By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Some might believe the Pittsburgh Steelers fell short in some areas during the 2010 NFL Draft, but if Head Coach Mike Tomlin and Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert are to be believed the club filled every need on offense and defense and upgraded the special teams immensely as well.
And there is no good reason not to trust this pair at this point, as the Steelers made 10 selections during the three-day, seven-round draft, the most that they’ve had in many years.
“It was a fun day having this many picks, (and) it was the most I think we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” Colbert said. “And it was nice to have some options on the third day, really, (and) we think we got some good players.”
In the first round, the Steelers selected center Maurkice Pouncey from Florida. Tomlin said that Pouncey will start out playing right guard and maybe worked into the center spot in the future. For now, though, Pouncey will compete with starter Trai Essex, among others, there and could play almost immediately.
In the second round, defensive end Jason Worilds from Virginia Tech will play outside linebacker with the Steelers to back up James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and help the club immediately on special teams.
“(He) is a very athletic guy, who can get after the quarterback,” Colbert said. “Teams started paying more attention to him this year, and his sack production went down. But he was just as effective and just as disruptive and probably had his best game of the year in his last game against Tennessee.”
Emmanuel Sanders, a wideout from SMU, was the Steelers’ third-round pick. This speedster will compete immediately as a punt- and kick-returner.
“Emmanuel is a very fast and productive receiver who had his best year this year with Coach (June) Jones in the run-and-shoot offense catching 98 balls and also supplementing that with punt returns,” Colbert said.
“He really came to the forefront. We evaluated him during the fall, but at the East-West game he stood out among the receivers. The more (evaluations) we did, the better we liked him, including having him here for a visit.”
Defensive end Thaddeus Gibson from Ohio State, another projected defensive end, came to the Steelers in the fourth round.
“Thaddeus Gibson is a big kid, and he’s fast,” Colbert said. “Ohio State probably plays as close to our defense schematically as any college football team in the country. So, Thaddeus is coming out of a system where he’s done a lot of the things we’re going to ask him to do here.
“Thaddeus and Jason are both, like Maurkice, underclassmen, as was (sixth-round running back) Jonathan Dwyer. So, we actually took four underclassmen, (and) we think there’s still some growing there for those guys.”
Offensive tackle Chris Scott from Tennessee, cornerback Crezdon Butler from Clemson and inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester were the fifth-round picks.
“Chris Scott is a big guy that’s played both tackles and guard (and) played with Ramon Foster at Tennessee,” Colbert said. “He played against top competition and is a nice, big, versatile offensive lineman.
“Crezdon Butler is a fast corner, another young corner to bring along. He had a big year. I think he ended up with 11 career interceptions. He had one (pick) this year, they went through a little bit of a defensive scheme change and his production dropped this season. But again we really like his size and his speed.
“(And) Stevenson Sylvester has played inside, (and) he can play outside,” Colbert added. “I will let Coach address where he will play, (and) he’ll probably be an inside linebacker for us, but he has the versatility to play both.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers had two sixth-round selections and added Dwyer from Georgia Tech and wideout Antonio Brown from Central Michigan. In the seventh round, the Steelers took defensive tackle Doug Worthington from Ohio State.
“Jonathan Dwyer, this kid’s had 1,300 yards in each of the last two years,” Colbert said. “He’s a big kid, with deceptive speed and productivity. And again, as a junior, you still think he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. Antonio Brown, I think he had a 100-plus catches at Central Michigan, punt and kickoff returner, a very productive guy.
“And our last pick, Doug Worthington, defensive end, again like Thaddeus he’s played in a scheme similar to ours. He has the body to play our five technique, and he’s just a nice size guy to have at that position.”
The Steelers also received Bryant McFadden, formerly with the Steelers, in a third-day trade with the Arizona Cardinals for a fifth-round pick. They also picked up quarterback Byron Leftwich, also a former Steelers player, the day before the draft.
“Again, quality depth and competition has been our mantra here for the offseason,” Tomlin said. “We followed that plan in free agency, and we were able to follow that plan here in the draft as well.
“We truly believe we strengthened ourselves for the challenges that await us. … It’ll be fun to watch these guys carve out roles for themselves along with some new veteran players that we acquired, and we’re excited about it.”
— NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a six-game suspension for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger Wednesday for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy.
Roethlisberger must attend mandatory counseling and be monitored closely by the club and the league, and if he successfully does everything asked from him he should have that suspension reduced to four games.
According to his agent, Roethlisberger will make a statement Monday concerning Goodell’s decision and how he will move forward. Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert commented for the first time Saturday.
“We can’t defend the behavior or actions, and as an organization we won’t,” Colbert said. “But we do defend his opportunity to make right. And I think that’s the right thing to do. This guy has helped us win two championships and he’s made some mistakes, but he also deserves the opportunity to rectify those mistakes, and I know that we stand behind his opportunity to do that.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also discussed the situation, as well as the other three quarterbacks: Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon.
“It’s my understanding, at this point, that he’s ready to meet those challenges and take the necessary steps to move forward with his career,” Tomlin said. “(And) what we know at this point is that he is going to be unavailable for at least the first four football games of the season. We’ve got three guys that we’re very comfortable with playing.
“We will use the rest of the organized team activity days to kind of sort through and get some information in regards to where those guys are. And then we’re going to make some hard and fast decisions going into training camp, because the reality is you can’t get four guys ready to play in a camp. We’ll make that decision at that time. Right now, we’re going to work with all three.
“(And) we will get reacquainted with Byron Leftwich. Of course, Charlie Batch is coming off an injury and Dennis Dixon is an emerging young guy. There are many reps to be had. A lot of teaching needs to be done. We’re going to do that. And we’ll make a decision prior to going to Latrobe about how we’re going to go about divvying up the work load, if you will.”
Batch was re-signed in recent weeks, and Leftwich was reacquired a day before the NFL Draft began.
*The seven undrafted rookies include offensive guard Dorian Brooks, safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, offensive tackle Kyle Jolly, fullback Demetrius Taylor, defensive tackle Cordarrow Thompson, safety Justin Thornton and center/guard A.J. Trump. The addition of the 17 rookies gives the Steelers a total of 89 players on their offseason roster