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NFL Draft depth offers plenty of options

| Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS — The 2010 draft class appears to be strong across the board on defense and lacking only at quarterback, a position a certain team does not need.

The draft sets up nicely for the Steelers, and director of football operations Kevin Colbert said it is deep enough that players who can help immediately can be found in later rounds as well as early ones.

"Be it competition for starting jobs or depth competition, absolutely," Colbert said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "All positions, all around. You can go in a lot of different directions. It sets you up with a lot of options."

If the Steelers want to address a defense that, if not aging, is certainly not getting any younger, there won't be any shortage of options.

"On the defensive side of the ball, it's probably the deepest draft I've seen in eight years," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, "particularly at defensive tackle and in the defensive backfield. If you need a DT a CB or a safety, you can get a quality player in the third, fourth or fifth round."

The Steelers could try to bolster all of those positions via the draft even though they signed nose tackle Casey Hampton to a three-year contact Thursday and are trying to re-sign starting free safety Ryan Clark.

On the other side of the ball, the area where the Steelers may need the most help is the offensive line.

The Steelers have said they need to do a better job of protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been sacked an average of 47-plus times the last four seasons. Running the ball more effectively, particularly in short-yardage situations, is also a priority.

Mayock, when asked where he sees the Steelers going with their first-round pick (No. 18 overall), started with the offensive line and specifically mentioned two players: Florida center Maurkice Pouncey, who can also play guard, and Idaho guard Mike Iupati.

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said it is a strong class for offensive linemen. The depth there, said St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney, merely reflects a class that has just about everything aside from a wealth of quarterback prospects.

"I think everybody feels it's a quality class. It's a deep junior class," Devaney said. "You're going to get good players (in the) second, third or fourth round."

If the Steelers' recent history is any indication, they won't get a whole lot in the way of immediate help from the draft.

Mike Wallace may have led the Steelers with 19.4 yards per catch last season as a rookie and tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions. But he proved to be more the exception than the rule since Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin have been running the Steelers' drafts.

Wallace and, to a degree, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley and defensive end Ziggy Hood are the only rookies that have made significant contributions beyond special teams since 2007, Tomlin's first year as the Steelers' coach. None of the three started a game in their first NFL season.

Colbert said the Steelers won't stray from their philosophy of letting a player rather than circumstance dictate the size of his role in his rookie season.

That, he added, is why the Steelers avoid using the word "need" when talking about the draft.

"We like to use the word want," Colbert said. "We want to find a player that can come in and whenever he plays, that's going to be up to him as in the case of Mike Wallace," Colbert said. "Mike forced his way into the lineup with his play. You don't want to say that you're looking for a need (in the draft) because honestly at 9-7, you need a lot of help across the board."

Cream of a deep crop

The 2010 draft is generally considered a good one, particularly on defense. Here are's rankings for a handful of positions on defense.

Defensive end

1. Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

2. Carlos Dunlap, Florida

3. Everson Griffen, USC

Inside linebacker

1. Rolando McClain, Alabama

2. Brandon Spikes, Florida

3. Daryl Washington, TCU


1. Joe Haden, Florida

*2. Earl Thomas, Texas

3. Patrick Robinson, Florida State

Free safety

1. Eric Berry, Tennessee

2. Taylor Mays, USC

3. Nate Allen, South Florida

*—Has also been projected as a safety

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