View Full Version : Versatility is key to Steelers' draft

04-27-2009, 07:56 AM
Versatility is key to Steelers' draft

By John Harris
Monday, April 27, 2009

Talk about getting your money's worth.

Watching the Steelers navigate through the NFL Draft is like shopping at Sam's Club.

When you shop at Sam's, it isn't enough to simply buy a product. At Sam's, you buy in bulk at a discount.

The same philosophy applies to the Steelers and this year's two-day draft that concluded Sunday.

Of the Steelers' top six picks, five were described as playing multiple positions in college.

No. 1 pick Evander "Ziggy'' Hood was a defensive tackle who played some defensive end at Missouri. Third-round pick Kraig Urbik played guard and tackle at Wisconsin. Mike Wallace, the team's second third-round pick, was a wide receiver/kick returner at Mississippi.

Fifth-round pick Joe Burnett played cornerback and also returned kicks at Central Florida. Another fifth-round pick, Frank Summers played fullback and halfback and was a special teams standout at UNLV.

Keenan Lewis, the Steelers' third third-round pick, played cornerback at Oregon State, but he only ran a 4.53 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine and may have the size (6-feet, 208 pounds) to eventually make the switch to free safety.

With one of their two seventh-round picks, the Steelers added Penn State center A.Q. Shipley, who also played guard and defensive tackle early in his career.

It's no coincidence these particular players were drafted by the Steelers.

"We set out talking about what we were looking for in this draft high-quality people, humble guys and guys who can fit in. All of these guys fit that bill,'' coach Mike Tomlin said. "You know we're looking for guys that are capable of a lot of things.''

Not only did the Steelers target players who buy willingly into the team concept, they went out of their way to select individuals with versatile resumes.

"I consider myself a football player. Whatever the team needs me to do, I think I'm able to do it,'' said Summers, whom Tomlin lauded for his special-teams work. "I'm very passionate about the game. I just love the contact, and I love to win. I'll do whatever it takes to win.''

Multiple positions at a single salary. Two for the price of one.

You can't beat that strategy in today's tight-fisted economy.

For some players, though, two positions may not be enough for the Steelers coaching staff.

"I love him big, tough, nasty type of guy who has position flexibility,'' offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said of Urbik, who started 34 games at right guard and made 16 additional starts at right tackle. "He's a big physical guy who we think can play guard or tackle. We'll stick the ball between his legs (at center) and see if he could possibly be a three-position player for us.''

The more, the merrier.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.