2011 NFL Draft: Kevin Colbert Hits Another Home Run For Pittsburgh Steelers With This Year's Picks

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2011 NFL Draft Grades: CBS Analyst Gives Steelers Draft B-

CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco hands out 2011 NFL Draft Grades for the entire draft. The Steelers get a B-, as Prisco praises first-round pick Cameron Heyward but argues that the Steelers "reached" for second-rounder Marcus Gilbert:

Why did they take Florida's Marcus Gilbert when there were better options at tackle? They reached on that one.

I guess the question would be, who are these better options? Even widening the scope of the question to include any offensive lineman, the really premium players were all gone by the time the Steelers picked Gilbert at the end of the second round. The only offensive linemen who went in the third round were John Moffitt, Will Rackley, Jah Reid and Joseph Barksdale, and none of those guys were widely considered to be second-round talents (although you'd see some of them in second rounds of mock drafts here and there). I suppose it's possible that the Steelers could have waited to pick an offensive lineman, but I'm not really sure there were O-linemen available who were clearly better than Gilbert.

Oh well. Prisco's grades are tough (he only gives three A's, to the Giants, Bucs and Texans, and he does note that the Steelers have earned the benefit of the doubt with a ton of brilliant picks over the years.


2011 NFL Draft Results: Jeffri Chadiha Ranks Best, Worst First-Round Fits

ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha has a list of the best and worst picks from the first round of last weekend's NFL Draft. Actually, it's a mix of the best and worst picks, and the best and worst fits - which teams picked players who won't really work for them? Chadiha identifies the Jaguars' selection of Blaine Gabbert as one possible example:

This isn't a knock on Gabbert's skills, since he was widely considered the safest quarterback prospect in this class. It is a shot at the Jaguars and their ability to develop quarterbacks during the Jack Del Rio era. Byron Leftwich didn't work out. David Garrard isn't the answer he seemed to be a few years ago.

One pick Chadiha singles out for praise, unsurprisingly, is Nick Fairley to the Lions. Fairley will get to pair with Ndamukong Suh to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

The Chiefs' selection of Pitt wide receiver Jon Baldwin comes in for criticism - Chadiha notes the potential for Baldwin to become a "diva receiver."


Undrafted Free Agent Signings List, Steelers: When Will Unsigned Players Be Able To Find Teams?

Here are the 2011 NFL undrafted free agents, via NFL.com. Now is a tough time to to be an undrafted free agent, since we don't know when teams will be able to sign these players, due to the NFL lockout. Which is a shame, really, since it's not uncommon for undrafted free agents to go on to have productive NFL careers - James Harrison is one example. So guys like pitt's Henry Hynoski and West Virginia's Noel Devine will just have to wait. Two players the Steelers might be interested in from this list are South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, and fellow Gamecock Jarriel King, both of whom they brought in on pre-draft visits this year.

Thanks to SB Nation Atlanta for the chart (used with permission).

Player Position Height Weight School
Ryan Bartholomew C 6'1" 302 Syracuse
Alexander Linnenkohl C 6'2" 304 Oregon St.
Deunta Williams CB 6'2" 205 North Carolina
Niles Brinkley DB 5'10" 193 Wisconsin
Kendric Burney DB 5'9" 186 North Carolina
Mario Butler DB 6'0" 182 Georgia Tech
Vance Cuff DB 5'10" 178 Georgia
Joe Lefeged DB 6'0" 210 Rutgers
Andrew McGee DB 5'11" 195 Oklahoma St.
Kevin Rutland DB 6'0" 190 Missouri
David Sims DB 5'9" 200 Iowa St.
Devon Torrence DB 6'0" 199 Ohio St.
Wayne Daniels DE 6'0" 260 TCU
Ladi Ajiboye DL 6'1" 297 South Carolina
Pierre Allen DL 6'4" 273 Nebraska
Brandon Bair DL 6'6" 276 Oregon
Ugo Chinasa DL 6'5" 264 Oklahoma St.
Demarcus Dobbs DL 6'2" 281 Georgia
Kentrell Lockett DL 6'5" 241 Mississippi
Martin Parker DL 6'2" 303 Richmond
Adrian Taylor DL 6'3" 311 Oklahoma
Cedric Thornton DL 6'3" 309 Southern Arkansas
Colby Whitlock DL 6'2" 302 Texas Tech
Ian Williams DL 6'1" 319 Notre Dame
Ryan Winterswyk DL 6'4" 268 Boise St.
John Graves DT 6'3" 286 Virginia Tech
Sealver Siliga DT 6'2" 305 Utah
Henry Hynoski FB 6'0" 257 Pittsburgh
Will Hill FS 6'1" 202 Florida
Jerrard Tarrant FS 6'0" 204 Georgia Tech
Justin Boren G 6'3" 309 Ohio St.
Dan Bailey K 6'0" 193 Oklahoma St.
Ryan Donahue K 6'2" 193 Iowa
Kai Forbath K 5'11" 197 UCLA
Reid Forrest K 6'0" 189 Washington St.
Joshua Jasper K 5'10" 174 LSU
Jacob Rogers K 6'2" 213 Cincinnati
Nick Bellore LB 6'1" 245 Central Michigan
Mark Herzlich LB 6'4" 244 Boston College
Jeremiha Hunter LB 6'1" 239 Iowa
Elijah Joseph LB 6'1" 243 Temple
Orie Lemon LB 6'1" 242 Oklahoma St.
Scott Lutrus LB 6'2" 241 Connecticut
Adrian Moten LB 6'2" 228 Maryland
Derrell Smith LB 6'0" 243 Syracuse
Daniel Aiken OL 6'4" 244 Virginia
Garrett Chisolm OL 6'5" 312 South Carolina
Joshua Davis OL 6'7" 313 Georgia
Ray Dominguez OL 6'4" 334 Arkansas
Adam Grant OL 6'6" 325 Arizona
Richard Henry OL 6'3" 308 Nebraska
Kyle Hix OL 6'7" 318 Texas
Kevin Hughes OL 6'4" 302 Southeast Louisiana
Zachary Hurd OL 6'7" 316 Connecticut
Carl Johnson OL 6'5" 361 Florida
Jarriel King OL 6'5" 317 South Carolina
Richard Lapham OL 6'8" 315 Boston College
Kristofer O'Dowd OL 6'4" 304 USC
Stephen Schilling OL -- -- Michigan
Willie Smith OL 6'5" 310 East Carolina
Zane Taylor OL 6'3" 309 Utah
Isaiah Thompson OL 6'3" 300 Houston
Chas Henry P 6'3" 215 Florida
Ryan Colburn QB 6'3" 223 Fresno St.
Patrick Devlin QB 6'3" 225 Delaware
Jerrod Johnson QB 6'5" 251 Texas A&M
Joshua Nesbitt QB 6'1" 217 Georgia Tech
Joshua Portis QB 6'3" 211 California (PA)
Scott Tolzien QB 6'2" 212 Wisconsin
Jeff Van Camp QB 6'5" 218 Florida Atlantic
Armando Allen RB 5'8" 199 Notre Dame
Matt Asiata RB 5'11" 229 Utah
Damien Berry RB 5'10" 211 Miami
John Clay RB 6'1" 230 Wisconsin
Graig Cooper RB 5'10" 205 Miami
Noel Devine RB 5'8" 179 West Virginia
Shaun Draughn RB 5'11" 213 North Carolina
Darren Evans RB 6'0" 227 Virginia Tech
Mario Fannin RB 5'10" 231 Auburn
Derrick Locke RB 5'8" 188 Kentucky
Brandon Saine RB 5'11" 220 Ohio St.
Vai Taua RB 5'10" 213 Nevada
Jeron Johnson SS 5'10" 212 Boise St.
Deandre McDaniel SS 6'0" 217 Clemson
Nate Williams SS 6'0" 211 Washington
Preston Dial TE 6'3" 237 Alabama
Charlie Gantt TE 6'4" 252 Michigan St.
Cameron Graham TE 6'3" 244 Louisville
Schuylar Oordt TE 6'6" 261 Northern Iowa
Zack Pianalto TE 6'3" 256 North Carolina
Allen Reisner TE 6'2" 248 Iowa
Weslye Saunders TE 6'5" 270 South Carolina
Darvin Adams WR 6'2" 190 Auburn
Armon Binns WR 6'3" 209 Cincinnati
DeAndre Brown WR 6'6" 233 Southern Miss
Mark Dell WR 6'0" 193 Michigan St.
Tori Gurley WR 6'4" 216 South Carolina
Jamel Hamler WR 6'1" 193 Fresno St.
Andre Holmes WR 6'4" 210 Hillsdale
Lestar Jean WR 6'3" 215 Florida Atlantic
Ricardo Lockette WR 6'2" 211 Fort Valley St.
Jeffrey Maehl WR 6'1" 190 Oregon
Joe Morgan WR 6'1" 189 Walsh
O.J. Murdock WR 5'11" 197 Fort Hays St.
Jamar Newsome WR 6'1" 200 Central Florida
Jock Sanders WR 5'6" 181 West Virginia
Dane Sanzenbacher WR 5'11" 182 Ohio St.
Keith Smith WR 6'2" 214 Purdue
Owen Spencer WR 6'2" 195 N.C. State
Terrence Toliver WR 6'4" 212 LSU
Terrance Turner WR 6'2" 220 Indiana
Marshall Williams WR 6'1" 188 Wake Forest
Jimmy Young WR 6'0" 204 TCU

