Steelers' draft review: 2013

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
12:00
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The is the last in a series that reviews the Steelers' drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2013 draft:

Total picks: 9

Picks still with the team: 8

Bell
Best pick: RB Le'Veon Bell. The second-round selection set a Steelers record for yards from scrimmage by a rookie (1,259) despite missing the first three games because of a foot injury. Bell's receiving skills -- and the trust quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has in the Michigan State product picking up blitzes -- make him an every-down back. Bell improved as a runner as he adjusted to the speed of defenses at this level, and he rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns in his final two games of the 2013 season. The only question with Bell moving forward is how much the Steelers will ease his workload after signing former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount last month.

Worst pick: QB Landry Jones. This is nothing against Jones and all on the Steelers for using a fourth-round pick on a quarterback when they had more pressing needs, particularly on defense. Jones didn't dress for a game last season, and what made taking a quarterback in the fourth round all the more curious is the Steelers did it after signing veteran Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year contract to back up Roethlisberger. Jones will continue to see limited snaps even in practice as long as Roethlisberger and Gradkowski stay healthy.

Best value pick: LB Vince Williams. The second of the Steelers' two sixth-round picks started 11 games as a rookie, eventually settling in at left inside linebacker following a season-ending arm injury to veteran Larry Foote. Williams recorded 66 tackles and improved as the season progressed, particularly against the run. There are questions about whether Williams, the 206th overall pick of the draft, can play the pass well enough to establish himself as a long-term starter. But the Florida State product has already proven his value as a run-stopping linebacker and special-teams contributor. Even if he does not hang onto his starting job alongside Lawrence Timmons, Williams gives the Steelers quality depth at inside linebacker.

Also of note: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the 17th overall pick of the draft, started eight games last season but managed just one sack. Jones did record nine tackles in the regular-season finale, almost doubling his previous high (five) for stops in a game. ... Third-round pick Markus Wheaton played just 157 snaps and caught six passes for 64 yards. He is expected to get the first crack at replacing Emmanuel Sanders, who signed with the Broncos last month, in the starting lineup. ... Cornerback Terry Hawthorne, a fifth-round pick, has not signed with another team since the Steelers released him at the end of preseason practice. ... Seventh-round pick Nick Williams has a real opportunity after spending last season on injured reserve because of a knee injury. The Steelers are thin at defensive end and they will give Williams a long look during offseason practices and training camp.

Final analysis/grade: So much of the Steelers' draft hinges on the jump Jarvis Jones and Wheaton make in their second season -- and whether the two become productive starters. Assuming that happens and fourth-round pick Shamarko Thomas works his way into the rotation at safety, this has the makings of a very good class. But it is too early to put a grade on it so I will give the Steelers an incomplete here.

Steelers' draft review: 2012

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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PITTSBURGH -- The is the sixth in a series that reviews the Pittsburgh Steelers' drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2012 draft:

Total picks: 9

Picks still with the team: 5

[+] EnlargeDavid DeCastro
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsDavid DeCastro looks like he will be a fixture in the lineup for years.
Best pick: G David DeCastro. The Steelers were both surprised and elated when the top guard in the draft fell to them at No. 24 overall. DeCastro overcame some early adversity -- a torn ACL caused him to miss most of his rookie season -- and has established himself as one of the top guards in the NFL. The Stanford product has many Pro Bowls in his future provided he stays healthy, and he could enjoy a career similar to the one Alan Faneca had with the Steelers.

Worst pick: NT Alameda Ta'amu. Taken in the fourth round as Casey Hampton's potential successor, Ta'amu lasted just one season with the Steelers -- he didn't play in a game -- and will be most remembered for his arrest following a police chase in Pittsburgh that damaged several cars and left one person injured. Ta'amu landed with the Cardinals after the Steelers released him and played 14 games last season, starting three.

Best value pick: OT Kelvin Beachum. The Steelers' final pick -- and the 248th selection overall -- has proven to be an absolute steal. Beachum’s versatility allowed him to make an impact as a rookie, and he stabilized left tackle last season after second-round pick Mike Adams floundered there. Beachum started 11 of the Steelers’ last 12 games at left tackle, and the SMU product played well enough to go into offseason practices as the starter there. It remains to be seen whether Beachum’s long-term future is at left tackle. Even if it isn’t, he will start for the Steelers somewhere along the offensive line.

