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Old 02-22-2012, 02:25 AM   #1
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Default Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

Indianapolis today-Feb. 28
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Steelers have spent the past three years using their No. 1 draft choice to rebuild and strengthen their lines of scrimmage.
Could this be No. 4?
Is this the year they find the heir apparent to Casey Hampton, 11 years after they drafted their five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle in the first round?
Do they draft a pulling left guard to line up between young stars Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert and upgrade an offensive line that has been a problem spot the past two seasons?


Looking ahead
  • What: NFL draft.
  • When: April 26-28.
  • Steelers: Select 24th in the first round.


Or is it time to find a replacement for defensive captain and inside linebacker James Farrior, who turned 37 last month?
The Steelers will begin to seek answers to those questions when the NFL Scouting Combine -- the market district of college talent -- begins today at Lucas Oil Stadium.
And it might be a good time to find Hampton's eventual replacement because there is good depth at the defensive tackle position, especially nose tackle. At least, that is the opinion of NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who thinks there is good value in the interior of the defensive line through the first three rounds.
"I think the nose tackle position is important for that defense, always has been," said Mayock, who was drafted in the 10th round by the Steelers in 1981 but never played for them.
"At defensive tackle, you can go two or three rounds deep and get a really good football player. So, whether you get them at [No.] 24 [in the first round] or get them further down, I think you can get a good football player."
Mayock, though, believes the Steelers top priority is offensive line -- "They've got to continue to get younger and more athletic" -- and finding players who can protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Here is a look at five of the top needs for the Steelers as they enter the 2012 season.
Nose tackle
The Steelers have long considered nose tackle to be one of the two most important positions in the 3-4 defense, and nobody has done it better than Hampton.But Hampton is 34 and will be coming off a second ACL surgery on his left knee. Complicating matters is that the surgery was performed in mid-January, making it unlikely he will be ready for the start of the regular season.
With veteran Chris Hoke's retirement, Steve McLendon, a former rookie free agent, is the only nose tackle on the roster.
The best available nose tackle in the draft is Dontari Poe of Memphis (6-5, 350), who is thick, stout and tough to move. But the Steelers might have to move up from No. 24 to get him.
"He's got a physical skill set that reminds me of Haloti Ngata," Mayock said. "I don't think he's Haloti Ngata, [but] he's that big and he's got those kind of movement skills. But he's so raw, it's scary. He might not make a tackle year one. You know what I mean? He's one of those guys."
Inside linebacker
If the team keeps Farrior, their longtime defensive captain, it is unlikely they will retain his top backup, veteran Larry Foote, because of salary-cap reasons. And, even if Farrior does come back, he cannot play every down any more.
The best inside prospect could be Boston College's Luke Kuechly, but Dont'a Hightower of Alabama and Vontaze Burfict of Arizona State are projected as possible first-round picks, too. Kuechly, though, will be gone before the Steelers select.
"I think Kuechly is a special player ... he's going to get everybody lined up in the right place," Mayock said. "I think a guy like Dont'a Hightower could be available in the first round, but there are positives and negatives about him. But he's a big, strong, downhill inside linebacker."
Guard
The Steelers are set at tackle and center and the combination of Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster gives them options at right guard.
But the team needs to find a left guard who can pull and lead their counter plays -- something they thought they had with Chris Kemoeatu. But Kemoeatu was benched last season because of poor performance and mental mistakes, and their bread-and-butter counter plays suffered.
Among the guards, there is a big dropoff after the top two -- Stanford's David DeCastro and Georgia's Cordy Glenn. Kevin Zeitler of Wisconsin is a late first-round to mid-second-round pick and Ben Jones of Georgia could last until late in the second round.
"I think, depending on how it plays out, I think there is a lot of flexibility with interior offensive linemen in the draft," Mayock said. "I think for the first three rounds, you can get a lot of quality at center or either guard."
Defensive end
The Steelers have used their No. 1 pick on a defensive end in two of the past three drafts, so they will not do so again.
But, faced with the possibility that longtime end Aaron Smith might not be back, the Steelers could continue to build their depth with young players.
It is unlikely the Steelers would address this position until the middle rounds, where players such as Jared Crick of Nebraska and Kheeston Randall of Texas have the lean body-type they desire.
It is not a good year for defensive ends in a 4-3 defense, but, in the 3-4 defense, tackles play more like an end. "It's the deepest position in this year's draft," Mayock said.
Tight end
It remains to be seen how much new offensive coordinator Todd Haley likes to use multiple tight ends, but the Steelers likely could afford one in the draft. Especially because No. 3 tight end Weslye Saunders has been suspended for the first four games of the '12 season and could be released.
Clemson's Dwayne Allen (6-5, 255) might be the best combo tight end because he can run, catch and block. Coby Fleener of Stanford (6-6, 248) is a former basketball player who can catch, and Georgia's Orson Charles (6-3, 242) is like a big wide receiver. Fleener will not participate in the combine because of an ankle injury.
"The problem with all three of them is, none of them are in-line blockers," Mayock said.
Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12053...#ixzz1n65TMOYo
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:06 AM   #2
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

Love Mike Mayock. Catch him on Path to the Draft on NFL Network starting in March.
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

If our first two picks don't come out of OL, NT, and ILB, I will be miffed (not sure what the cursing policy is on the board yet). I know someone might fall, and then I might reconsider, but right now I see those as our weakest three positions going into the free agency/trade period in March..
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:18 PM   #4
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

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If our first two picks don't come out of OL, NT, and ILB, I will be miffed (not sure what the cursing policy is on the board yet). I know someone might fall, and then I might reconsider, but right now I see those as our weakest three positions going into the free agency/trade period in March..
I would rather see 1-OL, 2-OL, 3-DB ....why draft all those LB's in 2010 if we are gonna draft more? this draft is deep with DL and with a coach like Mitchell we can afford to take 1 or 2 in the later rounds
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:35 PM   #5
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

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I would rather see 1-OL, 2-OL, 3-DB ....why draft all those LB's in 2010 if we are gonna draft more? this draft is deep with DL and with a coach like Mitchell we can afford to take 1 or 2 in the later rounds
what LB'ers do we have though? we dont really have any good backups. i dont see Worilds ever starting. Harrison is old and we need a replacement. as for ILB'er, all we have is Timmons. Farrior is way to old to play at a high level anymore
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:59 PM   #6
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

With it looking inevitable that Wallace will be gone and we pick up another 1st rd pick. I would love to see us get the OG from Ga and possibly Poe from Memphis. Anything can happen but these two guys seem pretty solid picks.
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Old 02-22-2012, 05:14 PM   #7
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what LB'ers do we have though? we dont really have any good backups. i dont see Worilds ever starting. Harrison is old and we need a replacement. as for ILB'er, all we have is Timmons. Farrior is way to old to play at a high level anymore
Who's fault is that? Not the infallible Colbert...
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Old 02-22-2012, 05:32 PM   #8
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

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Who's fault is that? Not the infallible Colbert...
He picks very well, better than most everyone else. Not sure why you're so snarky about it.
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Old 02-22-2012, 05:33 PM   #9
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

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He picks very well, better than most everyone else. Not sure why you're so snarky about it.
Must be that time of the month.
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Old 02-22-2012, 05:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Various line spots could be top target in scouting combine

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He picks very well, better than most everyone else. Not sure why you're so snarky about it.
Those LB's in 2010, and Chris Scott, When we needed real Oline help along with Pouncey that's why....John Jerry or Jared Veldheer can't play on this line??...don''t mean to be snarky but he aggravates me at times
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