Coby Fleener: A Dark Horse Option In The First Round For The Pittsburgh Steelers?

By Cian Fahey

Will Brinson, of CBS Sports, recently wrote a mock draft which featured the most intriguing selection I had seen so far for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brinson mocked Stanford Tight End Coby Fleener to the Steelers with the 24th overall selection: “This is a bit of a surprise pick, and the Steelers don\’t necessarily “need” a tight end. However, Kevin Colbert knows value when he sees it, and Fleener is precisely that. He can create mismatches on offense, and if the Steelers are going to struggle in the running game without Rashard Mendenhall, Fleener can add a new dimension to what Pittsburgh does.”

While Tight End is definitely not the team\’s biggest need, or even close to it, the Steelers would give themselves an added advantage over defenses with the addition.

Brinson references how Fleener would create mismatches on offense. At the Stanford Cardinal\’ Pro Day, Fleener ran a 4.45 40-yard-dash. With that kind of speed, standing at 6\’6 and roughly 240 lbs, Fleener is a sure fire first round draft pick.

Fleener would add a new dimension to the Steelers\’ group of tight ends. With Weslye Saunders suspended for the start of next season, the Steelers are left with David Johnson and Heath Miller as their options at the position. Johnson is predominantly a blocker, who often lined up as a fullback for Bruce Arians, while Miller is a stud and one of the most underrated in the league.

Miller doesn\’t present major matchup problems for defenses however. There are many linebackers who can stick with his speed while a handful of safeties are big enough to fight him for the football. If the team brought in Fleener, who has the speed to escape linebackers and size to manhandle secondary players, adding him to Miller would give them a pairing similar to the New England Patriots\’ Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

While Miller and Fleener together wouldn\’t be on the same level as Hernandez and Gronkowski, their effect on opposing defenses would work the same way.

The Patriots have built their offense to hide Tom Brady\’s greatest flaws. Brady has two major weaknesses that are rarely exposed. The first, he cannot throw effectively off his back foot at all, is covered by the team\’s heavy investment in offensive linemen over the years. The second is solved by the team\’s two tight ends predominantly. Brady often struggles to adjust to defenses after the ball is snapped. He does however do great work prior to the snap in diagnosing where to go with the ball.

Brady is able to do this because the Patriots\’ offense forces defenses to show their hand schematically prior to the snap. The offense is completely based on matchups with the team\’s tight ends a major part of that. When both Hernandez and Gronkowski are on the field, opposing defenses are forced to either abandon their base defense or expose one of their linebackers to Hernandez or Gronkowski.

When the Steelers beat the Patriots earlier this season, their ability to cover Gronkowski without doubling him and shut down the running game at the same time with their front six/seven allowed them to win the game. This is something very few defenses are capable of doing when both tight ends are fully healthy.

If the Steelers brought in Fleener, they would then have two tight ends on the field capable of giving them a schematic advantage. Even though the Steelers don\’t have a versatile back like Danny Woodhead or Stevan Ridley to further their matchup offense, having such a talented receiving corp would create major problems for opposition defenses. Defenses looking to double team Mike Wallace would expose themselves to the team\’s tight ends now as well as the team\’s other receivers.

While Fleener may not be a guard, running back or tackle, he would add a huge amount to the Steelers\’ offense.

Colbert isn\’t scared of taking the best available player. He proved in the past with Mendenahll that taking a player to diversify an already talented offense is not out of the question. Maybe, just maybe, Fleener could be that guy this year.

  • Joe D

    Stirring the pot…
    Saying the Steelers will draft a TE in the 1st round is like saying the Steelers are going to draft a QB in the 1st round… it ain’t going to happen.
    If you want to talk dark horse… the biggest question is will the Steelers try to move up to grab a player??? And if so, which player and how high will they go.

  • hj

    I agree, and he could be a dangerous weapon in end zone too.

  • Derick

    well since Colbert took over they have only moved up twice from my memory, Holmes and Troy.

  • Thanks Kevin!

  • Sam

    He’s a tall dude but he doesn’t block well. #1 ? No

  • Trevaine

    A possibly bigger question than moving up is could they move their first round pick down, and maybe move picks 3, 4, or 5 up in an attempt to accumulate 3 or 4 second round picks? Didn’t Colbert tell us a few weeks ago that there was an abundance of talent in the second round? I would be quite happy to see something like this…..

  • Jprankster2005

    I’m sold on this guy……. I really do hope we pick him….. I think I saw that he’s projected to go 32nd to Giants……. I think we can get OL help and Ta’ amu later in the draft and if Fleener is there we should grab him up……. Would love to have him…….

  • I’d actually like this pick. Another dark horse selection for me is Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner. He’s solid both against the pass and the run and can play inside or outside.

  • I don’t know how much of a darkhorse he can be since he has been mentioned all over the place, but if we are going to use a 2 TE offense, I could get on-board. I don’t think Haley has used that offense in the past though, so I would prefer to stick with areas of greater need.