Also of note: It will be interesting to see what the Steelers do with Adams in the offseason. The Ohio State product could compete with Beachum at left tackle or challenge Marcus Gilbert for the starting job at right tackle. Adams started six games at right tackle as a rookie and played considerably better there than at left tackle ... Third-round pick Sean Spence could contribute this season at inside linebacker after suffering a career-threatening knee injury in the final preseason game of his rookie season ... Fifth-round pick Chris Rainey, released following an offseason arrest in 2013, played two games for the Colts last season but did not have a carry ... Every draft pick has appeared in at least one NFL game.

Final analysis/grade: It’s still a tad early to evaluate this class, but the Steelers hit big with their bookend picks (DeCastro and Beachum). The jury is still out on their second- and third-round picks (Adams and Spence) for different reasons. I will give them a 'B-' for now with the grade moving up or down depending on what they get out of Adams and Spence.
The Pittsburgh Steelers usually draft so logically and sensibly that predicting the position and player they take is not that huge of a challenge.

This draft is no different. Pittsburgh, coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons, could use a receiver, a defensive lineman or a cornerback. Any would make sense.


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Steelers' draft review: 2011

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:00
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PITTSBURGH -- The is the fifth in a series that reviews the Steelers' drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2011 draft.

Total picks: 7

[+] EnlargeCameron Heyward
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsCameron Heyward came into his own last season, notching 59 tackles and five sacks.
Picks still with the team: 4

Best pick: DE Cameron Heyward. The penultimate pick of the first round didn't play much his first two seasons but really emerged in 2013 when he cracked the starting lineup after the first four games. Heyward established himself as one of the Steelers' best defensive players as well as the cornerstone of a line that is in transition. Heyward played well against the run in 2013 and also provided the Steelers with an inside pass-rusher as he led the team with 31 quarterback pressures and also recorded five sacks. The former Ohio State star is among the players the Steelers will build around on defense.

Worst pick: CB Curtis Brown. The third-round selection never developed into more than a special-teams contributor and the Steelers released him last month. Brown never started a game in three seasons and was credited with just eight tackles and one pass defended in 34 career games. The Steelers' miss on this pick is one reason why they are thin at cornerback -- and why they are likely to draft two players at that position this year.

Best value pick: CB Cortez Allen. The fourth-round selection from The Citadel has the potential to become a shut-down cornerback and has at least shown, when healthy, that he can be a quality starter. Allen has similarities to Ike Taylor, from the round they were taken in to the fact that each came from a small school and developed fairly quickly. Like Taylor, the 6-1, 196-pound Allen has good size, and he rebounded from a high-ankle sprain last season to intercept two passes and lead the Steelers with 14 passes defended.

Also of note: Right tackle Marcus Gilbert, a second-round pick, was the only Steelers' offensive lineman to start every game last season … Guard Keith Williams, a sixth-round pick, is the only player in this class never to have appeared in a game for the Steelers. Williams played two games for the Bills and is currently toiling in the Arena Football League … Running back Baron Batch created a buzz during his first training camp before tearing his ACL. Batch rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in 2012 but the Steelers released the seventh-round pick last August and he remains unsigned.

Final analysis/grade: This quietly has turned into a decent draft for the Steelers, especially if Gilbert convinces the team he has a long-term future in Pittsburgh. Heyward and Allen are players the Steelers will build around on defense and the only glaring miss was the Brown selection. I'll give the Steelers a B- for this haul.

Steelers' draft review: 2010

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
12:00
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PITTSBURGH -- The is the fourth in a series that reviews the Pittsburgh Steelers' drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2010 draft:

Total picks: 10

Picks still with the team: 3

Wallace
Brown
Best pick: WR Antonio Brown. The Steelers got an absolute steal when they landed Brown with the second of their two sixth-round picks. The fourth-year veteran has already made a pair of Pro Bowls and has twice been voted Steelers MVP by his teammates. Brown set a Steelers’ single-season record with 1,499 receiving yards in 2013, and he came within three receptions of also establishing a franchise mark for catches in a season. Not bad for the 195th pick of the draft.

