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BlacknGold Bleeder 04-24-2006 05:06 PM

Steelers' Drafts Have Set the Bar High
Interesting article on the teams strategy.... and partly why we are CHAMPS or at least always in the running

Steelers' Drafts Have Set the Bar High
By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer

44 minutes ago

PITTSBURGH - Troy Polamalu. Alan Faneca. Kendall Simmons.

The Pittsburgh Steelers would seemingly have numerous reasons to think this might be their least productive NFL draft in years, given they pick 32nd and last in the first round Saturday.

But the last three times the Steelers were to have drafted among the last seven teams or lower in the first round, they have come up with two All-Pro players, safety Polamalu and guard Faneca, plus Simmons, their other starting guard.

"We are not going to lose in the first round," director of football operations Kevin Colbert said Monday. "That is the way we are going to look at it. I am confident there are 32 players that we can take as a first pick that will definitely help this team."

While they don't have high draft slots, the Steelers have lots of them _ 10 in seven rounds, thanks to three compensatory picks for losing free agents. That means they have draft picks to dangle should they want to move up in the draft, as they did three years ago by jumping from No. 27 to No. 16 to draft Polamalu.

The Steelers, coming off their first Super Bowl championship in 26 years, have proven repeatedly that where a team drafts isn't as important as how well it drafts.

Because they have long had a policy of spending nearly as much research time on the bottom end of the draft as the top, their roster is littered with players who were passed up by others. Of their 11 defensive starters in the Super Bowl, only two were drafted by them in the second round or above _ and five went in the fourth round or below.

On offense, two starters weren't drafted at all _ fullback Dan Kreider and running back Willie Parker, both of whom were rookie free agents signed after the draft ended. The biggest play in the Steelers' 21-10 victory over Seattle in the Super Bowl might have been Parker's 75-yard touchdown run early in the second half.

"We are going to spend as much time on the middle and late rounds as we do on the first-round guys," Colbert said _ a philosophy that, in other cities, might be the subject of fan ridicule. "From our standpoint there is really not a lot of difference."

Even if, of course, there often is _ the only two quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl for Pittsburgh, Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger, were first-rounders. Bradshaw was a No. 1 pick and Roethlisberger, at least in his first two NFL seasons, has played like one.

Because the Steelers don't feel pressure to fill any starting jobs in the draft, coach Bill Cowher said quarterback is the only position being ruled out for their first-round pick. While they lost starters Antwaan Randle El, Chris Hope and Kimo von Oelhoffen to free agency, they already have replacements in place _ wide receiver Cedrick Wilson for Randle El, safety Ryan Clark for Hope and Brett Keisel for von Oelhoffen. Wilson and Keisel were already with them and Clark was signed away from the Redskins.

The Steelers do need defensive backs, as they have only three safeties under contract. Because they own so many picks, they expect to draft a safety and cornerback even if they package one or two picks to move up in the first or second round.

If they do try to move up in the first round, it might be to get a wide receiver such as Florida's Chad Jackson.

Should they choose to stay at No. 32, perhaps looking to get Notre Dame receiver Maurice Stovall in the second round, players who might be available include Tennessee defensive back Jason Allen, Ohio State center Nick Mangold, Miami receiver Sinorice Rice, North Carolina State linebacker Manny Lawson and Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter.

And what if running back LenDale White of Southern Cal winds up dropping to No. 32? After all, the Steelers have had considerable success with big running backs _ Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris among them _ and with Southern Cal players (Polamalu, Lynn Swann).

"Jerome Bettis was a big part of what this team has done over the course of his career," Colbert said. "Losing him from the field is one thing, and then losing him in the locker room is another thing. That is a big loss. Whether we are going to be able to address it or not, we will see as it goes."

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