Friday, March 09, 2007

Let's Just Wait for the Draft

As pointed out by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Blog 'N' Gold, a recent assessment of the general managers of professional sports franchises undertaken by Forbes ranked the Steelers' own Kevin Colbert at #24 (out of 98). Despite the assessment's questionable methodology, it certainly speaks well of the job Mr. Colbert has done since coming to Pittsburgh.

However, one has to wonder if this isn't shaping up to be the most frustrating offseason of Mr. Colbert's tenure. While the hated Ravens moved aggressively to solidify their running game, the Steelers saw their plans to entertain former Patriot's linebacker Tully Banta-Cain sabotaged when he signed with San Francisco. Then the Steelers attempted to upgrade the punter position by signing 49er Andy Lee to an offer sheet, only to see San Francisco match that offer (and in a side note, sometimes the best deals are the ones that are not made -- other than Mr. Lee's superior ability to place his kicks inside the opponent's 20-yard line, his numbers are eerily similar to Chris Gardocki's). Beaten by San Francisco? Twice? In the same offseason? That cannot be a good thing. Indeed, in an offseason of unprecedented spending for a less than elite class of free agents, it's beginning to appear that, come the last weekend in April, there will be in even more pressure than usual on the Steelers scouting contingent. That being the case it may be time to begin looking more closely at the positions of greatest need -- cornerback, offensive line, and outside linebacker -- for the Steelers.

But before that let's take one moment to look more closely at a player being mentioned quite often in mock drafts as the probable choice by the Steelers in the first round -- Jarvis Moss. This junior-eligible, defensive end out of Florida is rated no better than the fourth best defensive end in the draft by Scouts Inc., which goes on to warn that Mr. Moss is "undersized and gets rag-dolled by bigger blockers that get into his body." Meanwhile his career at Florida has been anything but smooth sailing. In 2005 Mr. Moss suffered a serious bone infection which left him, temporarily, unable to walk and led to a loss of thirty pounds. This past season Mr. Moss was suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Even in the aftermath of a strong performance at the University of Florida's "Pro Day," there is this nugget from Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay: "At 250 pounds, Moss also showed good fluidity during linebacker drills, which bodes well for teams looking at him as a rush-linebacker in a 3-4 scheme." Insomuch as it appears that Mike Tomlin is eventually going to implement a 4-3 defensive scheme the question, vis-a-vis Mr. Moss, is why the team would want to draft a player to play in a scheme that isn't a part of the team's long-term future?

So, if not Jarvis Moss then who should the Steelers consider for their #1 pick? Here's a list:
  • Lawrence Timmons (OLB), Florida State: Faster than the aforementioned Mr. Moss, though somewhat smaller. Fleet enough to help in coverage, and a sideline-to-sideline defender against the run. Played two seasons at FSU. Will turn 21 years of age a couple of weeks after the draft. Penn State's Paul Posluszny is another, slower, option.

  • Ryan Kalil (C), University of Southern California: Though rated a little below this spot (he is rated as the #18 prospect in the draft by Scouts Inc.), the need for an impact center is so acute, and Kalil's play in 2006 (which was augmented by a strong performance at the combine) makes him an intriguing possibility. At 291 pounds he is considered by some to be "undersized." If the Steelers are unwilling to take a "reach" player (however slight a reach it is) at this spot they may look at either Ohio State center Doug Datish or Oregon center Enoka Lucas on the draft's second day.

  • Laron Landry (S), Louisiana State University or Reggie Nelson (S), Florida: While neither of these players is a cornerback, either of them would be a significant addition to the Steelers defense; and whether or not the team would take a player who is at a position the team considers a strength depends upon the draft philosophy -- best available vs. draft for needs -- that is employed. Both of these safeties are top 15 players, while amongst the available cornerbacks only one -- Leon Hall (CB), Michigan -- is similarly perceived. Indeed, the Steelers may find themselves able to select a serviceable cornerback -- e.g. Marcus McCauley (Fresno State) or Chris Houston (Arkansas) -- in the second round. Meanwhile, Troy Polamalu is going to be a free agent at the end of the 2007 season.
With seven weeks to go until draft day there will be plenty of conjecture about who is going where, and just how good this player is compared to how good everyone thought he was; and like any good observer of sports Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic reserves the right to change its mind entirely at any point between now and April 28th.

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