NFL Draft Grades, Winners and Losers: No Love for the Cleveland Browns or New England Patriots

Adam Kaplan of FOX Sports released a set of hastily written draft grades this morning. In the wave of analysis that follows every draft, there is always a tendency to over emphasize the importance of drafting for need early. Sports analysts decide early on what positions they think a team needs to address early in the draft, then cling desperately to their early ideas no matter what. These writers often issue harsh, reactionary evaluations of smart teams, and that is exactly what Kaplan has done here to the New England Patriots. Kpalan also fails to fully appreciate the majesty of the Cleveland Browns' draft haul this year.

Kaplan gives the Patriots' draft a "D" grade for reasons that I find totally impossible to understand. According to Kaplan, the Patriots effort was a near failure merely because they did not select anyone who could help their pass rush. This is absolute foolishness. While I do not dispute that acquiring a pass rusher would've helped the Patriots, it is important to remember that the Patriots won 14 games last year. The Patriots did exactly what a good team should do: draft for value. With picks like Ras-I Dowling in the second, Ryan Mallett in the third, and Marcus Cannon in the fifth, I just can't see how anyone could call the Patriots' draft a near failure.

Kaplan was also lukewarm on the Cleveland Browns, who should obviously be regarded as one of the biggest winners of the draft. The Browns ridiculous trade with the Atlanta Falcons alone should seal this draft as an amazing success. The Browns got an enormous number of picks, some of which they used this year to land truly impressive talent. The Browns' first three selections, DT Phil Taylor, DE Jabaal Sheard, and WR Greg Little are all incredible picks that will contribute immediately, but the value does not stop there. The Browns also got several late round steals, including highly regarded CB Buster Skrine in the fifth round. This kid an athletic specimen whose 4.37 40 yard dash at the combine does not begin to approximate his explosive play. In the same round they also selected Pitt product Jason Pinkston, a future interior lineman to whom many scouts gave second and third round grades. How anyone could grade this draft with anything less than an "A" is beyond my understanding.

Sports fans, it's time to tune out the noise and look for some real analysis. Check out our in-depth grades for the AFC North round one and also rounds two and three.    


Mel Kiper's 2011 Draft Grades: Lions, Bengals, Browns, Steelers Receive Praise

Mel Kiper's 2011 Draft Grades are out (insider only), and, unsurprisingly, the Lions (Nick Fairley, Mikel Leshoure), Bengals (A.J. Green, Andy Dalton), Bucs (Adrian Clayborn, Da'Quan Bowers), Browns (Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and a big pile o' draft picks), Colts (Anthony Castonzo, Ben Ijalana), Packers (Derek Sherrod, Randall Cobb), and Ravens (Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid) all rank near the top. He also praises the Chargers (Corey Liuget, Marcus Gilchrist), which puzzles me a little, but maybe I'm being too hard on San Diego for the Jonas Mouton pick, which was the only one that actively confused me.

Also near the top - again unsurprisingly - is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who Kiper praises for an "unflashy" but "effective" draft and gives an overall draft grade of B+. Can't argue with that: the Steelers didn't trade around or make any splashy picks, but they got good value everywhere and picked players who met obvious needs.

The lowest-ranked team on the list is the Seattle Seahawks, who get an overall grade of D+. The Seahawks reached on all their top picks, including James Carpenter, John Moffitt, K.J. Wright and Kris Durham. The Jaguars also get a very low grade - Kiper isn't a huge Blaine Gabbert fan. Two other teams that took quarterbacks in the first round - the Panthers (Cam Newton) and Titans (Jake Locker) - also receive low grades.


NFL Draft Grades, Winners And Losers: Ravens, Packers, Lions Among Winners; Patriots Probably Should Be Too

Mocking The Draft has lists of winners and losers from the 2011 NFL Draft. The winners are the Ravens, Lions, Packers, Texans, Colts, Chiefs, Saints, Vikings, Giants and Bucs.

The Ravens did very well to get Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith and Jah Reid. Nick Fairley could be a coup for the Lions. The Packers got great value at the end of the first round in Derek Sherrod, and I liked Randall Cobb in the second round and Davon House in the fourth. J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Brandon Harris made for a very good draft by the Texans, and the Colts upgraded their offense line substantially with Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana.

The Chiefs and Vikings are somewhat more debatable. The Chiefs reached for Jon Baldwin in the first round and will need him to develop into a good receiver, which even a lot of Pittsburgh locals have doubts about. And the Vikings' draft hinges on quarterback Christian Ponder.

I'd replace those two teams with ... well, probably the Steelers, but maybe that's just me being a homer. But the other teams I would add, and it would probably be near the top, are the Cleveland Browns and the New England Patriots. The Browns got tons of value from the No. 6 overall pick. The Pats got Nate Solder in the first round, then picked up a potentially terrific cornerback in Ras-I Dowling early in the second. They also stole Ryan Mallett at No. 74, then grabbed a potential first- or second-round talent in Marcus Cannon in the fifth round after it was revealed that Cannon had non-Hodkins lymphoma. The Pats were one of the smartest teams throughout the list, and as much as it pains me to say it, I think they're pretty clear winners here.

The losers list is the Jaguars, Raiders, Seahawks, Chargers and Redskins. It's hard to argue much with these - the Seahawks reached for top picks James Carpenter and John Moffitt. The Chargers' selection of Corey Liuget in the first round was fine, but they really reached for Jonas Mouton in the second.


NFL Draft Grades 2011, Winners And Losers: John Clayton Has Bucs, Bengals Among Winners

ESPN's John Clayton lists the Bucs, Bengals and Redskins as winners for day two of the NFL Draft. The Bucs might have gotten the best value of any pick when they grabbed Da'Quan Bowers in the second round. The Bengals got the top wideout in the draft in A.J. Green, then added a potential successor to Carson Palmer in Andy Dalton in the second round.

The losers include Ryan Mallett, for obvious reasons, and the New England Patriots:

The Patriots entered the draft with six picks in the first three rounds, but they made a few moves too many. They have a plan every year to load up on first- and second-round picks for the future, but this was the year to cash in. My one criticism is that they didn't get a pass-rusher. Had they drafted Jabaal Sheard, a defensive end from Pitt, or Brooks Reed, a linebacker from Arizona, I'd make them my big winners.

