Monday, May 9, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 Draft Class

After over a month of going team-by-team putting together previews, mock drafts, and everything else, the draft season has come to a close. On somewhat of a bittersweet note, with the conclusion of the draft, the NFL is more or less officially suspended until the owners and players can figure out some kind of collective bargaining agreement.

But for one last time, we got to enjoy the splendor of the NFL. Here's a look at the Steelers 2011 Draft Class. We're really excited about all these guys. Hopefully the lockout ends soon and they can start learning the playbook.

Cameron Heyward
(DE-The Ohio State University)
The Buckeyes used Heyward all over the line last year, at DE and DT and he had success all over the field. Penn State fans know the name well as he totally dominated their entire offensive line the last two years. Cameron was born in Monroeville and his father was the legendary Pitt runningback "Ironhead" Heyward. He has connections to the area and was absolutely thrilled on draft day to get the call from the Steelers. He will play the 5-technique (DE in our 3-4 defense), which is not the most glamorous position in the game, but as we've seen in the past when Aaron Smith got hurt, it is invaluable. While some have scrutinized the Steelers for not drafting a cornerback in the first round, Heyward fills a long-term need on the defense. Currently, Ziggy Hood is the only member of the defensive front that is under 30 years old. The Steelers needed to add youth & depth to the D-line in this draft, and they did that with the addition of Heyward. Aaron Smith is on his last legs, and the Diesel only has a few years left. Keisel gives them the luxury to groom Heyward to be the long-term partner of Ziggy at the DE position.

Marcus Gilbert
In the second round, the Steelers added depth to the offensive line. Even though they weren't able to get Mike Pouncey in the first round, they drafted Gilbert, one of Maurkice's best friends from Florida. Gilbert has some solid pass-blocking skills from his experience at Florida, but as the Gators didn't run the ball much, his run blocking could use some work. Thankfully, we have enough depth on the offensive line that Gilbert won't be asked to step in as a starter from Day 1 (whenever that may be). The ideal scenario would be that Gilbert could sit for a year behind Flozell Adams and learn the position then be able to step in at right tackle and lock down the position for the next 10-12 years.

Curtis Brown
Some in the media didn't like that the Steelers waited until the 3rd round to draft a corner, but with the depth of the draft, this was where the corner position had the most to choose from. The Steelers responded by picking a corner in the 3rd and 4th rounds. New secondary coach Carnell Lake called Brown Texas' best cover corner last season. That category includes Aaron Williams, a corner/safety that some thought the Steelers might target in the first round. 

Cortez Allen
(CB-The Citadel)
It is not often that the Steelers go outside of Division I in the draft. In fact, Allen was only the 3rd player since 2000 the Steelers selected from a non-Division I program. The first was CB Ricardo Colclough and the second was OT Willie Colon. Allen brings great physical attributes (6'2, 200lbs, 4.5 40-yard dash). Coming from a Division I-AA school, Allen is still a bit raw on the skill end, but he should have time to learn and will likely earn a roster spot on special teams. Keenan Lewis was prone to taking backbreaking penalties, particularly when lined up as gunner in punt coverage. A lot of them were stupid penalties like running out of bounds. Allen will likely challenge Lewis for the gunner role in camp and can earn his way on to the team that way.

Chris Carter
(OLB-Fresno State)
To be honest, I don't know a whole lot about Carter, but the Steelers addressed another need here. Since Thaddeus Gibson (Last year's 4th round pick) got scooped up by the 49ers in free agency after not making the 53-man roster, the Steelers OLB depth consisted of Harrison, Woodley, and rookie Jason Worlids. Adding Carter as a project player gives them someone to develop for depth and play special teams in the short term. If Carter works out, he could challenge Worlids, last year's 2nd round pick, for the future spot opposite LaMarr Woodley when James Harrison retires.

Keith Williams

Williams might not be the most developed prospect the Steelers landed in the draft, but at 6'4" 318 lbs, he is a monster of a human. He's another high-character guy with a great work ethic. He definitely would have benefitted from a full off-season of work with offensive line coach Sean Kugler to improve his technique. As we learned last year, Kugler hammers good technique into these guys and he's the perfect coach for a guy like Williams who has the work ethic and nasty edge to be a Steelers lineman but needs to improve his footwork & hands.

Baron Batch
(RB-Texas Tech)
Batch might be the most heralded 7th round draft choice in Steelers history and he hasn't even put on a jersey yet. Batch has done some amazing community service work while at Texas Tech, including a trip to Haiti. He has a blog that he updates weekly with some amazing stories about his life experiences. He has gathered quite the following of Steelers fans. To be honest, this is a great kid and the kind of "high character guy" that the Steelers organization is built around. He's going to get his shot in training camp to be a contributor on Special Teams and he might even get to compete for the role of 3rd Down Back, depending on if the Steelers re-sign Mewelde Moore or not. 

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