Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ah You. Yeah, you.

Sorry it’s taken so long to return from our hiatus. Damn. “A few days” turned into “a few weeks” and now here we are on the eve of the NFL Draft, smack dab in the middle of one of our favorite weeks of the year. Seriously, Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls love the NFL Draft. Naturally, our focus is on the Steelers. Nothing happens in a vacuum, however, and the draft produces cause-and-effect consequences that ripple across the NFL landscape while producing consequences that can change the competitive balance of the league for years.

So, after re-reading our assessment posted March 16 (more than a month ago, for crying out loud), we can’t say that our opinion has changed much. As happens every year, some players rise on the draft board. Others fall. It looks like Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska, is rising on everybody’s draft board, and we’d be surprised if he falls to the Steelers at pick number 15 in the first round. Conversely, Leon Hall, CB, Michigan, seems to be falling and could well be available when the Steelers pick. Like a lot of people, however, we’ve cooled on Hall and have changed our Pit Bull minds: We’d pass on selecting him.

We’d also pass on Darelle Revis, CB, Pitt, whom many pundits are touting as a logical choice for the Steelers. Granted he has all the size/speed measureables, and you can never have too many corners (good corners, that is). But, having watched a lot of Pitt football, our problem with Revis is this: He didn’t make plays. He simply didn’t. He wasn’t a disruptive playmaker. Admittedly, shutdown corners are supposed to be invisible, but, still: He didn’t stick out, and Pitt’s had a bad – no, a terrible – pass defense the past few years, playing against competition that for the most part was weak, to be generous. Remember the loss to the Ohio University Bobcats in 2005? Yeah. Anyway, as for the Steelers taking Reavis? We just don’t see it. He didn’t seem to play tough against the run, you can’t say he was a shutdown cover guy, and he didn’t have many interceptions. He didn’t make plays. Aside from that, he’s great.

So that brings us back to the defensive front seven, which is where the salary cap and roster depth cast a glaring spotlight. Personally, we’ve cooled a bit (but not much) on Jarvis Moss, although ya gotta love the following quote:

“That's what makes you who you are," Moss said. “Just overcoming lots of adversity growing up. Hopefully, teams will see that in the fourth quarter -- when there's lots of adversity -- I'm going to be there. I'm going to play hard to the finish and leave it all on the field.

"The Lord made me like this for a reason. He put me on the football field for a reason. This is what I do. I have a real passion for football. It's what I enjoy. When all is said and done, it's not about the money or the fame to me. I want to go down as one of the greats to play the game. That's what I work for: to be a great football player and to win championships.”

As for Paul Posluszny, we like him, but … although he was consistently great in high school and college, we have concerns about his size, durability and playmaking abilities in the NFL. As noted in our last posting, Jack Ham calls Posluszny “the greatest linebacker ever to play at Penn State.” That’s high praise, indeed, coming from the man who was in fact “the greatest linebacker ever to play at Penn State” and also one of the best in NFL history. Still, we have concerns: Will he be able to shed blocks? Rush the passer? Disrupt crossing patterns? Cover downfield? Stay with tight ends like Todd Heap, Alonzo Gates and Tony Gonzalez? Uh, we don’t know, and we aren’t convinced. We know he’s big enough and has all the intangibles, but still … we have concerns.

Personally, we like Anthony Spencer of Purdue. As noted previously on Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls, we see him as a cross between Levon Kirkland and Adalius Thomas. We believe he would be a truly disruptive force on the pass rush, in coverage and stopping the run. Spencer is the guy we’d take, or …

Or, Reggie Nelson, safety, Florida: The trouble with taking Nelson this high is the salary cap. Troy Polamulu, Anthony Smith, Ryan Clark, Tyrone Carter, Mike Logan, et al, already inflate the cap at this position, so from that perspective, drafting Nelson may not be pragmatic. And you could argue the Steelers are loaded at safety already. But Nelson is a safety who plays like a cornerback, and that is how the safety position is evolving in the NFL. Because the NFL passing game has become so aggressive, defensive coordinators have responded with nickel and dime packages that stress coverage ability. If you can make a case for the Steelers drafting a cornerback such as Revis or Hall at No. 15, then you can make at least as strong a case for drafting Reggie Nelson to upgrade the safety position and simultaneously transform the defense into one that shuts down the deep middle of the field where wide receivers ramble and tight ends roam. I like the idea. This would be a radical move that would vex the likes of Carson Palmer and his corps of receivers on the Bengals, as well as premier tight ends like Todd Heap.

Having said all that, the most glaring hole to fill is on the defensive front seven. And, in the first round, the Steelers should be able to select from a cadre of very talented players (Carriker, Moss, Posluszny, Spencer) to help fill their weakness there, and they may consider drafting at least one or two more players for the front seven later in the draft. We also like (a lot) Lamarr Woodley (6’2, 270), the majorly accomplished defensive end/linebacker from Michigan, but he almost certainly will be selected before the Steelers’ second-round pick.

Another guy we like, but only because of his name, is C.J. Ah You, DE, Oklahoma.

Who? Ah You, who explains his name in the following media interview:

SS: What does C.J. stand for?
Ah You: Charles. I'm named after my father, Charles Ah You. The J is for Junior.
SS: Does your last name have a meaning in Samoan?
Ah You: I don't know, really.

Well, then. That clears that up. Speaking of great names, there’s always Melvin Bullitt, S, Texas A&M, but …

More seriously, other players we’d really, really like to see in Steelers uniforms next year include Tony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio State, Sabby Piscitelli, S, Oregon State, and either Adam Podlesh, P, Maryland, or Daniel Sepulveda, P, Baylor. And, oh, Eric Weddle, S/CB, Utah.

The offensive line needs help, too, but you knew that already.