Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Steelers Draft Preview: Special Teams

With the calendar turning to April, it means only one thing: the NFL Draft is fast approaching. This year, the draft is going to have a little different feel than drafts in years past, as the lockout has some additional rules that apply to the draft. The first, and probably most important facet of the lockout is that it has suspended free agency. Due to the lack of Free Agency, veterans whose contracts have expired are still with their current team until the lockout ends. Therefore, players like Ike Taylor are up in the air right now. Obviously, we would love for the Steelers to re-sign Ike. We're of the opinion that Ike is one of the top 10 corners in the league, and he should be the top priority for the Steelers once the Free Agency period begins.

Throughout the day today, we're going to take a look at the positions the Steelers most need in the draft, and throw out a few potential options for who they might draft. Here we take a look at the special teams.

Under Contract: none
Free Agents: Shaun Suisham

The Steelers part ways with Jeff Reed last year and picked up Shaun Suisham in the middle of the year. Shuisham helped out when we needed it and delivered some clutch kicks, including the game in Buffalo where he converted 5 field goals of over 40 yards. The Steelers kicker situation is somewhat up in the air going into the draft, and we really wouldn't be surprised to see them take a shot at a kicker in the 6th or 7th round. Heck, they picked Sepulveda in the 4th, so a kicker in the 5th round might even be a possibility. There are 2 kickers worth drafting this year, Alex Henery (Nebraska) and Kai Forbath (UCLA). The one reason I like Henery over Forbath is that kicking in Southern California and kicking at Heinz Field in December are two completely different things. On the other hand, kicking on the windy plains of Nebraska in the winter is probably good preparation for Heinz Field. Also, Henery hit a 57-yarder this year against Colorado with under 2 minutes to go in the game. He has a monster leg.

Liklihood of Drafting a Kicker: Medium
Good fits for what the Steelers need: Alex Henery (Nebraska), Kai Forbath (UCLA)

Under Contract: none
Free Agents: Daniel Sepulveda, Jeremy Kapinos

The Steelers spent a 4th round pick on Daniel Sepulveda in 2007 and he has battled multiple ACL injuries throughout his career. The Steelers have reached the Super Bowl 3 times with Chris Gardocki, Mitch Berger, and Jeremy Kapinos punting. This isn't to say that Sepulveda isn't valuable to the team. He is, and we would love to see him re-signed. The Steelers have been able to find punters in free agency, so it isn't likely they draft one tomorrow.

Liklihood of Drafting a Punter: Slim-to-none
Good fits for what the Steelers need: Ryan Donahue (Iowa)

Long Snapper
Under Contract: none
Free Agents: Greg Warren

Long snapper might be one of the most under-rated positions on the team. We saw this in 2008 when Warren was hurt against the Giants and James Harrison filled in and snapped the ball out of the end zone. Even though Warren is a free agent, the Steelers won't spend a draft pick on a long snapper. If they can't re-sign Warren, they'll likely look for a new long snapper in free agency.

Liklihood of Drafting a Long Snapper: Slim-to-none
Good fits for what the Steelers need: Danny Aiken (Virginia)

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