  • Not gonna happen, one reason it works so well for Patriots is because Brady has time to throw, Ben for the most part doesn’t, the best receivers in the game won’t help you if your QB is laying on his back because he doesn’t have time for them to get open, giving him a line that can open holes for the running game and you’ll create time to throw with play action, is priority one on the offensive side.

  • clint

    Mr.Brinson doesn’t know the Steelers very well does he.our pick is 24th he has steelers picking the 35th overall ranked player? A position we don’t need filled? HMMMMMM
    very interesting. My mom is 65 and blocks better. No really she does.
    This kid is a second round talent!

    I understand he is very talented but I don’t think the Steelers are interested in him.
    Maybe he will go to 49ers at 30 or Giants at32

  • clint

    I think Dwayne Allen is more of a Steelers kind of player he can get on the line and block then release and score a TD. Fleener is a luxury tight end, you line him up outside and just pass to him

  • kevin

    I’d rather they take him over a Cordy Glenn. If Poe or Hightower are there though, I would prefer to take one of them, particularly Poe.

  • Harold

    Brilliant article. Fleener presents solid value at 1.24 not only because of what he can do (red zone scoring) but what he can do for our other players (draw safety coverage away from Wallace, Brown, Miller) (or simply force teams into nickel to open up our run game).

  • Comedian

    I’ve heard the name “Fleener” no less than 40 times since January this year, I still giggle madly, uncontrollably when its pronounced with a vivid image to follow —

  • Jeb064

    At first I wanted to say no way do we draft this guy. After reading your article you made some really good points. I would be ok with it if we traded down a few spots to pick up an extra pick. With Fleener going over the middle and wallace, brown and sanders on the outside that would be sweet. Fleener would also help in the redzone a lot.

  • Sam

    The fellas in the barber shop said the Steelers first 3 picks should be OL, I agree. They don’t have one OL player they can count on.

  • Broderick Wallace

    “Steelers are going to struggle in the running game without Rashard Mendenhall.” Is this guy stupid? Redman has been a model of consistency despite limited snaps. He ran for 120 plus yards against Denver. The kid is only going to get better as the offense will surely be better under Todd Haley.

    If Tomlin and Haley want two tight ends in the mold of Gronk and Hernandez then go for it. If they are going to draft a pass catcher in the first round I’d rather it be Reuben Randle. Tomlin has already expressed concerns about Sanders durability.

  • Broderick Wallace

    I hope you are not inferring that Bobby Wagner is a dark horse candidate for the first round.

  • Derick

    Pouncey, Gilbert, and Legursky can be counted on.

  • Bleebo77

    I am not a fan of them taking Poe, even if he’s there at 1.24. Not sure how he fits the Steelers’ scheme, not to mention his low production against poor competition. However, if Hightower is on the board, it’s a much tougher call between him and some of the other options, like Fleener. Worst scenario is that we pass on Hightower, he ends up a Raven, and he torments us for 10 years as Lewis’ replacement.

  • Bleebo77

    I’ve toyed with this idea myself… at least using the first 2 picks on OL and then a later round flyer on someone with potential.

  • Bleebo77

    I also wonder if picking Fleener is almost a 2-for-1 deal for the offense b/c he could fill the role of that tall WR folks seem to want. Adding Fleener still means you can keep Wallace, Brown and Miller on the field, especially on 1st down. Adding someone like Burress doesn’t give as many options offensively. Dave has suggested the Steelers might take 2 WRs, but picking Fleener almost counts for one of those, I’d argue. It still makes sense to pick up another WR for depth and development later in the draft, but Fleeners “saves” a pick.

  • Sam

    Pouncey 2 seasons 2 injuries, Gilbert at LT with no experience and Legurskey is a back up and spot starter. I am tired of watching Ben get killed and tackles in then backfield. Time they wise up and address their biggest problem

  • Clintmartin

    Steelers already signed a free agent from West Virginia that played tight end he is now listed as a fullback/H back on the roster, He just ran a 4.4 40 yard he is only 6’2” 240 lbs. But he can run and block great! I think his name is Will Johnson

  • Stewart John21

    We need another TE in the mix for sure. Not Fleener at #24 though. I think he is being PUSHED into Rnd 1 as a result of the fact that he is the best of a weak class & the NFL is in-love with TE’s. See later round talent like- George Bryan NC State; James Hanna OK (& now maybe even Taylor Thompson, SMU, who I DID have as a late DE pick) –better value and better blockers

  • You are correct but you couldve said we only have moved up 2 times EVER. Troy and Holmes. Those seemed to work out pretty well I ‘d say.

  • NFL STAT Yards after 1st contact #2 Redman …..#46 mendy :/ thats the entire NFL. I think we will be fine. I’m a fan of Baron Batch too He could be a nice player for us if he stays healthy this year.

  • Harold

    Absolutely correct. And opposing defenses won’t be able to put a CB on him like they could a WR. He’d manhandle him. They’d be forced to go LB or S, which makes it an even more favorable match up. That’s what the Pats and Ravens have discovered.