They didn't get a big-time defensive end, but at some point I think you have to forget that and think about how much value the Patriots got. Maybe it was just that they kept drafting players Steelers fans wanted, but they got a ton of talent in this draft, beginning with the first couple of picks (Nate Solder and Ras-I Dowling, and while a lot of people thought Dowling would be drafted somewhat lower than he was due to injury concerns, he could be a big-time talent) and extending into the later rounds, where they got potential top talents in Mallett and Marcus Cannon. (Cannon hadn't yet come off the board when Clayton wrote this, but even before day three, I was pretty envious of the Pats' draft.)


2011 NFL Draft: Eagles Pick Greg Lloyd Jr., Son Of Former Steelers Star

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Greg Lloyd Jr., a UConn linebacker and the son of former Steelers star Greg Lloyd, in the seventh round on Saturday. Greg Lloyd Jr. recorded 91 tackles in 2009 but missed much of the 2010 season while trying to recover from a knee injury – he put on weight while injured and eventually lost his starting job.

Lloyd’s father was himself a late-round pick, going in the sixth round in 1987. But he played 10 seasons for the Steelers, racking up 707 tackles and 53.5 sacks. It’s unclear whether he’s celebrating his son’s accomplishment today, however, as there is tension between between Lloyd Sr. and the rest of his family:

She says it’s scary because Greg Lloyd’s father (above) was accused of sticking a gun in his son’s mouth in 2001. Two trials in 2004 ended in hung juries and a third was not pursued.

Scary because Rhonda Lloyd’s former husband was accused, and pleaded no contest in 2004, to simple battery for pointing a gun at his estranged wife’s head in 2002.

All the best to Greg Lloyd Jr. as he tries to make the Eagles, whenever the next football season starts.


Pittsburgh Steelers Finish 2011 NFL Draft With A Bang By Acquiring Versatile RB Baron Batch In Round 7

The 2011 NFL Draft has come to an end for the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. It was quite the weekend for the Steelers, and Kevin Colbert, director of football operations, has to feel oustanding about the talented crop of draft picks they were able to acquire.

We’ll turn our attention to recapping the entire Draft a bit later, but before we do so, a few quick words about the team’s selection in round seven — Texas Tech running back Baron Batch.

Firstly, let me state that I love this pick. The Steelers obviously had huge needs to address at cornerback and offensive line in the earlier rounds. They did just that, selecting an offensive takcle in round two, cornerbacks in rounds three and four, and an offensive guard in round six. In the seventh and final round, with those needs addressed fairly aggressively, the Steelers used their final pick on a talented, experienced back that could very easily make this year’s squad. The selection also could signal the end of the Mewelde Moore era as a third-down back in Pittsburgh.

Batch was extremely productive during his four years in Lubbock both catching and running the ball. For the first three years, Batch was featured in Mike Leach’s pass-happy system, primarily as a pass-catching threat because, well, that’s what Leach likes to do: pass, pass, and then pass some more.

Batch had 45 and 57 receptions in his sophomore and junior seasons respectively, before seeing that total dip down to 32 as a senior in Tommy Tubberville’s more conventional approach to offense. Batch did however set a career high with 177 rushes in 2010, besting his previous high mark of 168 set the year before as a junior. When it was all said and done, Batch left Texas Tech in ninth place on the all-purpose yardage list (3,612), tied for eighth in touchdowns (32), and eighth in career rushing yards (2,501).

Make no mistake about it though — the selection of Batch by the Steelers is intriguing because of what he brings to the table as a passing threat. The question is whether or not the Steelers decide to re-sign Mewelde Moore, the team’s veteran third-down back this past four seasons. Moore is currently a free agent, and though he won’t command top dollars on the open market, the Steelers must decide how much they’d be willing to pay retain a proven, reliable guy like Moore than at this stage in his carer has very little burst or explosiveness left in his legs.

Stay tuned here and at Behind the Steel Curtain for even more 2011 NFL Draft analysis and reaction. For now, a hearty congratualations to Kevin Colbert & Co. for a job well done this past three days. Go Steelers!


NFL Draft Results: Steelers Pick Nebraska Guard Keith Williams In Round 6

With their sixth-round pick in the NFL Draft, the Steelers picked Nebraska guard Keith Williams to help bolster their offensive line. Williams had a pre-draft visit with the Steelers, and Pittsburgh continues to need help with its offensive line (having picked only Marcus Gilbert so far), so this pick is no surprise.

Here’s a good video profile of Williams. He has good size (6-foot-4, 318 pounds) and some potential, but he apparently needs to be more consistent, and he also apparently "lacks mental toughness." That doesn’t sound like a typical Steelers player, so the Steelers must have liked what they heard from him in the pre-draft visit.

By my count, this is the fourth player the Steelers have drafted who came in for a pre-draft visit (Gilbert, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen, and Williams). It could be that their seventh-rounder will be another visitor, such as Marshall lineman Mario Harvey or South Carolina offensive lineman Jarriel King.

In addition, the Bears took OLB J.T. Thomas from West Virginia the pick before.


2011 NFL Draft: Evan Royster Of Penn State Goes To Washington Redskins In Round 6

Penn State running back Evan Royster has been selected by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Royster is the second Nittany Lion to be selected, after center Stefen Wisniewski was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round.

Royster never really built on an excellent sophomore campaign with Penn State in which he had 1,236 yards and an average of 6.5 yards per carry. In his senior year in 2010, he had 1,014 yards and only 4.9 yards per carry. He doesn’t have outstanding speed and isn’t terribly elusive, so it remains to be seen how he’ll adjust to the NFL level.

Other key sixth-round picks include Arkansas offensive lineman DeMarcus Love (who came up as a possible early-round pick in some mock drafts a few months ago) to the Vikings, Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Ravens, and UConn running back Jordan Todman to the Chargers.


Pittsburgh Steelers Continue Outstanding Draft With Selection Of Chris Carter In Round 5

Through the first five rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fanbase have to be feeling tremendous about what has materialized. We’ll review the Steelers’ entire draft haul a bit later, but a quick update on their fifth round selection just a few minutes ago. In Round five with the No. 161 overall pick, the Steelers got a steal of a deal in Fresno State outside linebacker Chris Carter. At 6-foot-1, 258 pounds, Carter will almost certainly be converted from defensive end to outside linebacker. Carter led the Mountain West Conference a year ago with 11 sacks, highlighted by his three-sack effort in an opening week win over Cincinnati.

Carter was projected as high as the late second round at various points in this pre-draft process, so the Steelers absolutely must be thrilled to have seen him fall all the way towards the end of round five. In case you were wondering, no, there’s no character or injury concerns that caused him to slide down draft boards.

Carter was not just a productive college player in a lesser conference. He also tested decently this offseason. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, threw up 27 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, and, most impressively, showed off his 32-inch vertical. Not off the chart numbers in the speed and strength department, but perfectly acceptable for an OLB in Dick LeBeau’s system. While Carter gets a bit stronger and learns the nuances of shedding blocks, you can probably expect to see him be a head hunter on special teams while James Harrison plays what presumably will be the last two or three years of his career.

For more analysis on Carter and fan discussion about the Steelers’ 2011 NFL Draft, check back in here and at Behind the Steel Curtain throughout the rest of the day and weekend.


2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Select OLB Chris Carter in Round Five

It just wouldn’t be an NFL Draft unless the Steelers took a pass-rushing OLB. That is a little bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. The Steelers have used 12 draft picks on linebackers from 2001 until 2010. That would be 15.2% of their total draft picks over that time. Linebackers are the heartbeat of Dick Lebeau’s fire zone scheme, so there is need for a near constant flow of talent at that position.

