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Old 02-19-2009, 07:30 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default NFL Combine: First steps for draft under way

NFL Combine: First steps for draft under way
Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09050...d=steelers.xml

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was only four years ago that the Steelers, with the last pick in the NFL draft after winning Super Bowl XL, traded with the New York Giants to move up seven spots and select the player who helped them win another one -- Santonio Holmes.

Now in a similar drafting spot after winning Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers begin the process of identifying the player or players who might help them win a seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy. And it begins at the NFL Scouting Combine that starts today at Lucas Oil Stadium, a six-day meat market in which most, if not all, of the top collegiate players in the country get quizzed, drilled, timed, examined, poked and prodded by 32 NFL teams.

Will they trade up again? Will they draft a defensive lineman to help slow the aging process on that unit? Or will they eschew what needs they might have and select a skill player who is just too hard to pass up, as they did last year?

Less than three weeks removed from their pulsating victory against the Arizona Cardinals in Tampa, Fla., coach Mike Tomlin, director of football operations Kevin Colbert and nearly the entire coaching, scouting and medical staff have arrived in Indianapolis to begin their draft evaluations.

They will finish that and return home in time for the start of free agency, which begins Feb. 27. Because the Steelers have made extending the contract of All-Pro linebacker and NFL defensive player of the year James Harrison their top offseason priority, they are expected to be nothing more than minor players in free agency.

They will attempt to re-sign some of their unrestricted free agents and then plug some of their depth holes with second-tier free agents. That will make the draft, April 24-25, their main source of acquiring new talent.

"We always want to have that done, to have a general game plan in place prior to going to the combine so that we can focus on the combine that week," Colbert said. "When we get back from the combine, that's when the free agency will start."

The Steelers had each of their top five draft picks make the 53-man roster this year, but none of them was a significant contributor and only one of them -- running back Rashard Mendenhall, their No. 1 pick -- started a game. But Mendenhall's role as a starter for injured Willie Parker lasted only one game because he fractured his scapula on the first play of the second half Sept. 29 against the Baltimore Ravens and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.

Just like this year, the Steelers went into the 2008 draft needing players on the offensive and defensive lines, something Tomlin publicly conceded. But, after signing center Justin Hartwig in free agency, they didn't draft an offensive lineman until the fourth round (Tony Hills), and they never signed or drafted a new defensive lineman.

The defensive line would seem to be a top priority because all of the starters -- and all but one of the backups -- will be 31 or older when the 2009 season starts. The youngest player is backup defensive end Nick Eason (29).

"We look at this draft class as a redshirt year," Colbert said. "Part of that was health, part of that was needing further development. We had seven picks, and [sixth-round pick] Mike Humpal ended up on reserve/injured and is still on reserve/injured. Everyone else in that draft class will be back.

"We are optimistic that class will help us in the future. We weren't disappointed in where they were this year because Mendenhall would have contributed, we felt. [Limas] Sweed was in the rotation behind three established receivers. Bruce Davis, he didn't get on the field as much as a couple of the free agents did. You could say we expected more; that would be fair. Tony Hills, that's not unusual for an offensive lineman to be inactive his first year. Dennis Dixon was the third quarterback and developed. Humpal got hurt and Ryan [Mundy] was on the practice squad when he got healthy."

The evaluation process begins today.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com.
First published on February 19, 2009 at 12:00 am
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Old 02-19-2009, 08:14 AM   #2
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Default Re: NFL Combine: First steps for draft under way

Quote:
"We are optimistic that class will help us in the future. We weren't disappointed in where they were this year because Mendenhall would have contributed, we felt. [Limas] Sweed was in the rotation behind three established receivers. Bruce Davis, he didn't get on the field as much as a couple of the free agents did. You could say we expected more; that would be fair. Tony Hills, that's not unusual for an offensive lineman to be inactive his first year. Dennis Dixon was the third quarterback and developed. Humpal got hurt and Ryan [Mundy] was on the practice squad when he got healthy."
sounds like davis isn't impressing anybody.... ......can't say i liked the pick much, i thought for sure they'd have went oline there.
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Old 02-19-2009, 10:04 AM   #3
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Default Re: NFL Combine: First steps for draft under way

hopefully i full off-season will help bruce davis come into his own and be productive
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