Worst pick: OLB Thaddeus Gibson. The Steelers took the former Ohio State defensive end in the fourth round with the plan of converting him to outside linebacker. Gibson didn’t establish himself as a player who could at least contribute on special teams, and the Steelers lost him during his rookie season when they released Gibson with the intention of signing him to their practice squad. The 49ers claimed Gibson, but it didn’t turn out to be a significant loss. Gibson has bounced around the league, appearing in just four games for two different teams.

Worilds
Best value pick (not named Antonio Brown): OLB Jason Worilds. The Steelers took some criticism for picking the former Virginia Tech star over linebacker Sean Lee, who had starred at a Pittsburgh-area high school as well as at Penn State. Such second-guessing only intensified when Lee emerged a Pro Bowl-caliber player in Dallas while Worilds didn’t contribute much his first three seasons because of injuries and the fact that James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were blocking him. Worilds, however, emerged as the Steelers’ best pass-rusher last season, notching a career-high eight sacks. The Steelers chose Worilds over the oft-injured Woodley in March when they used the transition tag on the fourth-year veteran and released Woodley.

Also of note: The Steelers hit big on first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey, No. 18 overall, as he became the first center in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons ... Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (third round) and running back Jonathan Dwyer (sixth round) were among the players the Steelers lost to free agency this year ... Every player the Steelers drafted has appeared in at least one NFL game.

Final analysis/grade: It’s hard to quibble much with the Steelers’ first three picks as they netted Pouncey, Worilds and Sanders. The Steelers didn’t fare as well in the middle rounds, but added great value in the sixth round. Brown has established himself as a star, and Dwyer had his moments in Pittsburgh, leading the Steelers with 623 rushing yards in 2012. I’ll give the Steelers a ‘B+’ for this class.

NFL Nation Buzz: Pittsburgh Steelers

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
10:00
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video
ESPN.com Steelers reporter Scott Brown discusses why Pittsburgh shouldn't spend a first-round draft pick on an offensive lineman.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed former Chicago Bears punter Adam Podlesh to a one-year contract, the team announced on Tuesday.

The Bears released Podlesh in March prior to the start of free agency after the seven-year NFL veteran averaged 40.6 yards per punt, with a 37.9-yard net average in 2013.

Podlesh, who signed a five-year, $10 million contract with $3.5 million guaranteed with the Bears on July 30, 2011, was scheduled to count $1.825 million against Chicago’s salary cap in 2014 before team decided to cut ties with the punter.

Podlesh’s best season in Chicago came in 2011 when he set the Bears’ single-season record in net punting average (40.4). His 42.4 yards career gross punt average ranks second in team history.

The 30-year-old Podlesh spent his first four years in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL draft.

Podlesh and second-year kicker Brad Wing are the only two punters listed on the Steelers’ official offseason roster.

Former Pittsburgh punter Drew Butler will have an opportunity to replace Podlesh in Chicago, if he wins the Bears’ starting job in the preseason.
Cleveland Browns fans complained the past few years as the team sat idly by while free agency raged. The Browns fiddled while free agents burned holes in owners’ pockets.

Or something like that.

Since the 2014 version of free agency began, the Browns have spent $55.8 million in guaranteed money.

That’s the highest total in the AFC North, and following the matching of Jacksonville’s offer to Alex Mack, ranks third in the league in guaranteed money spent since March 11.

Which means the Browns rank third to the Bucs and Broncos in guaranteed money, with most of it going to Mack ($18 million reported, though the number has not been confirmed), linebacker Karlos Dansby ($12 million) and safety Donte Whitner ($13 million). The Browns started free agency with a glut of cap space, and they’ve not been shy about using it.

And they’ve spend more than $50 million in guaranteed contracts without even addressing the quarterback position.

Second in the division in spending are the Baltimore Ravens at $36.3 million, though their total does not include re-signing Dennis Pitta just before free agency began. That signing brings the Ravens' guaranteed money total to $52.3 million -- still short of the Browns.

Most of Baltimore’s money went to Pitta and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe ($19 million).

Take away those two re-signings and Baltimore’s guaranteed total of $18 million is more like a team that feels good about itself.

Same for the Bengals, a team that has made the playoffs three years in a row and feels it’s close to something good. Cincinnati has spent just $7.3 million in guaranteed money, the fourth lowest total in the league.