At 6-2, 240lbs, Carter is a vastly undersized DE by the standards of the NFL. The fact that Carter has little to no experience playing linebacker is not a concern for the Steelers because they have had such consistent success converting DEs like LaMarr Woodley into bulky 3-4 OLBs that populate the nightmares of quarterbacks everywhere.

For Carter to become the next successful member of this Steeler tradition, he will have to make sure he continues to play low, especially against offensive tackles who typically stand at 6-5 or larger. Carter needs to keep his body low so that he can steal leverage from those giant players, a trick which he can likely learn quickly form the master, James Harrison. Carter shows great burst at the line and will likely have time to figure out the nuances of the NFL level game while he waits his turn in the annual LB logjam in Pittsburgh.

Carter has been a productive player in college, notching 11 sacks in 2010, good for 7th in the NCAA. Hopefully those are numbers he can continue to build upon in Pittsburgh.


2011 NFL Draft Results: Pitt's Dion Lewis, Jason Pinkston Selected In Round 5

Pitt running back Dion Lewis and offensive lineman Jason Pinkston went off the board in Round 5, going to the Eagles and Browns, respectively.

Lewis is undersized and doesn’t have exceptional speed, so it remains to be seen what his role in the NFL will be, but he posted exceptional results at times, piling up 1799 yards as a Pitt freshman in 2009.

Pinkston is a terrific pick for the Browns in the fifth round – he might well have gone earlier. He will probably be a right tackle or guard in the NFL. His lack of a clear position might have caused him to drop in the draft a bit, but he has a good chance at contributing, regardless.

Pinkston was the second Pitt player drafted by the Browns, who also took DE Jabaal Sheard in the second round. For Pittsburgh sports fans, then, these two players will change from heroes to villains.


2011 NFL Draft: Former Mountaineers Brandon Hogan & Robert Sands NFL-Bound

The 2010 NFL Draft only found one Mountaineer getting drafted, so the 2011 Draft is already a notable improvement for West Virginia University with Brandon Hogan and Robert Sands being selected in the the fourth and fifth rounds.

Former Mountaineer cornerback Brandon Hogan was drafted in the fourth round by the Carolina Panthers as the No. 98 pick of the draft.  Hogan's career at West Virginia was up and down, but no one can discount the growth he made over his time in Morgantown.  Carolina has many needs on both sides of the ball, should Hogan have a productive offseason he could make this squad easily.  As the No. 98 pick, Hogan is the highest drafted Mountaineer defender since Adam "Pacman" Jones went sixth overall in 2005.

Safety Robert Sands was the next Mountaineer off the board going to the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round with the No. 134 overall pick. Sands is still a raw football player, but it was obvious the entire time he was in gold and blue that he had the physical gifts needed to succeed at the next level. The Bengals have an improving defense brewing, and if Sands can handle all the cover responsibilities he could make an impact.  Sands loves to hit and won't need to work on anything there but he could take time adapting to the professional game.

This draft could see more ex-Mountaineers get their names called, including running backs Noel Devine and Jock Sanders, and defensive standouts JT Thomas, Chris Neild and Scooter Berry.


2011 NFL Draft Picks: Steelers Continue To Address Secondary, Select Cornerback Cortez Allen In Round 4

So far in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Steelers have let the picks come to them. With four rounds in the books, Pittsburgh has held tight at the second-to-last pick in each round, instead of bouncing around the draft board via trades. With their fourth pick, the team selected defensive back Cortez Allen out of Citadel, a small military college in South Carolina. Allen is the team's second consecutive cornerback taken this year after third-rounder Curtis Brown out of Texas.

Allen is the perfect size to excel in the NFL as a corner (6-foot-1, 197 pounds), and while he is adept in press coverage at the line of scrimmage, scouts are concerned that he hasn't yet figured out how to effectively mirror a receiver down the field. This may be less of a problem in Dick LeBeau's defensive scheme, which relies predominantly on zone coverage instead of man, but in any case, it's likely that Allen will have at least a few years to figure things out with a number of other defensive backs likely to be listed ahead of him on Pittsburgh's depth chart. Allen is a sound tackler with good strength (18 bench press reps at the combine) and adequate speed (4.51 40-yard dash).

What's a little surprising about this selection is that the Steelers took Allen, a small-school prospect many fans have probably never heard of, with Utah cornerback Brandon Burton, who was regarded as a top-10 corner by a number of sports writers, still sitting on the board. It's pretty much impossible not to trust the Steelers when it comes to this decision, as they are correct more often than not, but it's indicative of the disconnect between what media types think they know and what scouts and general managers actually execute in practice. The same can be said of the fact that Brown fell to the Steelers in the third round, behind a number of other cornerbacks, despite also being ranked as a top-10 prospect at his position by the mainstream sports media.

In any case, Allen adds more young depth to an aging Steelers secondary that struggled against spread offenses like the Packers, Saints, and Patriots last season. Pittsburgh has the tools in place to coach this kid up into a nickelback in a few seasons, which would make this an excellent pick. Time will tell.


2011 NFL Draft Results: Maurkice Pouncey Pulled For Marcus Gilbert To Be A Steeler

You can bet that Steelers All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey was pulling for the team to draft at least one of his former fellow offensive linemen from Florida, his twin brother Mike Pouncey, who would have lined up next to Maurkice at right guard if Pittsburgh had called his name in the first round. However, any hopes of reuniting the twins were dashed when the Miami Dolphins selected Mike at pick No. 15. Prior to the draft, rumors circulated, suggesting that Pittsburgh might trade up to snag their second Pouncey two years, but such a move would've been extremely expensive and ultimately deterinmental to their draft.

But Pouncey got a nice consolation prize with the Steelers' second-round selection, Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert, who Pittsburgh nabbed with pick No. 63. Gilbert and Pouncey won a national championship together with the Gators, and apparently Pouncey pulled for the Steelers to not only draft his brother, but to select Gilbert, as well. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler had the following to say about Pouncey's lobbying at a recent press conference following the team's selection of Gilbert: "I'll take [Pouncey's] advice because I respect the kid as a player, and he'll give you the right advice."

Kugler made something out of nothing with his offensive line last year, a unit that was decimated by injuries and characterized by a starting lineup that was constantly in flux. Gilbert gives the team a talented young project at tackle, adding depth for the moment and (hopefully) a quality NFL starter, presumably at right tackle, in the near future. 


NFL Draft 2011 (News): WVU's Brandon Hogan Selected By Panthers In Fourth Round

Cornerback Brandon Hogan became the first player from the West Virginia Mountaineers to be selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, going to the Carolina Panthers with the first pick in the fourth round. The athletic Hogan has the talent to contribute in the NFL, but he has had injury issues and several legal problems, getting arrested for DUI and for driving with a suspended license. He'll need to stay out of trouble to be a success, but if he does, he'll give the Panthers great value in the fourth round.

Other Mountaineers who could be drafted later include safety Robert Sands and running back Noel Devine. Other local players who have already been drafted include Pitt's Jon Baldwin (first round) and Jabaal Sheard (second round) and Penn State center Stefen Wisniewski. In the late rounds, watch for Pitt DE Greg Romeus, FB Henry Hynoski and RB Dion Lewis to potentially be selected.


2011 NFL Draft Picks: Pittsburgh Steelers Get Cameron Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, Curtis Brown

In case you've missed it, here's a summary of the Pittsburgh Steelers' NFL Draft picks as we head into Round 4. In the first round, they got Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, who could join 2009 first-rounder Ziggy Hood in taking over the defensive end position from Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. In the second round, the Steelers picked up Florida offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert, who will help shore up a shaky offensive line. And in the third, Pittsburgh finally addressed its cornerback position by picking Texas' Curtis Brown. The Steelers took a gamble that someone like Brown would fall to them in the third round, and fortunately, they were right.

Today, in the fourth through seventh rounds, they could take another cornerbacks. Buster Skrine, from Tennessee-Chattanooga, is one possibility. Also, a nose tackle or another big-bodied defender is a possibility. There could also be a wide receiver as we head into the late rounds.

