The 2011 NFL Draft has now come and gone. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to look back and evaluate how the Steelers did.
Many websites, newspaper, and magazines like to assign letter grades to each team’s draft selections. I don’t really like doing that. I don’t think that it’s fair to evaluate a player until after he’s gone through training camp and then had the opportunity to show what he can do against NFL competition. I remember guys like Ryan Leaf, Robert Gallery, Tim Couch, and Tony Mandarich all getting rave reviews after they were selected by their respective teams. Each of them got “A+” grades as draft picks, but all of them turned out to deserve a much lower grade as players. So I will resist the urge to grade the Steelers’ picks.
What I do know is that the Steelers were very strategic in their selections. They had glaring needs, and they filled most of them.
Going into the draft, I did a position-by-position review of the team, and I identified cornerback, defensive line, and offensive line to be their top needs. And coming out of this draft, they’ve filled each of those needs. They also picked up a linebacker to replace the one that they (stupidly) let get away last year. They also picked up a running back to potentially replace aging Mewelde Moore. Not a bad day at the office.
I’m sure there are some fans who didn’t like the order in which the team chose certain positions. There were some fans who complained because the Steelers didn’t take a cornerback in the first round. Others complained because the Steelers didn’t take an offensive lineman in the first round. But these things are purely subjective. You can’t please everybody. And I learned long ago that no matter what the team does, there will always be fans who complain about it. Heck, there were fans who were saying that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert should both be fired after the very first pick in the draft (obviously, they didn’t take the player that those fans thought that they should have).
The one thing that I’ve learned about the Steelers is that they tend to be long-term thinkers. They seldom make the most expedient decisions. The decision that helps us the most in the short-term may actually have a detrimental effect in the long-term. So the Steelers try to make the decision that will have the greatest impact over the long haul. That’s what I saw them do during this draft.
The only other position that I would have liked to have seen them draft would have been a nose tackle. But we all know that nose tackle is the most difficult position to find in the draft. There just aren’t a lot of those guys around.
Overall, I think that a defensive line rotation that includes Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Cameron Heyward is going to be very good in both the short-term and the long-term.
The offensive line now has lots of bodies to take into training camp. It’s unclear what’s going to happen to the free agents, but I believe the Steelers are going to do everything in their power to keep Willie Colon. However, in traditional Steelers fashion, they are not going to break the bank for him.
Finally, I like what we have going into training camp at cornerback. I also think the Steelers are going to make a concerted effort to keep Ike Taylor. They realize that without him, they are screwed this year. Very few rookies have successfully broken into the starting lineup in Dick LeBeau’s defense. I don’t foresee either rookie cornerback doing much more than playing special teams and a little bit of nickel and dime defense. But let’s not forget that Keenan Lewis will have another year under his belt, and Crezdon Butler should now be ready to contribute.
So overall, I like what the Steelers did in the draft. And let’s not forget that once the players and owners reach a collective bargaining agreement, there will be free agency as well. The Steeler will sign some undrafted free agents. Moreover, they’ll have the opportunity to sign veteran free agents as well. The Steelers don’t sign many high priced veteran free agents, but we can alway rely on them to pick one or two out of the bargain bin.
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