Sunday, April 25, 2010


Bob Smizik made good points on his Post-Gazette blog today: The Steelers' Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, scouts, evaluators, et al, know more about what they're doing with respect to the NFL Draft than we do, and they have more at stake, namely their jobs and reputation, than we do, no matter how invested in the team we fans may be.

Still, we are not alone in being baffled by some of the choices the Steelers made during the 2010 draft. We like the Maurkice Pouncey first-round pick for reasons cited in Friday's post.

As we were watching the second round unfold, however, we were hoping the Steelers would grab Stanford running back Toby Gerhart -- but the Minnesota Vikings must have known the Steelers had their eye on Gerhart and made a trade to jump one spot in advance of the Steelers' 52nd pick overall to draft Gerhart. Nothing you can do about that.

Well, too bad, we thought -- but we have an unexpectedly nice consolation prize awaiting us in the person of Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate, who has "faster Hines Ward" written all over him.

But, no, the Steelers instead drafted Virginia Tech defensive end Jason Worilds, whom they intend to use on special teams while converting him to outside linebacker. That's a position he's never played, to our knowledge, so nobody knows how he will fare in pass coverage.

It seems iffy -- all-too iffy for a second-round pick, especially when you have a productive, big-time college player, Golden Tate, who is pro-ready and able to contribute immediately on punt returns and at wide receiver. Hopefully, the third-round choice, Emanuel Sanders (whom we like very much) will do just that. But, still ... Jason Worilds instead of Golden Tate. It's baffling. Best player available? We shall see.

The team drafted other eyebrow-raising projects in later rounds. As noted in prior posts, we would have liked to have seen them draft Northwestern QB Mike Kafka (who went to the Eagles with the 122nd pick overall in the 4th round -- after the Steelers took Thaddeus Gibson) -- never mind the QBs on the roster already.

Kudos to the Steelers, however, for grabbing Emmanuel Sanders and Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer, a power running back who was productive in college but had an unimpressive showing at the Combine. We presume Dwyer will battle Frank "The Tank" Summers for the short-yardage RB position. Dwyer cost only a sixth-round pick, but prior to his desultory workouts at the NFL Combine, nearly everybody expected him to be taken much higher in the draft.

The acquisition of Bryant MacFadden also cost little, but -- as Smizik also noted astutely -- you have to wonder why the Arizona Cardinals let him go (after just one season) for a measly fifth-round pick ... plus the Cardinals threw in a sixth-rounder to bid him adieu.

After watching the Packers' Aaron Rodgers light up the Cards' secondary for approximately 500 yards in the playoffs last year, maybe the Cardinals figured MacFadden wasn't the cornerback they thought he was, not that it was entirely his fault.

In a roundabout way, you could view the trade as Santonio Holmes for Bryant MacFadden -- the Steelers traded the fifth-rounder they got from the Jets for Holmes -- plus received a sixth-rounder, who turned out to be Central Michigan wide receiver Antonio Brown, who shows some decent promise for a guy from a mid-major school. Hey, somebody had to be catching all those passes from QB Dan Lefevour, who also could have been in a Steelers' uniform, easily. The Bears took Lefevour in the sixth round, which is where QB Tony Pike also was drafted, by the Carolina Panthers.

The Cardinals, in turn, used the fifth-rounder they acquired from the Steelers to draft Fordham QB John Skelton, 6'5", 243, who had some pretty good pre-draft buzz swirling around him for a small-college quarterback.

Speaking of cornerbacks, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls would have rather seen the Steelers spend their fourth-round choice on IUP corner Akwasi Owusu-Ansah instead of Ohio State's Thaddeus Gibson, yet another defensive end-to-outside linebacker conversion project. The Steelers took Gibson with the 116th pick overall; the Cowboys grabbed Akwasi with the 126th pick overall.

We hope all the draftees and prospects turn into Pro Bowlers, but we'd feel better about this year's draft if management had made some different choices. In toto, we like Steelers' 2010 draftees Pouncey and Sanders, and we sorta like Tennessee tackle Chris Scott (fifth-rounder), Jonathan Dwyer, RB, and Antonio Brown, WR.

The others? Eh, not so much. We have the feeling the Steelers over-reached on some "project-type players" to add depth and possible future contributions. This is a team, after all, that missed the playoffs last season, was wracked by off-season turmoil and faces continuing controversy for as long as Ben Roethlisberger is on the roster. They need immediate help and an infusion of young talent.

There's still time to trade Roethlisberger, by the way. Some team's starting QB will go down with an injury between now and the trading deadline in early October, which just about coincides with Roethlisberger becoming eligible to return from his suspension.

This draft, though: It's baffling.