UPDATE: The Steelers took Citadel cornerback Cortez Allen in the fourth round. For more on the Steelers' draft picks, check out Behind The Steel Curtain, Sam Wilmoth's feature on AFC North draft grades, and the rest of this storystream.


2011 NFL Draft Results (Day Two News): Full Second-Round Results

Here are the full results of the second round of the NFL Draft:

Patriots: CB Ras-I Dowling

Bills: CB Aaron Williams

Bengals: QB Andy Dalton

49ers: QB Colin Kaepernick

Browns: DE Jabaal Sheard

Cardinals: RB Ryan Williams

Titans: LB Akeem Ayers

Cowboys: LB Bruce Carter

Redskins: DL Jarvis Jenkins

Texans: DE Brooks Reed

Vikings: TE Kyle Rudolph

Lions: WR Titus Young

Broncos: S Rahim Moore

Broncos: OL Orlando Franklin

Rams: TE Lance Kendricks

Raiders: C Stefen Wisniewski

Colts: OL Ben Ijalana

Chargers: CB Marcus Gilchrist

Bucs: DE Da'Quan Bowers

Giants: DL Marvin Austin

Bears: DT Stephen Paea

Eagles: DB Jaiquawn Jarrett

Chiefs: OL Rodney Hudson

Patriots: RB Shane Vereen

Lions: RB Mikel Leshoure

Ravens: WR Torrey Smith

Browns: WR Greg Little

Texans: CB Brandon Harris

Chargers: DL Jonas Mouton

Dolphins: RB Daniel Thomas

Steelers: OL Marcus Gilbert

Packers: WR Randall Cobb

The Steelers grabbed Texas cornerback Curtis Brown in the third round.


Steelers 2011 NFL Draft Picks: Three Things Fans Should Know About Curtis Brown

Day 2 of the 2011 NFL Draft is in the books. After selecting Cameron Heyward, a defensive end out of Ohio State, in round one Thursday night, the Steelers addressed their two biggest needs on Friday with their second and third round selections. I have major reservations about the Steelers’ second round pick, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert from Florida, but couldn’t be more optimisitc about the team’s third round selection, cornerback Curtis Brown from the University of Texas.

Here’s three things right off the bat to get Steeler Nation familiarized with Brown:

1. Brown is incredibly soft-spoken. Borderline shy even. You wouldn’t know it based on how he plays though. Brown, despite being a bit undersized for the time being, throws himself willingly at guys, eager to make a big hit without playing an undisciplined brand of football. To me, this combination of humility off the field and controlled aggression on it, is a great thing. He’ll keep his head down, absorb as much knowledge as he can, and more than likely, not buckle under pressure when it’s time for him to step up and contribute on Dick LeBeau’s defense, perhaps as early as 2011. Brown’s uncle, Hosea Taylor, was an All American defensive end at the University of Houston that went on to play for the Baltimore Colts for three seasons in the 1980s (‘81-’83).

2. Brown’s a great athlete. Not the fastest guy in the world by any stretch of the imagination. (He’s fast enough however, as evidenced by his 4.5 40-yard dash time at this year’s Combine). How about that vertical leap though? His 39.5 inch vertical jump in Indianapolis this past February was the second highest amongst corners. Brown was also a top performer in the broad jump, the 20 and 60-yard shuttle, as well as the three-cone drill. The kid may need to add 10-15 pounds of muscle, but he’s got the frame to do that without compromising any of his top-shelf athletic attributes.

3. Brown is very competent on special teams. I doubt that he’ll be used as a return man, at least not in ‘11. But Brown will likely be a gunner on punt coverage and play on the Steelers’ kickoff coverage unit as well as a rookie. Brown led the Longhorns in special teams tackles as a junior in 2009 (15) while also blocking a punt. The year before as a sophomore, Brown recorded nine special teams takedowns, tied for the team lead. And finally, as a freshman in ‘07, Brown also led the team in ST tackles with nine. That’s three straight years either leading or being tied for the team lead in ST tackles. You better believe Mike Tomlin and Al Everett will be pleased to welcome a willing and capable contributor in the all important third phase of the game.

For more 2011 NFL Draft coverage, stay tuned here throughout the rest of the weekend, as well as at Behind the Steel Curtain.


Steelers Draft Picks 2011: What the Curtis Brown Pick Means for the Steelers Secondary

The wait was long, but it was worth it. The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got a corner to insure against the possible departures of Ike Taylor and William Gay.

A late round run on cornerbacks amped up the pressure on the Steelers, who were widely expected to address the CB position within the first three rounds. The New Orleans Saints’ choice of Lousiville CB Johnny Patrick (88th overall) and the Philadelphia Eagles’ selection of Utah State CB Curtis Marsh (90th overall) were both tough to stomach, but by the time the Steelers took their turn, there were still a number of interesting corners available, including Texas CB Curtis Brown and Brandon Burton of Utah. The Steelers settled on Brown, which made this fan nearly throw his laptop on the ground in joy. Utter joy.

Brown is a lanky corner who can make big time plays for the Steelers on defense, an ability he showcased at the combine, where he made several amazing catches during drills. Brown has long arms which he uses effectively to break up lots of passes. The young corner is definitely a work in progress, but he has good speed and can be effective in both man and zone coverage.

Congratulations to the Steelers for being smart enough to take the best player available in Round 2 and wait on a 3rd round gem like Curtis Brown.

The Steelers’ need at CB was exposed last year by teams who like to spread the field like the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, and Green Bay Packers. When the opposition fields four or even five wide receivers, the Steelers struggled to stop them in 2010. Pittsburgh’s need at corner is so pronounced, in fact, that the Steelers may take another corner later in the draft. Watch out for sleepers like UTC CB Buster Skrine tomorrow.


2011 NFL Draft Results, Third Round: New England Patriots Select Ryan Mallett, Possible Heir To Tom Brady

After two runs on quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft - one at the top of the first round, another at the top of the second - Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett dropped and dropped down the draft board. However, if Mallett had to fall, it's hard to imagine a better place for him to land than with the New England Patriots, who selected him with the 74th overall pick.

In New England, Mallett will spend the first few years of his career holding a clipboard behind Tom Brady, 33, learning not only from the three-time Super Bowl winner but from evil robot head coach Bill Belichick, as well. Hey, it worked for Matt Cassell of the Kansas City Chiefs - why not Mallett?

While he's not a terrific athlete, Mallett has the size (6-6, 238) and the rocket arm to possibly develop into an NFL starter with some coaching, particularly when it comes to his accuracy. (He's actually drawn comparisons to our own quarterback, Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisberger, for what it's worth.) Mallett's draft stock fell after he (allegedly) missed a pre-draft visit with the Carolina Panthers after having too much to drink the night before. I think you can make the argument that that was the most expensive hangover in the history of hangovers, as he would have likely been a first-round selection otherwise. 

In any case, Mallett in the third round makes for a smart value selection for the Patriots, who refused to allow Brady Mania to blind them to the needs of their future.


2011 NFL Draft Results, Second Round: What Offensive Tackle Marcus Gilbert Means For The Steelers

Pittsburgh All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey will play with a former Florida teammate of his next year, but it won't be his twin brother Mike, who went to the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the NFL Draft. Instead, it will be offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, who the Steelers selected with pick No. 63.

Offensive line was an obvious area of need for the Steelers, who have struggled in pass protection for the past few seasons. Gilbert, who visited with the Steelers before the draft, is a big, big boy (6-6, 330) and has enough size, strength, and footwork to develop into a quality NFL starter at right tackle. He also has the versatility to line up at guard if necessary, so it's conceivable that he could start next for the Steelers if he has a particularly strong training camp.

