Ever year when the draft ends I can always count on people asking me right away to grade the Pittsburgh Steelers selections. I don’t usually like to do that for several reason with one of them being that I want to do more research on the players drafted to find out even more about their strengths and weaknesses. Being as that’s going to probably take another full week, I will instead share some of my initial thoughts now that the draft is over.
For starters, even though Kevin Colbert always likes to say he never drafts for need, it was obvious this year more than ever that he did at certain points. In fact, he even admitted as much during the post-draft press conference as he said they knew they wanted to come out of the second-round with a cornerback one way or another.
This draft again showed how important it is to follow where Colbert and Mike Tomlin go when they make their pro day rounds. In addition to that, the pre-draft visitor list, as usual, is very telling.
As far as the selection of Bud Dupree goes, I like it. I had a feeling they weren’t interested in Connecticut’s Byron Jones, so once the top three cornerbacks went off the board, I’m pretty sure the selection of Dupree was an easy one for them. I didn’t think Dupree would fall to them and I believe Colbert when he said he was surprised as well. I do wonder what would’ve happened had Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson still been on the board as well. This was the right pick the way the board broke.
Even though Dupree stood up at Kentucky, I still expect that it will take some time to get him on the field on a regular basis. He needs to establish a better first punch and always make sure to keep those semi-heavy hands of his busy. He’s already pretty strong and should only get stronger. I like those bigger outside guys that move like their 245-pounds and he’s one of them. I don’t consider him to be a natural pass-rusher, however, so Joey Porter definitely has some coaching ahead of him.
As far as the selection of Senquez Golson goes, it kind of caught off guard. I’m surprised they had him rated so high and even considered trading up for him. He is not afraid of contact, however, so that’s a positive and he did cover some big receivers that are now in the NFL while playing in the SEC. As far as his 16 career interceptions go, I have seen a few of them and plan on seeing at least the 10 he had last year in order to see how much he actually played a role in getting them. I also want to see the touchdowns he allowed, but that might take some time.
In my opinion, Golson is likely to be career inside guy based on the three games I’ve already watched. There have been successful small cornerbacks in the league that have played outside like Brent Grimes, who now has 22 career interceptions. Time will tell if Golson can become that same kind of player, but I have my doubts about that, at least initially. I look forward to watching a few more games of his.
When it comes to the selection of wide receiver Sammie Coates, I understand it. It was a classic “best skilled position on the board” pick being as they weren’t going to take another cornerback or outside linebacker again that early. Go look at the 33 players taken after Coates and before their fourth-round selection. Also, ask yourself if you really want Darrius Heyward-Bey to see extended action should one of the three starters go down for an extended period of time. This is a track meet league right now and thus you can never have too many wide receivers with size that are fast. Coates really did stretch the field at Auburn and can gain YAC. If he fixes his drop problems, he could be a very nice asset being as he blocks so well. His route running might improve, but he’ll need to work on it quite a bit. Richard Mann certainly has a knack for coaching up wide receivers, so there’s that.
You could smell the selection of Doran Grant coming. Round four is right where he belonged and there was a little value included as he probably deserved to go about 15-20 picks earlier. When it comes to potential Steelers draft picks, Grant had all of the boxes checked. Pro day visit, pre-draft visit, captain, playing experience, played for a winner, played in a power conference and good character. He’s better with the play in front of him and even better when the front seven ahead of him gets pressure. Even though he timed well, Grant needs to prove he can run with receivers when it calls for it. If he can’t, he might be your future free safety. He’s not afraid to tackle, so assuming he makes the roster, and there’s no reason to think that he won’t, he should be a core special teams player from the start. He fits in Pittsburgh, it’s just a matter of where. Outside? Inside? Centerfield? William Gay Jr.?
How many of you were yelling for Jesse James in the fifth round? Looking back, we all probably should’ve predicted the Grant and James pick, right? Now, is James more Heath Miller or more Matt Spaeth? More importantly, right now, can he beat out Rob Blanchflower for a roster spot? Being as he was a fifth-round selection, odds say that he will. He better be able to play special teams, however. Also, at 6-7 he should be a red zone asset. I think I have his red zone numbers somewhere, so once I get them I’ll pass them along. My biggest concern is whether or not he can improve his blocking. From what I’ve seen in my study, he needs a lot of work in that area. I’m not ready to say he’s Miller’s heir apparent just yet and I look forward to digging deeper into his tape this coming week.
I know very little about L.T. Walton, but he sure does look the part. At closer inspection, his measurables aren’t great, however, but he reportedly stays on his feet, so that’s a plus if true. Those shorter arms worry me a bit. I’m not going to comment on him anymore than that until I can get a good look at some of his tape. I will say this, though, he comes off as a very intelligent kid when you hear him speak. As of right now, you’d have to think he’s a candidate for the practice squad due to the numbers game. In other words, don’t expect Cam Thomas to be calling for a moving truck rental anytime soon.
If you were to hook Anthony Chickillo up to a lie detector machine and ask him if he’d rather be a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, I’m willing to bet he would choose the former. He has quite a task ahead of him as he’s about to see the game from a whole new angle. He was asked to play defensive end in a 3-4 at Miami and really enjoyed playing in a 4-3 at the all-star game. We are about to see if he can play in space and hold the point. He better be a great special teams player if expects to make the roster as it’s his only chance, in my opinion. I won’t be shocked if he’s a practice squad player in 2015. Remember, there’s likely only one outside linebacker spot on the 53 man roster up for grabs this year now that Dupree is in town.
When it comes to Gerod Holliman, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find any of us on the site jumping for joy about him. Yes, he has a ton of interceptions, but just like I said with Golsen, I want to see all of them. Also, does he just not want to tackle, or is just very bad at it? The tape says it’s both. If he can’t and won’t tackle, he can’t play on special teams. And if he cant play on special teams, he can’t make the roster. And if he can’t make the roster, he won’t be making any interceptions. That should let you know what I think about that pick. I hope he makes me eat my words.