By Christopher DiMarino
Happy draft weekend. Let\’s quickly take a look at each Steeler draftee: what likely drew the Steelers to them, what they need to work on, what some concerns are and where we go from here.
What we know: DD was the most highly touted OG in the draft. In fact, he was regarded as a top 15 pick and an elite lineman who could step in and contribute right away. He played at Stanford and was involved in an offense that received national attention this year behind the arm of Andrew Luck. Stanford had a great season and flew up the BCS rankings. It\’s hard to say DD was the reason for this, but he was unquestionably one of the big contributors to their success.
What drew the Steelers in: The Steelers biggest need was at OG. It was debated whether they would reach for a Zeitler, who was considered a cheap man\’s DD (and ironically was chosen only 2 picks later). If you told Pitt that he would be available at 1.24, I bet they wouldn\’t even of looked at other first round prospects. He addresses a big need and is an elite talent with the hard working pedigree that the Steelers cherish.
What concerns I have: You have to worry that a guy like DD will be shifted around too much. Injuries and poor performance has lead to changes and swaps in the Steelers OLine in the past. For DD to develop into the beast that he seems destined to become, he needs stability. If they can determine where they want him in camp and let him soak that position in without interruption, it will help to augment his development.
What he needs to work on: He will need to find his spot with the Steelers from a positional and leadership standpoint. RG or LG is really a trivial question because either means he\’s contributing. But as the draft high fades in the coming weeks, that will be the big speculatory topic. Finally, his leadership comes into question. A first round selection is typically called upon to lead by example and DD has been highly touted for his work ethic and dedication. It will be interesting to see how these characteristics translate now that he\’s the new kid.
What we know: Mike Adams is a very high risk high reward type of player. I was intrigued by his size the moment I first saw him. At 6\’7 and 323lbs he is long enough to swallow smaller edge rushers. His 34″ arms and almost 11″ hands are ideal to keep separation and prevent opponents from getting in tight to his chest. He played in a big level program for the Ohio State Buckeyes and was instrumental in protecting a couple big league QBs.
What drew the Steelers in: Outside of OG they also needed depth if not a starting candidate for OT. Willie Colon is a question mark wrapped in a bandage at this point so depth at OT is a welcome help. It was debatable whether Mike Adams would even be available to the Steelers at 1.24, so seeing him at 2.24 certainly had an allure to it. Aside from some concerns, he has the elite frame to succeed at the next level.
What concerns I have: Talk about a high reward, high risk type of player. This guy is a pick that has the Steeler nation surprised and possibly out of their comfort zone. He had a few injury concerns and numerous off field issues that caused him to get demoted to the scouting squad and drop a round in the draft. For those who haven\’t heard, he tested positive for marijuana at the combine. I like this pick because it gives the Steelers a project player that can blossom under the top level guidance and assistance he will be provided. That being said, you don\’t want to draft a hoard of these type of players (and turn into Cincinnati) but a few risky moves can be a more controlled type of a gamble.
What he needs to work on: He needs to really work hard on just about everything. Talk about a guy that has insane potential. He needs to fill his frame a little more and get some muscle (only 19 bench reps at the combine). His footwork is good for his size but he\’ll need to develop it further. He needs to become a student of the game, learn the playbook and invest in the subtle nuances that can make him successful. I think Pitt decided to gamble on him as a result of drafting DD. Make those two partners from day one, give Adams a positive role model who can help him learn the playbook while he does and he can develop better decision making and work ethic. Those two could do some disgusting things together on the field in the years to come.
What we know: Another wild card type of pick by the Steelers. Wow, you win the lottery with DD, gamble on the personal issues of Adams and now pick a long term project like Spence? Spence was an OLB who was the heart and soul of the Miami Hurricane D. He has good instincts and tendencies. This is a type of guy that didn\’t amaze at the combine, but has a lot of on field intangibles like his ability to shed blockers, play hard to the whistle and flat out always be around the ball.
What drew the Steelers in: I guess once the shock of drafting an OLB to play ILB and not the ILB position that was a need fades, you can understand the pick. He is definitely a candidate to play safety. The Steelers like drafting LBs for special teams and if anything Spence should excel there. I think he will be developed into the Doug Legursky of the D. Groom him to play LB for a year or so, then move him to safety if he\’s not clicking. He has the ability to develop into the LB/S hybrid players that defenses are starting to use.
What concerns I have: We\’ve thrown around the term tweener for OG/OT players and even OLB/DE guys. This guy is a classic tweener. Not really enough size to be an ILB in the pros and yet not the stereotypical athleticism of a SS. Spence is another high risk, high reward type of player. This is a guy that has equal chances of becoming a big time contributor on this defense as he does being a career special teamer. His reportedly low Wonderlic score is concerning because the one thing you would want a jack of all trades to possess is the intelligence and intuitive learning ability to master each position in a timely fashion.
What he needs to work on: He will continue the Mike Adams theme of a complete overhaul. This guy needs heavy exposure to the playbook whether he ends up as a safety or a linebacker. He needs to work out very hard to either bulk up to plug the middle, or get his speed and agility to a point where his instincts can take him at safety. The difference between him and Adams is that Steelers defensive players are heavily groomed and given time to develop. Steeler nation may soon forget about Spence because you won\’t see his name often, but he needs to keep working hard to become the prospect the Steelers drafted him to be.
Where do the Steelers go from here? They haven\’t traded yet, so they still have their 7 picks intact. I think they may package their 5th, 6th and/or 7th (original 7th) to trade up in the 4th.
NT: Ta\’amu was the guy I thought they were grabbing last night in the 3rd. It is possible that they believe he will slide further, or they might want someone else. If that\’s the case, Fangupo might be the guy, or if Chapman falls far enough. If not they might be leaving NT to next years\’ draft class. If they are trying to gamble that Ta\’amu slides, they might trade up in the 4th to grab him if they see interest from other teams.
RB: I thought they might be looking RB in the 3rd as well, but now that they didn\’t, they probably won\’t take one in this draft. I was skeptical that drafting a RB outside of the first few rounds wouldn\’t add much to their depth and few intriguing options are still available.
ILB: Spence might be considered an ILB, but they might still look at JMJ to try for Foote\’s spot on the depth chart. I\’m not convinced they won\’t gamble waiting on him until the 5th, but that\’s a gamble that may backfire.
Other: I still think T.Y. Hilton and Keith Tandy are on the Steelers radar and if the draft so far has taught us one thing, it\’s not to believe pre-draft rankings. Either of these guys could be the 4th round choice and both might be gone before they pick again this afternoon.