View Full Version : Point, counterpoint: The draft

04-25-2009, 01:20 AM
Point, counterpoint: The draft
By John Harris and Scott Brown
Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist John Harris and Steelers beat writer Scott Brown talk about what the Steelers will do in the first round of Saturday's NFL draft.

Harris: Alright Scott, I can't take it any more. If I see one more mock draft I'll ...well, I don't know what I'll do but it won't be pretty. Enough with the preliminaries, Mr. Draft Expert. I'm officially putting you on the clock. What do you see the Steelers doing with their first pick, No. 32 overall?

Brown: John, weren't you listening at the, ahem, news conference that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin held earlier this week? Colbert told us exactly what the Steelers are going to do with their first pick.

They may use it to trade up into the first round or they could deal it and move down in the draft. If they keep it they will use it on a player that they like. How much more specific can he get?

In all seriousness, it's hard to enough to project what is going to happen in the draft and it's even more difficult to figure out what the Steelers are going to do this year considering all that could happen before they make their first pick.

I think they'll use their first pick on an offensive or defensive lineman, a cornerback or a wide receiver. How is that for going out on a limb?

Harris: Since you're going so far out on a limb, why not mention that the Steelers could also take a tight end, a quarterback, or a kicker with their first pick? In other words, it's almost impossible to predict what the Steelers will do at No. 32. Who the Steelers select will have less to do about whom they want and more about what the 31 teams in front of them do.

Unless, of course, the Steelers become impatient and trade up or down from No. 32. Kevin Colbert was quick to tell us Monday he won't hesitate to make a deal to get the player he wants.

Brown: I think trading down into the top half of the second round makes a lot of sense for the Steelers. They'll still get a player of similar value as they would at No. 32 and they won't have to give him first-round money, which is significant since they don't have much room under the salary cap.

Of course, they have to find a willing trade partner for such a scenario to happen. But teams have been known to get desperate on draft day. And if the Steelers can get an extra third-round pick in a trade and still have the opportunity to take a player they really like early in the second round I could see them moving down.

Harris: Which brings me back to my original question? Who will the Steelers take with their first pick?

Brown: So much, obviously, depends on what happens in front of them. The first round never goes as projected and last year was a case in point. The Steelers didn't expect Rashard Mendenhall to be on the board for their first-round pick but he fell to them after a run on offensive tackles.

I could see them taking a center that can also play guard such as Cal's Alex Mack, Louisville's Eric Wood or Oregon's Max Unger. I also think a cornerback is a real possibility for the Steelers even though they haven't taken one in the first round since 1997.

The draft appears to be lacking in the kind of game-changing cornerbacks that would go well before the Steelers pick in the first round. But the position doesn't seem to be lacking in quality and one of the top cornerbacks on the Steelers' draft board could be there at No. 32.

Harris: I like Unger. A lot. He played center and tackle at Oregon an unusual combination, and we know how much the Steelers appreciate versatility and getting the most bang for their buck. With Max Starks' contract status up in the air following the 2009 season, it never hurts to acquire a young tackle who just happened to play his final two years in college at center.

Of course, I wrote so much about the Steelers needing to take a defensive lineman in last year's draft that I refuse to repeat myself this year. If a solid d-lineman is available at No. 32 someone like Missouri's Evander "Ziggy" Hood the Steelers should grab him. But that also holds true at cornerback, where several good candidates could still be on the board.

Brown: I think if they take Unger, it's as a center or guard, not a tackle. Not sure he has the size to play tackle in the NFL, and had he been really good at the position at Oregon he would have stayed there.

I do think tackle should be a priority in the first round because I'm not sure the Steelers are going to be to get a long-term deal done with Starks even though that is high on their to-do list.

The problem is the Steelers are not going to be able to get a top left tackle prospect where they are picking as all of them will be long gone by then.

On the other side of the ball, San Jose State defensive end Jarron Gilbert is an intriguing player to me. He has NFL bloodlines as well as the size to play right away in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. The Steelers have to address their defensive line in this draft and Southern Cal's Fili Moala is another player they could be targeting.

Harris: It has been said that Unger can play almost anywhere on the offensive line, and that includes guard, which is probably where he would start out. Given the choice between drafting an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman, I see the Steelers going with defense in the first round.

The depth at offensive line is such that the Steelers would have more to choose from than defensive linemen in the second round. Of course, all of that could change if a talent such as Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis or Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin dropped down to the Steelers at No. 32. Like Rashard Mendenhall a year ago, Laurinaitis and Harvin would be too talented to pass up.

Brown: That's the thing about the draft, you just never know how far some of these guys are going to fall or how the first round is going to shake out. That's why mock drafts should come with the following label: for entertainment/amusement purposes only.