Gilbert is thought to have a good head on his shoulders and a very positive, coachable attitude. While he excels at run-blocking, exploding at the point of attack, he tends to struggle when it comes to picking up pass rushers off the edge. If he can't fix this flaw, expect him to sit for a season behind Pittsburgh's veterans, while offensive line coach Sean Kugler develops his new toy. If nothing else, this will soften the blow if Pittsburgh is unable to retain the services of tackle Willie Colon, who is a free agent this year. 

The front office must have identified an impending drop-off in talent at offensive line, determining that there was enough depth among the remaining crop of cornerbacks that they could wait until the third round to address that need. If they are to draft a guy like Texas product Curtis Brown, thought, they may have to strike a deal and move up the board in the third. Stay tuned.


2011 NFL Draft Results, Second Round: Texans Leap Over Steelers, Draft Miami Cornerback Brandon Harris

In a savvy move, the Houston Texans, who need defensive help all over the field, traded up the board - above the Pittsburgh Steelers - and selected Miami cornerback Brandon Harris with the No. 60 pick. After selecting two defensive linemen - Wisconsin's J. J. Watt and Arizona's Brooks Reed - Houston adds another potential starter by choosing Harris.

This is terrible news for the Steelers, who were expected to address their need at cornerback after selecting Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward with pick No. 31. However, the first two picks of the second round were corners (Virginia's Ras-I Dowling to the New England Patriots and Texas' Aaron Williams to the Buffalo Bills) and after teams like the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles passed on cornerbacks in the second round, it looked like Harris might fall right into Pittsburgh's lap at No. 63.

But the Texans were aggressive, making a deal with Patriots (surprise, surprise; they've been jumping around the board all weekend) to select a player that undoubtedly would've been gone after Pittsburgh was on the clock. Now, the only corner I could see the Steelers taking with their next pick is the "other" Texas product, Brandon Burton. Otherwise, look for them to trade down or select an offensive linemen in the second round.


NFL Draft 2011: Cleveland Browns Select UNC WR Greg Little

The Cleveland Browns selected former running back and current WR Greg Little with one of the ridiculous number of picks they leveraged from the Atlanta Falcons in their day one trade.

Little is a WR with great size (6-3, 220lbs) and decent speed, so this could be a good pick for the Browns. Nevertheless, Little is a very raw route runner, so he has a lot to learn. It might be difficult for Browns fans to be patient with the young WR, as they have had to endure the spurty development of a number of wideouts over the years. Whether it is Braylon Edwards, Brian Robiskie, or Mohamed Massaquoi, the Browns have invested quite a few quality picks in their WR corps recently, but they have seen very little return from those investments. I am sure Cleveland fans are hoping that Little breaks this trend.

The Pittsburgh Steelers brought Greg Little in for a pre draft visit, but it is unlikely that they were ever planning to select the former Tarheel this early.


2011 NFL Draft Results, Second Round: Baltimore Ravens Select Speedy Receiver Torrey Smith

The Baltimore Ravens were linked to Maryland burner Torrey Smith in a number of mock drafts, so it was no surprise to see them select the young wide receiver with the 58th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. Baltimore swung and missed on a receiver that was supposed to stretch the field a couple of years ago when they signed Donte Stallworth and lacked a truly scary receiving threat to complement Anquan Boldin, the former Arizona Cardinal they acquired in free agency a year ago.

With Smith in tow, the Ravens offense is pretty loaded. They have a number of young, dominant offensive linemen, Ray Rice, and exciting and versatile running back, and Joe Flacco, a fourth-year quarterback who appears to be on the rise. With the Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary concerns, you can expect the Ravens to utilize Smith in the two teams' divisional battles, sending him deep to stretch the field, take full advantage of Flacco's cannon of an arm, and keep Pittsburgh's defensive attack honest.


NFL Draft 2011: Kansas City Chiefs Select Possible Steelers Target and Former Florida State Guard Rodney Hudson

Potential Steelers draft picks on the offensive line are flying off of the board right now. First it was Villanova tackle Ben Ilalana going to the Indianapolis Colts, now the Kansas City Chiefs have grabbed Florida State Guard Rodney Hudson. Hudson had a pre-draft visit with the Steelers earlier this year, so Pittsburgh very well could’ve been targeting him.

At 282 pounds, Hudson is a little bit undersized for a guard, so there is a danger that the mammoth nose tackles of the NFL could push him around. Nevertheless, the Chiefs may be thinking that what Hudson lacks in brute strength, he may well make up for in agility.

There are two ways to look at this. On one hand, Steelers fans have got to start feeling uneasy about the loss of so many talented offensive lineman in this year’s draft. On the other hand, no one is really taking cornerbacks right now, which means that the Steelers might get great value at CB with the 63rd overall pick. Brandon Harris is still on the board, folks.


NFL Draft 2011: Chicago Bears Select Oregon State DT Stephen Paea

The Chicago Bears gave up a fourth round pick to trade up and select Oregon State DT Stephen Paea. This is a great pick for the Bears, who could make good use of Paea’s skills in their 4-3 defense.

Paea wowed fans and general managers alike by obliterating the NFL Combine record for bench reps. The former rugby player lifted the bar an absurd 49 times, demonstrating that he has the strength to play anywhere on the defensive line.

It is hard to imagine this pick affecting the Steelers very much. With the recent selections of Ohio State standout Cam Heyward, the Steelers are set at DE, and I don’t think that Paea looks like a 3-4 NT to me. Paea does not have very long arms that might enable him to cover two gaps in the running game like a good 3-4 NT should. Instead, Paea will probably be a very successful DT in a 4-3, as he can utilize his explosive jump off the line to collapse pockets throughout the NFC North.


2011 NFL Draft Results: Da'Quan Bowers Finally Picked By Buccaneers at No. 51

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have selected Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers with the No. 51 pick in the NFL Draft. That Bowers would have fallen this far would have seemed unthinkable just a few months ago, when he appeared as the No. 1 overall pick in a lot of mock drafts. Concerns about his knee knocked him down a bunch, but I was very surprised to see him fall out the way out of the first round, let alone all the way to the middle of the second round. This looks like a very interesting upside gamble for the Bucs, although it remains to be seen how the knee will hold up.

Before that, the San Diego Chargers selected Clemson cornerback Marcus Gilchrist at No. 50. The New York Giants’ pick is in at No. 52. Cornerbacks like Curtis Brown and Johnny Patrick remain on the board for the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 63.


NFL Draft 2011: Indianapolis Colts Select Ben Ijalana in the Second Round

The Indianapolis Colts tore my heart out just now, taking Villinova tackle Ben Ijalana in the second. I know that there will still be plenty of talent when the Steelers pick again at 63, but I really loved this guy. Really, I am taking this personally. The slap in the face factor is further amplified by the fact that the Colts already selected a tackle, Anthony Costonzo, in the first round.

Ijalana is a highly regarded talent who could’ve helped the Steelers solidify a rickety offensive line, but the Colts ruined that dream, and added some much needed talent to their calcifying offensive line. Ijalana will likely be the first stud left tackle Indianapolis has enjoyed since the departure of longtime stalwart Tarik Glenn. It won’t be long before Ijalana is protecting Peyton Manning’s blindside.

Watch him and cry, Steelers fans.

This pick only further solidifies the likelihood that the Steelers will select a cornerback in round two.


2011 NFL Draft Results: Penn State's Workmanlike Center Stefen Wisniewski Selected By Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders have selected Penn State center Stefen Wisniewski with the No. 48 overall pick in the second round. They clearly knew they wanted him, as they made the pick almost immediately after the Rams selected Lance Kendricks.

Wisniewski is the only Nittany Lion likely to be selected in the first few rounds. He should be a solid offensive lineman for the Raiders. He’s a great character guy with good bloodlines, and while he doesn’t possess huge upside, he can be a strong contributor. Here’s a scouting report.

