Much to the chagrin of Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans everywhere, the free agent market is drying up like a popsicle on a hot summer day, with Sterling Moore and Patrick Robinson the two latest cornerbacks who eluded Pittsburgh for “greener” pastures, or at least a starting spot, which they probably weren’t assured in Pittsburgh. So what now? The draft is the most likely source, with the possibility on the table of the front office taking a double-dip approach, much like they did in the 2007 draft with Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. Depth is an issue and one place the team could look is the upcoming NFL Veterans Combine, despite what general manager Kevin Colbert previously said.
While this may hold true, Colbert of all people should know that just because a player struggles to stick in the league, doesn’t mean their career is down the tubes. He’s seen plenty of tape on the incoming rookies, so an analogy could be made why attend the NFL Combine for rookies, if he’s already seen their game tape? Case in point, look no further than James Harrison, who was cut more times than a Thanksgiving turkey. Colbert and the scouts saw something in him though, and we all saw how the shot he was given turned out. I’m not saying there’s another Harrison at this event, because there’s not. But it wouldn’t hurt the least bit to at least give it some attention, considering the team’s passive offseason thus far. Here are a few names to watch.
Adam Carriker, the former first round pick of the St. Louis Rams. At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, he’s built in the same mold as former Steelers great, Aaron Smith, who was widely hailed as the best 3-4 defensive end in the game during his playing days. A first round pick of the Rams in 2007, he was a 3-technique in their 4-3, sort of a fish out of water until traded to the Washington Redskins, who employed a 3-4 under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. He flashed his potential at his newfound position up until injuries struck. He’s had multiple quad surgeries since 2012, and was cut by Washington last offseason. Another chance with a team never happened but Haslett said, “If anyone can do it, Adam can.” Now appearing healthy, he posted a video, seen below, of himself deadlifting 505 pounds for 2 reps, a pretty astonishing feat.
For Carriker, the veteran’s combine is a chance to show teams, even at age 30, that his injury-riddled past is behind him, and that he hasn’t stopped trying to live his dream, where others may have given up. Coming out in the 2007 draft, he looked to be the next great 5-technique, like Justin Smith or Aaron Smith, and he has the first round pedigree. He would be a great depth add for Pittsburgh.
Another name is Aaron Berry, who played his college football at the University of Pittsburgh. Despite his off the field issues and a torn ACL, he is still only 26 years old, and boasts starting experience in the league. Worst case scenario, he’s another Brice McCain-type signing for depth purposes. We’ve all seen over the last week, the front office luring free agent cornerbacks in for visits, only to watch them disappear and sign elsewhere. It’s like watching a wildlife show on the Discovery Channel where the lion stalks and hunts down it’s prey, only to have a scavenging hyena come in at the last moment and steal it away. It’s worth pondering as to what type of deals the team is offering these players, because Patrick Robinson’s deal with San Diego was only 1-year and $3 million. That’s certainly not big money, and was definitely affordable for the team, especially with extensions for Cameron Heyward and Kelvin Beachum looming.
Some of the players in attendance were drafted, so obviously they had the talent. Maybe they weren’t put in position to succeed, or maybe weren’t coached properly. In Carriker’s case, maybe cutting him was worth it over the risk of rolling the dice to see if he’d recovered from injury. Although deadlifting isn’t playing football, he appears healthy, and at only 30, he is 6 years younger than Brett Keisel, who was a vital cog last year on the defensive line. And let’s be serious, how much worse than Cam Thomas can he be?