Secondary primary for Steelers in NFL Draft
In the weeks leading to the NFL Draft, it's difficult to imagine coach Mike Tomlin didn't relive the final seconds of the Steelers' stunning 29-23 overtime defeat in the opening round of AFC playoffs in Denver.
If it wasn't safety Ryan Mundy biting on a Tim Tebow play fake, it was Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas slapping aside cornerback Ike Taylor as he sprints toward the end zone for the game-winning 80-yard touchdown.
On Monday, Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert made it clear the Steelers are prepared to address their shortcomings in the secondary. While offensive line might be a position of need, last year's top-ranked pass defense needs a playmaker, considering the Steelers had only 11 interceptions.
“Need is not a good word,” Colbert said.
Need might be an ugly word for Colbert, but the Steelers' pass coverage breakdowns in big games may necessitate taking the best available defensive back in the first round Thursday. If there's any doubt, Tomlin only needs to reflect on the Mile High debacle — or Baltimore's Torrey Smith splitting cornerback William Gay and safety Ryan Clark for a game-clinching 27-yard scoring reception to cap a 92-yard drive with eight seconds left for a 23-20 win at Heinz Field in November.
Taylor, for the most part, was consistent in 2011. Clark led the Steelers with 100 tackles, and safety Troy Polamalu had 91 tackles and a team-high two interceptions.
But last year's third- and fourth-round picks, cornerbacks Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, were slowed by injuries. Keenan Lewis was steady but unspectacular.
“What's going on with our current team won't influence what we do in the draft,” Colbert said. “We're going to look at this with the potential to add more players to the mix.”
Brown and Allen could have bigger roles with the release of veteran Bryant McFadden and the departure of Gay via free agency.
“There's a possibility that we could add some competition there but we are excited about the prospects of these young men — Brown and Allen,” Tomlin said. “We drafted them a year ago with the potential of these things in mind. They've been a part of our program and have been given the opportunity to contribute in some ways, on special teams and even in some sub-package defense for Cortez.”
With the 24th overall pick, the Steelers probably won't have a chance at the top defensive back prospects — cornerbacks Morris Clairborne of LSU and Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama, and safety Mark Barron of Alabama.
Colbert said the talent pool is deep with cornerbacks. He isn't nearly as confident in finding safeties, particularly late in the draft.
But if the Steelers are left without an offensive lineman worthy of a first-round pick, several defensive backs could be available — including cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina and Jayron Hosley of Virginia Tech, and safety Harrison Smith of Notre Dame.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers veteran linebacker Harrison focused on stretch run
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin ends practice with third-down work
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Steelers kicker Boswell puts best foot forward
- Steelers notebook: Players get back to work after bye
- Analysis: Despite injuries, Steelers well-positioned entering stretch run
- Steelers defense has taken to adjustments made by Butler
- Rookie linebacker Chickillo adjusting to role with Steelers
- Steelers not giving up on wresting AFC North from Bengals