The Indianapolis Colts took Ben Ijalana from Villanova at No. 49, which is irritating because he would have been a fantastic pick for the Steelers at the end of the second round – the Steelers badly need offensive line help. Sam Wilmoth will have more on that later, and who the Steelers might have their eyes on in the second line. The Colts appear to be rebuilding their offensive line with the selections of Ijalana and Anthony Castonzo in the past two days. In the meantime, the San Diego Chargers are on the clock.


2011 NFL Draft, Second Round: Da'Quan Bowers Continues To Slip; Could He Be A Steeler?

The 2011 NFL Draft has been full of surprises, for sure. The unexpected run on quarterbacks in the first round, the blockbuster trade between the Falcons and the Cleveland Browns and the Falcons that sent Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones to Atlanta, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara sliding to the New York Giants at No. 19 overall...

But perhaps the biggest shocker has been Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers' continued slide down the draft board. If the draft had taken place the day after the Super Bowl, Bowers might have been the top overall pick, but after a number of medical concerns about his knee surfaced, NFL squads got gun-shy about selecting the talented prospect. The fact that he's slipped this far suggest that his health issues are perhaps more severe than many of us in the media world suspected.

We're approaching the halfway point in Round Two, and Bowers, a risk-reward player with tremendous upside, is still just sitting there. How much farther will he fall? And if the Clemson product is (somehow) still available at selection No. 63, when the Steelers are on the clock, should Pittsburgh take a chance on the kid and see if he can't sit a year, then play outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme?

It's definitely an unlikely scenario, but with Bowers slipping the way he has, it's fun to think about. Stranger things have happened, and OLB could be an area of need in the future with LaMarr Woodley's uncertain contract situation (he was given the team's franchise tag in the offseason) and James Harrison getting older.


2011 NFL Draft Results: Denver Broncos Take Orlando Franklin

Here are the last several picks as we head into the middle of the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft:

39. Tennessee Titans: OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA
40. Dallas Cowboys OLB Bruce Carter, UNC
41. Washington Redskins: DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson
42. Houston Texans: DE Brooks Reed, Arizona
43. Minnesota Vikings: TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
44. Detroit Lions: WR Titus Young, Boise State
45. Denver Broncos: S Rahim Moore, UCLA
46. Denver Broncos, offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, Miami
47. St. Louis Rams: TE Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin

The only one of these who has much of an impact on the Steelers is Franklin, who had been projected to go to the Steelers in the second round. I’m not sure the Steelers would have taken him, because he struggles at protecting the pass, but either way, he’ll affect the offensive line depth that will be available when the Steelers pick at No. 63. Kendricks is a bit of a reach and doesn’t have great size for a tight end.


LaMarr Woodley Eager To Sack New Bengals Quarterback Andy Dalton

The second round of the 2011 NFL Draft is in full swing, with nearly half of the 32 selections already announced. The Pittsburgh Steelers select at No. 63, and the consensus is that the six-time Super Bowl champs will look to improve their secondary or offensive line here on Day 2.

Quick note while we wait to see who the most recent addition to the Steelers family will be. The Cincinnati Bengals, who held the third pick in round two (35th overall), hopes they landed their quarterback of the future in TCU signal caller Andy Dalton. LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers menacing pass-rushing outside linebacker is eager for Dalton to become the starter for the Bengals so that he can introduce himself. Here’s what Woodley had to say on his Facebook page not long ago:

Never sacked a redhead b4… cant wait!!!!!! lol

Can’t wait either!

Stay tuned here and at Behind the Steel Curtain throughout the evening and weekend as rounds two through six of the ’11 Draft unfold.


NFL Draft 2011: Detroit Lions Select Titus Young in the Second Round

I will admit that I had my story written before the Detroit Lions made their pick. I was just sure that they would pull a CB away from the loving arms of the Pittsburgh Steelers with the No. 44 overall pick. The Lions must not have gotten my memo, as they selected electrifying Boise State WR Titus Young.

If the Lions can just keep Matthew Stafford healthy, then the Lions could end up being quite fun to watch on offense. I am sure that the prospect of watching Stafford heave deep balls to Young and superstar Calvin Williams has to be exciting to the Detroit faithful.

This is the second year in a row that Detroit has gotten great value with a late first or early second round pick, as they selected Javhid Best with last year. The youth movement is on Detroit.

For Steelers fans, this is obviously great news, as the Lions had a glaring need at CB. For every team that passes on CB, it is that much more likely that Pittsburgh can snare a good one later in the second round.

-Sam Wilmoth


NFL Draft 2011: Cardinals Select Ryan Williams Of Virginia Tech; Tennessee Titans Pick UCLA's Akeem Ayers

The Arizona Cardinals selected the second RB off of the board, former Virginia Tech star Ryan Williams.

Arizona hasn't had an interesting running game since...has Arizona ever had an interesting running game? Just two years after using a first round pick on Beanie Wells, the Cardinals acquired some competition for him. Perhaps more balance will benefit an offense that is still in flux after the departure of hall of fame quarterback Kurt Warner.

The Tennessee Titans decided to focus on defense with the No. 39 overall pick, selecting OLB Akeem Ayers of UCLA. This is a huge pick for a Titans team that has grown accustomed to suffocating defense over the last few years. Ayers is widely regarded as a first round talent, but the OLB slipped into the second  round because of a disappointing combine. It is fitting that former Titans DE Javon Kearse read the selection for the Titans, as Tennessee fans are no doubt hoping he will add fire to a pass rush that already includes Jason Babin.

-Sam Wilmoth


2011 NFL Round 2: Browns Continue Bolstering Trenches With Selection Of Jabaal Sheard

The rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns has been extremely one-sided in recent years. Certainly since Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in the first round of the 2004 Draft. But younger fans shouldn’t forget that it was once one of the very best in all of the NFL, if not the very best and most fierce. Well, after the king’s ransom that the Browns received in exchange from the Atlanta Falcons during Thursday night’s blockbuster first round trade, the Browns now have the picks to renew the rivalry in the forthcoming years.

So far, the Browns have acquired defensive tackle Phil Taylor out of Baylor, a hulking presence that will pose a nice challenge to center Maurkice Pouncey. Then, with their pick in the second round on Friday, the Browns continued to focus on improving their front seven on defense, drafting Pittsburgh Panthers defensive end, Jabaal Sheard. All of a sudden, the Browns defense has a chance to be fairly formidable sooner rather than later.

More on the selection of Sheard on SB Nation Pittsburgh soon. To hear what Browns fans think of the selection, head on over to Dawgs by Nature for more fan discussion and analysis.


2011 NFL Draft Results, Round Two: Ras-I Dowling, Aaron Williams First Two Picks

The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills selected two potential Steelers picks with the first two picks in the second round. The Pats picked Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, while the Bills took Texas’ Aaron Williams with the second pick. That’s a drag for the Steelers – not that hit was terribly likely that either of those guys would get to them, but their selection early on probably decreases the chances that a good corner will get to the Steelers at pick No. 63. (Also, the annoyingly smart Patriots get a good player.) If the Steelers can’t find a corner they like, they may grab an offensive lineman.

The Cincinnati Bengals took TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, as expected. The 49ers then took Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The Browns then took Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard, who was widely expected to go in the second round. Sheard was the second Pitt player to be selected, as the Chiefs took wide receiver Jon Baldwin late in the first round on Thursday.


2011 NFL Draft Round 2: Steeler Nation's Dream Of Acquiring Ras-I Dowling Dashed

The first three picks of second round is underway and with the No. 33 pick, the New England Patriots selected Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Great pick for the Patriots’ defense, but one fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t at all pleased to see. Dowling has been at the top of Steeler Nation’s wish list all draft season. In a second round mock draft filed this afternoon, Steeler fans even projected that the Steelers might be smart to trade up to land the physical corner. It wasn’t meant to be though, as clearly other teams valued the young talent as much as the vast legion of black and gold fans.