Pittsburgh? The Steelers never go overboard in free-agent spending and this year is no different. Their total of $8.7 million is just ahead of Cincinnati.

Steelers draft review: 2009

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
12:00
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The is the third in a series that reviews the Steelers’ drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2009 draft:

Total picks: 9

Picks still with the team: 0

Wallace
Wallace
Best pick: WR Mike Wallace. The second of three third-round picks, Wallace made an immediate impact and he developed into one of the top deep threats in the NFL. Wallace had just over 4,000 receiving yards and 32 touchdown catches in four seasons in Pittsburgh and he made the Pro Bowl in 2011. His speed and production priced Wallace out of the Steelers’ range and he signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the Dolphins last year. The Steelers were wise not to overpay for Wallace and his loss helped them net three compensatory draft picks this year.

Worst pick: G Kraig Urbik. Urbik, the Steelers’ second pick -- and first one in the third round -- lasted just one season in Pittsburgh and didn’t suit up for a game his rookie season. What is puzzling is why the Steelers were so quick to give up on Urbik. He landed in Buffalo and has started the past three seasons for the Bills. Whether there was some disconnect between the scouts/front office evaluation of Urbik and that of the coaches the fact remains that Steelers got nothing out the 79th overall pick of the draft.

Best value pick: TE David Johnson. The Steelers’ final pick – and the 241st overall selection in the draft – contributed as a blocking tight end/H-back as well as on special teams before knee and elbow injuries derailed his final two seasons in Pittsburgh. Johnson, who recently signed a two-year contract with the Chargers, caught 22 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown for the Steelers.

Also of note: Defensive end Ziggy Hood may be the most dubious first-round pick the Steelers have made since Colbert joined the organization in 2000. The former Missouri star proved to be durable and his effort and commitment were never an issue. But Hood was miscast as a hold-the-point-of-attack defensive end after shooting gaps and getting up the field as a tackle in college. Hood recently signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Jaguars. ... The Steelers erred in letting cornerback Keenan Lewis, a third-round pick, get away in free agency last year. A late bloomer, Lewis has developed into a quality starter. Now with the Saints, Lewis is sorely missed on a team that has to get younger at cornerback and replace Ike Taylor in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

Final analysis/grade: This is a tricky evaluation because the Steelers largely did a good job in picking players who could succeed at this level albeit in varying roles. The problem is they have nothing to show from this class other than the three compensatory draft picks they were awarded this year in part for losing Wallace and Lewis in free agency. Meanwhile, at least four players from this class project as starters – for other teams – in 2014. I will give the Steelers a "C" since they got contributions from a handful of players in this draft and maximized the pick they used on Wallace.
The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to examine the best cornerbacks in this year's draft, playing host to TCU's Jason Verrett on a pre-draft visit Monday.

Verrett is considered a top-five cornerback in this draft, and he could be taken as early as the bottom half of the first round. It's likely a stretch for the Steelers to select him at No. 15.

If Verrett slid into the second round, he would be a possibility for the Steelers, even though the team typically doesn't address the cornerback position until the middle rounds. Cornerback is a need for the Steelers because 33-year-old Ike Taylor is heading into the final year of his contract. Verrett totaled 43 passes defended and nine interceptions in three productive years at TCU.

The Steelers had Darqueze Dennard, one of the most highly rated cornerbacks, in for a pre-draft visit earlier this month.

The Steelers also brought in Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton and Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson for pre-draft visits Monday. It's a surprise to see Crichton meeting with the Steelers because he projects to be a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. He has limited experience in dropping into coverage, and he's not seen as an ideal fit for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense like the one the Steelers employ.

A second-round prospect, Crichton finished with 7.5 sacks last season. He was recently rated as the seventh-best defensive end by Mel Kiper.

Richardson is projected to go in the fifth round. He's a long-armed defender who had some inconsistencies in coverage last season.

Steelers draft review: 2008

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
12:00
PM ET
The is the second in a series that reviews the Steelers’ drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin.

