2011 Draft

Is Aaron Williams Worth A Nickel To The Steelers?

I talked about Texas cornerback Curtis Brown the other day and today wanted to focus in on another Texas cornerback, Aaron Williams, in relation to the Steelers. Back in late December, Williams announced his decision to skip his senior season at Texas to enter the 2011 NFL Draft and since then the biggest questions that surround him is if he is best suited as a corner or free safety at the next level. Williams certainly has the measurables of a coveted first round cornerback outside of his 40 time. At the NFL Combine in February, Williams ran in the low 4.5 range, but recently improved that number at his recent Pro Day on a faster track. His ball skills have also been questioned since the combine, but that too reportedly improved at his Pro Day as well. The Steelers were certainly represented well at the Longhorns Pro Day as head coach Mike Tomlin, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert and new defensive backs coach Carnell Lake were in attendance to watch the performance. Another knock on Williams as he enters the draft is the lack of physicality he has shown on film as well as his inconsistency as a tackler. The willingness and aggressiveness is there, but he will need his technique refined and Lake should be able to help him at the next level.

Despite all the knocks and the questions regarding what position and scheme he might best fit at in the NFL, Williams is still regarded as a late first round talent. Because of that, the Steelers might indeed have a good shot at Williams falling to them at the 31st pick, should they stay put with the pick. The Steelers like drafting underclassmen and Williams certainly fits that mold coming out after his junior year. He also has played well on special teams while at Texas and that too would be a plus. The Steelers certainly have a need at both the cornerback and free safety position, so Williams once again could fit regardless of the position they might deem him at the next level.

Williams, if drafted by the Steelers, would be a project, but certainly could see some playing time in his rookie season at the nickel spot or as a dimeback initially. He also should be able to contribute instantly on special teams. The Steelers could have several secondary spots open on the roster come training camp time as starting cornerback Ike Taylor could be lost via free agency and nickel back William Gay is not a lock to return either depending on how his free agent status pans out. In addition, defensive back Anthony Madison and safety Ryan Mundy are also free agents and neither are locks to return in 2011. Mundy saw most of his time backing up the strong safety position when Troy Polamalu was sidelined and Madison saw spot duty at both the nickel and dime spots in 2010. The Steelers certainly could also use depth behind Ryan Clark at the free safety spot and perhaps Williams would eventually be groomed to take over there eventually.

While Lake is new to the Steelers coaching staff, he certainly has walked the walk at both the corner and safety spot in his playing days with the Steelers. He also showed in his one season coaching at UCLA that he can teach today’s\’ younger defensive backs. Williams certainly would be in good hands with Lake and should be able to be molded into the same type player over time. His versatility could be useful in the short term as the Steelers look to start revamping the secondary. Should he be drafted by the Steelers, he would perhaps be considered the best player on the board when the Steelers draft, while also fitting a need. That, in my opinion, is rarity when picking down at the bottom of the first round. Although there are certainly some questions that still loom over Williams, I do not see him as a boom or bust pick here. The Steelers always do their homework when scouting and know by now whether or not Williams is a fit or not on the Steelers. Is it at cornerback? Is it at free safety? Only they know for sure. Perhaps Williams is worth a nickel or in the case of the Steelers, the 31st pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

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