There are plenty of solid cornerbacks left on the board though, so fear not Steelers fans hoping to shore up the secondary with a CB in round two.

Stay tuned here and on Behind the Steel Curtain throughout the evening and for the remainder of the 2011 NFL Draft while we wait to see who the newest additions to the Pittsburgh Steelers will be.


Mel Kiper NFL Mock Draft For Second Round Has Steelers Taking Ben Ijalana

Mel Kiper’s mock draft for round two of the NFL Draft has a series of cornerbacks going early, with the Broncos taking Aaron Williams at No. 36, the Cowboys grabbing Brandon Harris at No. 40, the Lions taking Curtis Brown at No. 44, and the Eagles snagging Brandon Burton at No. 54. A number of offensive linemen (Jah Reid, Orlando Franklin, Rodney Hudson) come off the board before the Steelers pick as well. Ras-I Dowling almost makes it to the Steelers, but the Chargers grab him at No. 61. Still, that leaves the Steelers with a pretty terrific consolation prize, as offensive lineman Ben Ilajana, who a lot of folks considered to be a first-round pick, falls to them at No. 63.

The Packers take Louisville corner Johnny Patrick at No. 64, which will have Steelers fans a little worried if that’s how it goes down. To get Cameron Heyward and Ilajana at the ends of each of the first two rounds will be terrific for the Steelers in terms of value, but Pittsburgh has scarily little depth at corner, and there just aren’t a lot of great corners in the draft. They would probably need to pick one in the third round, but I’m not sure who would be available.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Todd McShay Projects Second Round

Todd McShay has a new 2011 mock draft for the second round. This one again has the Cleveland Browns taking Da’Quan Bowers at No. 37 and the Cowboys and Lions taking cornerbacks at No. 40 and No. 44, respectively – Dallas takes Aaron Williams, and Detroit takes Ras-I Dowling. The 49ers then take Brandon Harris at No. 45. Will Rackley and Orlando Franklin both go off the board before the Steelers pick at No. 63 as well, and that leaves Wisconsin offensive lineman John Moffitt.

A few days ago, Mocking The Draft called Moffitt a sleeper among offensive line picks:

John Moffitt was a huge reason for the success of Wisconsin’s ground game this passed season. He may not have stood out during his combine workouts, but the kid is a football player. Moffitt is an all around solid player, and he will get overlooked because he is not necessarily elite in any one area. However, elite talent is not always needed to be successful at guard in the NFL. Moffitt has enough skill and all of the intangibles to be a long time starter in the NFL.

The Steelers obviously need a cornerback more, but if Williams, Dowling and Harris are gone, they might indeed consider an offensive lineman ike Moffitt or Will Rackley. This particular mock is missing Villanova's Ben Ijalana, though, and I'm not sure I see the Steelers passing on him in the second round.


NFL Draft, Second Round: Mock Draft Has Da'Quan Bowers Going To Browns, While Steelers Pick Will Rackley

SBNation.com has a new 2011 NFL Mock Draft for Round 2. One of the big stories of Round 2 is what exactly will happen to Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, who many mock drafters had projected as one of the top overall picks - or even the top overall pick - just a few months ago. He's still on the board, but SB Nation thinks he'll quickly leave it, heading to the Cleveland Browns at No. 37. (If that happens, an already-great Browns draft will get even better.)

Texas corner Aaron Williams, a possible first-round pick for the Steelers, goes to the Cowboys at No. 40, and then Miami corner Brandon Harris goes to the Lions at No. 44. Texas corner Curtis Brown goes to the 49ers at No. 45, and if that's how it happens, many Steelers fans will be sweating a bit, because the last thing the Steelers should want is a run on cornerbacks half a round before they pick. Virginia's Ras-I Dowling then goes at No. 54 to the Eagles.

With all those corners gone, SB Nation has the Steelers turning to an offensive lineman, Lehigh's Will Rackley, at No. 63:

Help is desperately needed up front, and Rackley is one of the most talented small-school players available this year.

I'm not sure I've seen Rackley connected to the Steelers before, but with guys like James Carpenter (first round), Marcus Gilbert (to the Vikings at No. 43), and Ben Ijalana (to the Patriots at No. 60, which would be agonizing for Steelers fans to see) off the board, Rackley could be a possibility. It will be disappointing for the Steelers if the second round plays like this. Hopefully someone like Brown will fall to them.

This mock has Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard going to the Cardinals at No. 38, while Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski goes to the Raiders at No. 45.


Round Two Mock Draft (Update): Recent Mocks Have Steelers Picking Orlando Franklin, Marcus Gilbert

Here's a look at what to expect the Steelers to do with NFL Draft pick No. 63 in the second round, based on recent mock drafts: Todd McShay has the Steelers taking Miami offensive lineman Orlando Franklin. A recent mock at SBNation.com has the Steelers taking Florida offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert.

McShay was one of the few to correctly predict that the Steelers would take defensive end Cameron Heyward in the first round but, as much as offensive line is a need for the Steelers, cornerback is a very critical one, and the fact that Aaron Williams and Brandon Harris didn't get taken in the first round increases the chances that the Steelers will be able to settle on a corner they like.

In other words, while Gilbert did have a pre-draft visit with the Steelers, it's pretty hard to imagine the Steelers passing on a corner in both of the first two rounds. Williams, Harris and Ras-I Dowling look pretty unlikely to fall all the way to the Steelers, but someone like Louisville's Johnny Patrick or Texas' Curtis Brown might make sense.


2011 NFL Draft 2011, Second And Third Rounds: Look For Steelers To Pick A Cornerback On Day 2

With the (brilliant) selection of Cameron Heyward, the Steelers addressed a huge need at defensive end, but there is still much work to do. The Steelers still have needs at cornerback and tackle, and conventional wisdom says the Steelers will have both of those bases covered by the end of the day tomorrow.

There is certainly some merit to conventional wisdom, as round one came and went with tons of talent still on the board at both of Pittsburgh's primary needs.

There are still some top talents at cornerback, in particular. Once touted as near-surefire first round picks (and mentioned in near constant connection with the Steelers), Miami's Brandon Harris and Texas' Aaron Williams remain on the board. It seems pretty unlikely that either of those two will be realistic options for the Steelers unless they plan on a very unlikely blockbuster trade to the top of the second. Nevertheless, there is at least some chance that Williams in particular could slip all the way to the Steelers' next pick.

Another long shot could be Virginia's Ras-I Dowling, the mega-talented corner who has seen his value slip because of a rash of injuries. Again, this does not seem like a solid bet for the Steelers without a substantial trade up. There are simply too many teams, such as the Detroit Lions, that would be all too eager to snap Dowling up early in the second. What seems more likely is that another less-heralded corner, such as Texas' Curtis Brown, Utah State's Curtis Marsh, Louisville's Johnny Patrick, or Utah's Brandon Burton could still be an option for the Black & Gold at No. 63. The Steelers seemed to have anticipated this, as they scheduled pre-draft visits with a number of mid-round corner prospects, such as Dowling, Williams, Patrick, Brown, and Marsh. The fact that so many possibilities exist for the Steelers at this point is a very, very good thing.

The Steelers are in a similarly comfortable position when it comes to filling their other glaring need, offensive tackle. While the selection of Benjamin Ijalana would be absolutely glorious, that's unlikely. Ijalana is slated to be off the board by the middle of the second round at the latest, and it would require some serious luck to put on a Steelers helmet next year. The Steelers brass might more realistically target prospects like Marcus Gilbert or Orlando Franklin.

The problem with all this conventional wisdom, of course, is that the Steelers often ignore it. Don't be surprised at all if you see a wideout like Edmond Gates or an interior lineman like Jason Pinkston come off of the board when it is the Steelers' turn at the podium.

No matter what happens, the Steelers are in a prime position to take valuable players at positions of need.

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