Next up is the 2008 draft:

Total picks: 7

Picks still with the team: 0

Mendenhall
Mendenhall
Best pick: RB Rashard Mendenhall. Posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2009-10 and was the Steelers’ most indispensable offensive player not named Ben Roethlisberger the last time they made the Super Bowl. Mendenhall rushed for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010 though he lost a fumble in Super Bowl XLV, one of the turning points in a 31-25 loss to the Packers. Mendenhall only played three full seasons in Pittsburgh because of injuries, and he recently retired after playing just one season in Arizona. Mendenhall wrote in the Huffington Post that he became disillusioned with the NFL and has decided to pursue a career in writing.

Worst pick: WR Limas Sweed. The Steelers looked like they had gotten a steal when the rangy, athletic wide receiver who has been productive at Texas slipped to them in the latter part of the second round. Sweed never worked out for a number of reasons and the chronic drops that doomed him in Pittsburgh may have stemmed for more than concentration lapses. The Steelers placed Sweed on the reserve/non-football injury/illness list near the end of the 2009 season for personal reasons. He ruptured an Achilles tendon that offseason and never played another game for Pittsburgh. Sweed caught seven passes for 69 yards for the Steelers and is currently playing in the Canadian Football League.

Best value pick: S Ryan Mundy. The Steelers took the local product – Mundy had starred in high school at nearby Woodland Hills High School – with the second of their two sixth-round picks and he provided depth and spot starts at safety while also contributing on special teams. Mundy spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad but after making the Steelers in 2009 he played in every game for them in each of the next four seasons. Mundy played for the Giants last season and recorded a career-high 77 tackles, and he recently signed with the Bears.

Also of note: Outside linebacker Bruce Davis, the Steelers’ third-round pick, suited up for five games his rookie season and did not record a tackle. The Steelers released him the following preseason. Cliff Avril, taken four picks after Davis, has 47.5 career sacks. Davis is currently playing in the CFL. ... Fifth-round pick Dennis Dixon started the first two games at quarterback in 2010 because of Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension but hurt his knee in the second game of the season. … Linebacker Mike Humpal, a sixth-round pick, is the only player in this draft class who never appeared in an NFL game.

Final analysis/grade: This class could serve as Exhibit A as to why it is foolish to grade teams’ hauls right after the draft. The Steelers were widely praised for taking Mendenhall and Sweed and generally got good reviews for this draft. It turned out to be a disastrous draft for the Steelers and one of their worst since the arrival of Chuck Noll in 1969 when Pittsburgh committed to building through the draft. I will give the Steelers a "D" since they got a few good seasons out of Mendenhall and value with the Mundy pick, but even that may be generous.
Here is the latest Pittsburgh Steeler's mail call. If you have a question please it send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with #steelersmail.

And away we go ...

 

Reviewing Steelers' drafts: 2007

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
4:00
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PITTSBURGH -- In little less than a month, general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin will lead their eight draft together at the helm of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I will take a look at the team's previous seven drafts under the two starting with 2007, which took place just roughly three months after Tomlin became the franchise's third head coach since 1969.

Here is a review of Colbert and Tomlin's first draft:

Total picks: 8

Picks still with the team: 3

Timmons
Best pick: LB Lawrence Timmons: The Steelers raised some questions when they used the 15th overall pick on a 20-year-old who had only played extensively for one season at Florida State. But Timmons has emerged as arguably the Steelers' best defensive player and is certainly their most dependable one. Timmons has started 53 consecutive regular-season games at inside linebacker, and the seventh-year veteran has led the Steelers in tackles each of the last two seasons. Timmons is athletic enough to cover the pass as well as rush the quarterback, and he has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Second-rounder LaMarr Woodley would have gotten the nod here had injuries not derailed his final three seasons in Pittsburgh and led the Steelers to release him last month.

Worst pick: P Daniel Sepulveda: This has as much to do with where the Steelers drafted Sepulveda as much as with his not working out because he couldn't stay healthy. The Steelers traded up in the fourth round to take the punter with the bionic leg and the linebacker sensibilities. Unfortunately for the Steelers, Sepulveda sustained a pair of torn ACLs and the Steelers parted ways with him after five seasons. They are still looking for a dependable punter despite spending what amounted to fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2007 on one.

