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    Default Steelers seeking another gem

    Steelers seeking another gem
    Thursday, February 24, 2011
    By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Making it to the Super Bowl has not been a deterrent for the Steelers and the players they have selected with the No. 1 pick in the subsequent NFL draft, even though they have been selecting at the bottom of the 32-team heap.

    They're not all the way in the basement this year -- the Green Bay Packers ensured that when they beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV -- but recent history has suggested they are still able to find quality players who develop into significant postseason contributors, if not sensations, even from the bottom of the pile.

    For the Steelers, the process starts in earnest today when the NFL Scouting Combine begins at Lucas Oil Stadium, a six-day series of tests, interviews, medical exams and drills in which coach Mike Tomlin and his staff will try to unearth the next Santonio Holmes or Ziggy Hood -- the players they selected after Super Bowl appearances in 2005 and '08.

    "For me, I'm looking at pedigree that jumps out at me, things you can't coach," Tomlin said. "Just start the process of getting to know the draft class personally, what makes them tick, their issues and things of that nature. Just start the information gathering process in terms of putting together a profile on these guys. But, in terms of the physical activity I'm just simply looking at pedigree."

    Tomlin and director of football operations Kevin Colbert struck it big last year with center Maurkice Pouncey, whom they selected with the 18th overall pick after missing the playoffs in '09. Not surprisingly, the romance with Pouncey began at the combine when he wowed Tomlin, Colbert and offensive line coach Sean Kugler with his intelligence, recall and schematic understanding during an interview session.

    Maybe the same will happen this week with one of the top cornerbacks in the '11 draft, allowing the Steelers to immediately address a position in dire need of an upgrade.

    But that is what Tomlin is trying to do at the combine -- assess the quality and depth of the position and identify its top candidates. After all, they got a slow start on their draft preparation because of the Super Bowl.

    "At this point in the process, I'm trying to, more than anything, get a sense of what the class is about, the strengths of the class," Tomlin said. "No question we're going to have an interest in corner, but I don't know that there's been a year that I've been here that I can't say that."

    A lot will depend on what happens with Ike Taylor, their best corner who is an unrestricted free agent.

    The Steelers likely will try to re-sign Taylor, who will be 31 in May, because they don't have anybody ready to step in if he leaves. Bryant McFadden, the other starter, was picked on repeatedly in '10, particularly in the Super Bowl, and the coaches seem content to use William Gay as a nickel back, not a starter. What's more, Keenan Lewis, a third-round pick in '09, was passed on the depth chart by seldom-used Anthony Madison in the dime defense.

    One player who could develop is Crezdon Butler, a fifth-round choice last year who should get more of a chance in '11.

    "I don't view those guys any differently than I view any of the young guys that we have in other positions," Tomlin said, referring to Lewis and Butler. "We expect those guys to improve, to be better players in 2011 and take the necessary steps to do so. That doesn't mean that we might not present them with some competition. That's part of it."

    The Steelers will not be in position to draft either of the cornerbacks who are considered the best in the draft -- Patrick Peterson of LSU or Prince Amukamara of Nebraska. But they could find themselves with an opportunity to draft Jimmy Smith of Colorado (6-2, 205), Brandon Harris of Miami (5-11, 195) or Aaron Williams of Texas (6-1, 195) -- players whose first-round position could be solidified with a good showing at the combine.

    But, in '06, they traded up from No. 32 to No. 25 to take Holmes, considered the top receiver in the draft.

    "It is a physically taxing position," Tomlin said of cornerback. "You have to have a great deal of God-given ability and belief in that. Now, how do you measure their belief in their ability? Not by what they say, but by what you see on tape: how they play, how they respond to positive things, how they respond to negative things. All of that helps you build a profile, if you will."

    Even from the bottom of the heap.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11055/1127594-66.stm
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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    Default Re: Steelers seeking another gem

    Steelers ready for NFL Scouting Combine
    By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    Mike Tomlin has attended enough NFL Scouting Combines that he can make a critical distinction during what essentially is a job fair for more than 300 prospects:

    He knows when players are telling him what they think the Steelers coach wants to hear as opposed to shooting straight with him.

    "But I don't hold that against them," Tomlin said, "because, let's be honest, these guys are trying to make a good impression."

    Players will have an opportunity to make a good impression during the next week's combine in Indianapolis, whether it's during the 15-minute interviews with coaches and general managers or while participating in physical drills and skills tests.

    Coaches and general managers routinely downplay the latter. Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert has said 90 percent of a prospect's evaluation is based on his college career.

    Still, players may start to separate themselves, as the combine is the only time the top prospects are at the same venue before the NFL draft.

    Chris Johnson, then a little-known running back from East Carolina, didn't hurt himself when he turned in the fastest 4Done >>0-yard dash time (4.24 seconds) at the 2008 combine. The Tennessee Titans drafted Johnson in the first round, and he has become one of the premier running backs in the NFL.

    Darius Heyward-Bey ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds at the combine a year later, prompting the Oakland Raiders to draft the Maryland receiver seventh overall.

    Heyward-Bey has yet to make much of an impact, though it is still early in his career.

    "I'm looking at pedigree that jumps out at me, things you can't coach," Tomlin said. "And just start the process of getting to know the draft class personally, what makes them tick, their issues and things of that nature. Just start the information-gathering process in terms of putting together a profile on these guys. But in terms of the physical activity, I'm just simply looking at pedigree.

    "It means their God-given athletic ability. Their ability to control their body, their ability to move through awkward movements, the things that aren't necessarily football related but are athlete or pedigree related."

    The draft will be held April 28-30 even if a lockout occurs. It is considered deep at defensive end but a bit lacking in first-round, skill-position talent.

    "I've got a deeper first round than I've had in past years," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said about first-round grades he has assigned to players. "The first round will probably be dominated by defense."

    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_724340.html
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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