart for trading NFL draft picks, the 31st pick can get the Steelers an early second round pick and an early fourth-round pick. Or a mid-second round and a mid-third round pick.

Besides cornerback, the Steelers also are needy on the offensive and defensive lines. Here's a look at six players in each of those areas who might be available when the Steelers pick. USA Today and Scott Wright's Draft Countdown were used for research.


Curtis Brown, Texas, 6-0, 185:
Not very strong and not a good tackler. But an intriguing prospect because of his skills on special teams coverage. He shouldn't be taken before the third round, and even then I'd be more comfortable picking him only if the Steelers had extra second and third round picks. Definitely shouldn't be their prize cornerback pick of the draft. THUMBS DOWN

Brandon Burton, Utah, 6-0, 190:
Lacks ball skills. Getting a good cornerback is difficult. Getting a cornerback who's so good that he doesn't need ball skills, like Ike Taylor, is even more difficult. What are the chances the Steelers will be able to pull that off twice? THUMBS DOWN

Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, 6-1, 198:
His stock has fallen because of injuries that wiped out most of his 2010 season. But he's got size and ball skills and he likes to hit. He might have been a first-round pick before the injuries, but if he's available at the end of the second round, or if the Steelers can trade up to the middle or early second round, they should take him. THUMBS UP

Brandon Harris, Miami, 5-10, 191:
Too small, iffy tackler and got burned in the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. THUMBS DOWN

Davon House, New Mexico State, 6-1, 200:
There is a small-school risk here, but this guy has good ball skills and good return skills after making the interception. Good value at the end of the second round. THUMBS UP

Aaron Williams, Texas, 6-0, 204:
The mock draft community seems to have anointed Williams as the Steelers' pick. But I don't think he'd be a good fit. He seems to be more of a safety than a cornerback. THUMBS DOWN


Marcus Cannon, TCU, 6-5, 358:
Likely to end up as a guard in the NFL. Too many holes in his game. Not enough of a mean streak. THUMBS DOWN

Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin, 6-7, 314:
Probably won't be there at No. 31, but Rashard Mendenhall fell about 10 picks in 2008, so you never know. Successor to Joe Thomas at left tackle with the Badgers, and says he can play left tackle in the NFL. Doesn't lack for confidence or intelligence. THUMBS UP

James Carpenter, Alabama, 6-4, 321:
Could be heir apparent to Flozell Adams at right tackle. A second or third rounder. THUMBS UP

Orlando Franklin, Miami, 6-6, 316:
Mel Kiper had him going to the Steelers in the first round at one point. Could be guard or right tackle in NFL. But his knee is a concern and he might lack intelligence for the game. THUMBS DOWN

Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State, 6-5, 321:
Left tackle potential, but not a good enough run blocker. THUMBS DOWN

Nate Solder, Colorado, 6-8, 319:
Another guy who might be off the board by the time the Steelers pick at 31. Tallest of the top 15 offensive tackles at 6-8, and the only one to run the 40 in less than five seconds (4.96). Has the potential to play the all-important "Blind Side" left tackle position. THUMBS UP


Marvin Austin, North Carolina, 6-2, 309:
Character issues. Suspended for 2010 season after accepting gifts from an agent. THUMBS DOWN

Kendrick Ellis, Hampton, 6-5, 346:
Character issues. Supposedly kicked off team at South Carolina because of failed drug tests. THUMBS DOWN

Cameron Heyward, Ohio State, 6-5, 294:
Son of Craig "Ironhead" Heyward. Versatile defensive end who can rush the passer and stop the run. THUMBS UP

Stephen Paea, Oregon State, 6-1, 303:
Natural run stopper. Not sure if he projects as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, but it would be worth a shot. The Steelers need a successor to Casey Hampton at some point. Not worth the 31st pick, but if he's there in the second round, the Steelers should take him. THUMBS UP

Phil Taylor, Baylor, 6-3, 334:
A natural nose tackle, but he's another one with character issues. Got kicked off team at Penn State. THUMBS DOWN

Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple, 6-4, 315:
Might be more of a defensive end in the NFL. Also might be a bit of a project, but worth the risk. THUMBS UP

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cramming for the draft

I haven't updated this site in a while because I've been busy trying to decide how I'll spend Sunday afternoons in the fall. With no NFL games to watch, maybe I'll take basket weaving or pottery classes, or perhaps audition for a role in a medieval fair. I hear those giant turkey legs are free if you're in the cast.

There's the NFL draft on April 28, after which the only NFL on TV will involve dudes in suits walking into limos after yawn-inspiring negotiating sessions.

Two years ago, I studied the NFL draft as if I were getting a doctorate in it. Then I blogged live during the draft, which fell on the first real spring-like day of the year, going cuckoo for cocoa puffs over guys like Kraig Urbik and A.Q. Shipley.

There was a lot less hype in these pages last spring about Maurkice Pouncey, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. But I more than made up for it when they started playing games.

I'm hoping that approach works again this season with my draft coverage. I've finally found the time to start looking at mock drafts and scouting reports and plan to have my ONE pre-draft column sometime in the next week or so.

In the meantime, what better way to kick off my draft blogging than taking a shot at Tom Brady.

Did anyone see Brady crying on ESPN when he talked about not being drafted until the sixth round in 2000? Are you kidding me with this?

What we didn't see was Brady's acting coach behind the camera. He worked up those tears because he's angling for a career on the silver screen when his playing days are over. It was contrived, just like Brady's chewing out of his teammates on the sidelines during the Patriots' game in Pittsburgh last season. He knows where the cameras are.

During that piece, the camera panned across a card that indicated the Steelers drafted quarterback Tee Martin 36 picks ahead of Brady. When reminded of that, my tears were quite real.