Best value pick: CB William Gay. The seventh-year veteran has been a frequent target of fan criticism but he has been unsung in two stints in Pittsburgh. Gay has been largely solid, whether as a starter or a nickel back, though unspectacular, and the Steelers couldn't have asked for much more from a player who was their second fifth-round pick in 2007. Guard Cameron Stephenson, taken by the Steelers 14 picks ahead of Gay, never played a down in Pittsburgh and is currently in the Arena Football League.

Also of note: Timmons is the only pick from the class who has played his entire career in Pittsburgh and is still on the team. Tight end Matt Spaeth and Gay each signed elsewhere following the 2011 season. The Steelers brought both back a season apart. ... Woodley's 57 sacks are seventh on the Steelers' all-time list. ... The Steelers' second fourth-round pick, defensive end Ryan McBean, never played for Pittsburgh but started 21 games for Denver from 2009-11.

Final analysis/grade: The Steelers hit on their first two picks with Timmons and Woodley but didn't do much in the rest of the draft. Spaeth has been a good blocking tight end but has never developed into much of a pass-catching threat. The Steelers missed on their two fourth-round picks and Gay is the only contributor they found later in the draft. This wasn't one of the Steelers' better drafts but it wasn't a disaster either. I give the team a "C" for this effort.

CB Bradley Roby visiting Steelers

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
2:00
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are meeting with a potential first-round pick and two other defensive players Friday at team headquarters.

Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford and Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis are the Steelers’ latest pre-draft visitors with Roby projected as a first- or second-round pick.

Roby may be the most talented cornerback in the draft but he had an up-and-down season in 2013 and didn’t play in the Buckeyes’ season opener because of a suspension stemming from an offseason arrest.

The 5-11, 194-pounder recorded 68 tackles and intercepted three passes last season, and he boosted his stock by running the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Roby as the fourth-best cornerback in the draft behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and TCU’s Jason Verrett.

Bradford recorded 18 tackles for losses and 8 sacks in 2013 for Arizona State, and the 6-1, 250-pounder could play inside or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Pierre-Louis also had a productive season in 2013 as he recorded 108 tackles, six sacks and an interception.

The 6-1, 232-pounder does not have great size but he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the combine.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 out-of-area prospects for pre-draft prospects.

They met with Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and Washington State safety Deone Bucannon earlier this week.
PITTSBURGH -- A month into free agency few could have expected the Steelers to be as active as they have been in reshaping their roster. They have signed more than 10 free agents, including seven from other teams.

The Steelers are around $300,000 under the salary cap and are done signing players for now, having shifted their focus to the draft. With free agency having slowed to a crawl following a furious spending spree, let’s take a closer look at the outside free agents that the Steelers added with ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL scout Matt Williamson weighing in on each player:

Mitchell
Mike Mitchell

Position: S

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-0, 210

Deal: five-year, $25 million contract with $5.25 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Set career-highs in tackles (66), interceptions (4), sacks (3 1/2) and forced fumbles (2) for the Panthers, blossoming after leaving Oakland for Carolina.

Skinny: The Steelers signed Mitchell to take over for Ryan Clark at free safety and get younger in the secondary. Mitchell prepares and plays with an edge. Next up for one of former Raiders owner Al Davis’ most infamous drat picks is proving those wrong who say his breakout season had more to do with the talent around Mitchell than his growth.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I think the arrow is very much going up on him because he’s big and fast and now he knows how to play the game. I think he’s a better coverage player than he is a run defender. I think he’s going to be your deep centerfield more often than not and let Troy (Polamalu) do his thing. Tackling is one thing he needs to work on but he can blitz.”

Thomas
Cam Thomas

Position: DL

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-4, 330

Deal: two-year, $4 million contract with $1 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Recorded 23 tackles while starting 10 of 16 games at nose tackle for the Chargers and also made his first career interception.

Skinny: The Steelers signed Thomas to provide depth at nose tackle and defensive end. The player known as “Baby Zilla” could get an opportunity to start at the defensive end spot opposite Cameron Heyward depending on the players that the Steelers draft or sign in free agency.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I thought it was a decent pick up. I think he’s versatile enough to play any of their defensive line spots as is (Steve) McLendon. They certainly need d-line help but it’s not like boy they have to get a Casey Hampton or boy they have to get a (Brett) Keisel. It’s giving them more options going into the draft and he’s young, big body, fits the mold of what they want from that position.”

