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Analysis: Steelers stay true to form in draft

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By Scott Brown
Sunday, May 1, 2011
 

All seven players the Steelers drafted, starting with Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, made a significant list last week.

They were among 100 players the Steelers deemed could help them, which means they not only could make a team that has Super Bowl aspirations every year but also contribute in varying degrees.

"Hopefully they are what we think they are," said Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

The caveat that Colbert offered Saturday night is understandable: It takes at least three years to know if a draft is successful, which makes the so-called grades given by draftniks to each team while the draft is still going on laughable.

But if the Steelers did as well as Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin think they did, history should one day look fondly on this draft.

The Steelers addressed their biggest needs during the first three rounds by selecting Heyward, Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and Texas cornerback Curtis Brown.

They later added another cornerback and offensive lineman to fortify themselves where they need help the most.

The only pick that qualified as something of a head scratcher was Fresno State's Chris Carter. But it wouldn't be a Steelers draft if they didn't take at least one outside linebacker — or, in Carter's case, a defensive end they plan to turn into an outside linebacker.

"We didn't feel like we reached for anything, which is important," Colbert said. "You have to stay true to your evaluations, and if it happens to meet positions that can help your team, great. We think it did. Only time will tell."

Indeed, no one knows if Brown or Cortez Allen will be able to play cornerback in the NFL. Or if the Steelers will have the same success with Gilbert as they did with other Florida linemen Maurkice Pouncey and Max Starks.

Even if Brown sticks to NFL receivers like gum to a shoe, and Allen is more Ike Taylor than Ricardo Colclough, the Steelers have to re-sign Taylor.

They didn't go for the quick fix at cornerback. And it probably would have been a mistake to take a cornerback that they weren't sold on with their first pick and designate him Plan B in the event Taylor signs elsewhere.

This draft proved to be a lot like Colbert himself — steady but not flashy and happily largely operating under the radar of the national analysts.

Colbert said the Steelers gave a cursory look into trading up, presumably to get Florida guard/center Mike Pouncey, the twin brother of Maurkice.

But Colbert said the Steelers knew the price — with draft picks serving as currency — would be too steep, so they stayed at No. 31 in the first round.

Just as they did with Heyward, who adds an infusion of youth, energy and pedigree to the defensive line, the Steelers were content to let the draft come to them.

Colbert did not make a trade — an indication, he said, of how happy the Steelers were with how the drafted played out.

"I can honestly say going through this draft we never felt that we missed out on somebody by taking someone else," Colbert said. "We were very comfortable in taking each of these guys where we took them."

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