Friday, April 29, 2011

What took so long?

The Steelers took no time at all to announce Cameron Heyward as their pick last night in the first round of the NFL Draft. No milking the 15-minute time allotment to field trade inquiries, or to debate player selections, or to twiddle thumbs on national television.

It was wham, bam, thank you Cam.

Nothing surprised Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls more than how quickly the Steelers turned in their draft card. Did they even take time to call Heyward before announcing the pick?

We'd figured it would make sense for the Steelers to pick Texas cornerback Aaron Williams or maybe an offensive lineman, but Heyward’s a good player, too, supposedly. We'll have to trust their talent-judgment ability. No doubt: The team needs to fortify the aging defensive line.

Still ... you wonder about the value. Heyward was the 12th defensive lineman chosen (twelfth!) in the first round and the third “Cameron” taken, after Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Maybe the Steelers figured Heyward was the last, best option available at defensive end this year. And maybe they know something about Aaron Smith’s health. Maybe not. Perhaps they're just adding depth to the D-line rotation and planning for age catching up to Smith and Brett Keisel.

Or, maybe they really, really like Heyward.

Clearly, the Steelers valued Heyward more than Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, taken with the very next pick by the Green Bay Packers, and Florida State guard/center Rodney Hudson, whom we like a lot and who remains available as a poor man's Maurkice/Mike Pouncey.

Granted, Heyward dominated at times during the 2010 season, but we would like to know more about his consistency and how he fared against Big 10 offensive tackles like Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, drafted ahead of him at No. 21 overall. Surely, Heyward and Carimi must have squared off at some point during their respective college careers.

According to various reports, including ESPN, Heyward's best collegiate game was his last one, the Jan. 5 Sugar Bowl vs. Arkansas:

Defensive end Cameron Heyward had his best game as a Buckeye in his last game, racking up 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup. "Cam was a beast," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "He was all over the place."

Player of the game: Ohio State's Heyward. Terrell Pryor came up big as well, but Heyward was all over the field and really disrupted Arkansas' offensive rhythm at times. The son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward turned in a dominant effort in his dad's old stomping ground.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, “That was even more impressive after it was revealed that he suffered a torn ligament in his left elbow in the second quarter but remained in the game. The elbow injury required reconstructive surgery on Jan. 12 and prevented him from accepting an invitation to the Senior Bowl and from working out at the NFL combine and at OSU's pro day on March 11. He held a separate pro day on March 30, instead.”

Could the January elbow injury have hurt Heyward’s draft stock? After all, Heyward was the eighth defensive end among 12 defensive linemen chosen in the first round.

By Comparison ...

Four other defensive linemen from Heyward’s own conference, the Big 10, were drafted ahead of him. Those were Wisconsin's J.J. Watt (drafted 11th overall, by Houston), Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan (drafted 16th overall, by Washington), Illinois's Corey Liuget (drafted 18th overall by San Diego) and Iowa's Adrian Clayborn (drafted 20th overall by Tampa Bay). Not to say 30 other teams made the right choice by passing on Heyward, but that is pretty deep.

Heyward was a good player at Ohio State. Hopefully, he will be an even better player for the Steelers. Hey, he’s a Pittsburgh native, his father was a big-time player for Pitt, and he’s a Steeler fan. He has a winning attitude and seems to have his head screwed on straight. Give him a chance. Time will tell.

Dissa ‘n Datta …

Like every other team in first round, the Steelers passed on Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Just a few months ago, Bowers was considered the potential No. 1 pick overall and a certain top 10 selection. He fell out of the first round because of medical concerns. It will be interesting to see where he ends up and how his career plays out. He will certainly be motivated, one would think, as he will try to prove wrong those eight teams -- including the Steelers -- who chose defensive ends ahead of him.

The Cleveland Browns made a great trade out of the No. 6 position to gain a boatload of surprisingly high draft picks in this draft, plus first- and fourth-round selections next year. They fleeced the Falcons. The Browns have holes, and they are many, so they need multiple players. They made a good start last night by drafting a massive nose tackle, Baylor’s Phil Taylor, in the first round. You can do worse than building a team from the inside out, and the Browns took a major step in that direction by selecting Taylor as the keystone building block to anchor their defense for years to come. They just improved their run defense dramatically. Too bad -- we'd been counting on the Browns to screw up once again.

Speaking of building from the inside out, big kudos to both Detroit and Miami. Nick Fairley and Ndamokongh Sue on the same defensive line in Detroit? Wow, that is awesome, and clearly something for Detroit fans to get excited about. Finally. And the Dolphins obviously hope Mike Pouncey gives them the same production his twin brother Maurkice gave the Steelers last season. Great choices for both those teams.

On the other hand, Jake Locker? What was Tennessee thinking? Locker has never hit a 60 percent completion rate in college. And the Titans passed on Blaine Gabbert? So, too, the 49ers, who still need a quarterback – as do the Titans, we suspect, even after drafting Locker.

We expect quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton to go early in the second round. The Bengals need a QB, but so do other teams, so there could be some early maneuvering. Don't be surprised if teams start to stockpile picks for next year, in anticipation of a tiered rookie salary scale.


Anonymous said...

All we can do is hope that the Steelers made the best choice in picking Heyward. As always, Joey Porter's Pit Bulls pulls the story apart, giving us that in-depth insight into the facts and isn't afraid to bite into the tender bits. We all know what tends to happen to teams that unsuccessfully compete in the Super Bowl, so we've gotta keep pulling hard for the Black and Gold in 2011!

Danielle's Blog said...

I thought Cameron Heyward was the best pick that the Steelers drafted this season.... I am excited to see him play with the Steelers this season.... And Hopefully the Steelers will go to the Superbowl again this season and win it...... We do have a pretty easy season coming up... Here we go Steelers Here we go!!

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

Yeah, he looks like he'll fit in nicely. The more I read and hear about know him, the better I like the pick. The beat writer from the Columbus Dispatch did a radio interview yesterday and said Heyward's really got his head on straight, is a humble young man, and a terrific player.

And you're right, the Steelers' schedule is relatively toward the end of the year, and the bye week comes at a good time (for a change), too. Go Steelers!