Moore
Lance Moore

Position: WR

Age: 30

Ht/Wt.: 5-9, 190

Deal: two-year, $3 million contract with $645,000 million guaranteed

2013 statistics: Caught 37 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns while starting five of the 13 games he played in his final seasons with the Saints.

Skinny: The Steelers moved quickly to fill their opening at No. 3 wide receiver after Jerricho Cotchery signed with the Panthers. They landed Moore, who was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2012, and had some other good seasons in New Orleans. Moore, like Cotchery, knows how to get open and has reliable hands. He is a little younger than Cotchery but isn’t as effective as Cotchery is in the red zone. Eight of Cotchery’s 10 touchdown receptions last season were from inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

Matt Williamson’s take: “I think having a veteran in that room is really important, but I just wish he was a bigger guy. Cotchery was a pretty good red zone weapon where now they’re extra small at receiver. Moore had a bad year last year. He didn’t play much because of injuries but the few seasons before that he was a good player. He was always very reliable.”

Moats
Arthur Moats

Position: LB

Age: 26

Ht/Wt.: 6-2, 250

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Played in every game last season, starting 12 at inside linebacker, and recorded a career-high 54 tackles.

Skinny: This under-the-radar signing could turn out to be a significant one for the Steelers. Moats will provide depth at outside linebacker and play special teams. He also could get a shot at challenging Vince Williams for the starting job at left inside linebacker, though Moats has said the Steelers will first try him at outside linebacker.

Matt Williamson’s take: “He’s unique. I can’t really come up with a guy off the top of my head in the league who can play all four linebacker spots at a 3-4. They’re very different skill sets. At a minimum he’s your fifth linebacker. He’s a very good special teamer. He’s still really young.”

McCain
Brice McCain

Position: CB

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 5-9, 187

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,0000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Started a career-high four games for the Texans and recorded 32 tackles with an interception and seven passes defended.

Skinny: The Texans cut ties with McCain after opposing teams picked on the fifth-year veteran a good bit last season. The Steelers only had three other cornerbacks with significant NFL experience before signing McCain so he gives them some insurance and will be plenty motivated to bounce back from a rough 2013 campaign.

Matt Williamson’s take: “He’s a fourth or fifth guy that plays sparingly and might not even make the team if they draft one or two (cornerbacks) that are real impressive. He has at least played a lot of snaps in this league. He’s good enough to get on the field but bad enough to get burned when he’s on there and he’s little. He’s the (signing) I’m least excited about.”

Williams
Blount
LeGarrette Blount

Position: RB

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-0, 250

Deal: two years, $3.85 million, with $950,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns and averaged 5.0 yards per carry while emerging as the Patriots’ best back by the end of the season. Blount went off in a Patriots playoff win over the Colts, rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns.

Skinny: The Steelers were looking for a proven back to provide depth and injury insurance behind Le'Veon Bell and they found a young one at a reasonable price. If Blount can shoulder some of the workload at running back that should keep Bell fresh throughout the season and perhaps add some seasons to his career.

Matt Williamson’s take: “If you watch SportsCenter and watch his highlights you think he’s better than he is. There’s times that he doesn’t play as big and strong as he really is. If there isn’t a hole there he doesn’t make his own, but he is powerful and I think he’s got really good feet. He doesn’t really offer anything in the passing game but the best thing is he’s better than (Jonathan) Dwyer and (Isaac) Redman. They upgraded there.”

Heyward-Bey
Darrius Heyward-Bey

Position: WR

Age: 27

Ht/Wt.: 6-2, 219

Deal: one-year, $795,000 contract with $65,000 guaranteed

2013 statistics: Played a career-high 16 games, starting 12 of them, and caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown in his only seasons with the Colts.

Skinny: The seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft has never lived up to expectations with suspect hands often neutralizing his unique blend of size and speed. Heyward-Bey gives the Steelers a bigger wide receiver and one who is still young enough to have some upside. If he doesn’t work out the Steelers took virtually no risk in signing Heyward-Bey

Matt Williamson’s take: “Highly unreliable and it really only comes down to drops. He drops so many passes. It wasn’t his fault that he was the seventh pick of the draft and didn’t live up to it. Nobody thought he should be (picked that high) except for Al Davis. He may not even make the team.”

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