Steeler Needs:
1) O. Linebacker
2) Strong Safety
3) Quarterback
4) Cornerback
5) Running Back
6) D. Lineman
) Tight End

1st Round draft probability

Who Will the Steelers Draft?
Pre-Draft Analysis - 2003

The NFL draft has always been vital for the Steelers - a team that frugally, but wisely spends their NFL millions. Historically, players were allowed to develop for a couple of years and then expected to contribute. Now, with the salary cap and free agency, high draft picks are expected to contribute immediately to the team's starting units. Every 1st and 2nd round pick over the last 3 years (The Colbert/Cower era) has become a starter in their rookie season:

Draft Year
Player - Position - School
Plaxico Burress - WR - Michigan St.


Marvel Smith - OT - Arizona St.
Casey Hampton - DT -Texas
Kendrell Bell - LB - Georgia
Kendall Simmons - OG - Auburn
Antwaan Randle El* - WR - Indiana
*Was the team's 3rd WR, technically not a starter, but contributed like one

Steeler Draft Strategy
The Steelers' draft formula is to pick proven college players from Big-time college programs in competitive conferences like the Big 10, ACC and SEC. The bitter disapointment of 1st round flops Jermain Stephens (1996) and Troy Edwards (1999) who went to small universities is still fresh in the mouth of the Steelers organization. By contrast, the past three Steeler #1 picks were all outstanding players from Big schools with very competitive college programs. This year should be no different. Expect them to pick an All-American calibre player who was a leader on their team and stood out nationally.

While all the talk since the end of the season has been about the "terrible" secondary, the Steelers really need a new Outside Linebacker (OLB) to eventually replace Jason Gildon and get more pressure on opposing QB's. Indeed, the Steeler seconday fell apart in the playoffs as Kelly Holcomb of the Browns and the Titans' Steve McNair threw for a combined 800 yards. Still, the key to stopping the pass is an effective pass rush - not faster defensive backs. Just ask the current champions, Tampa Bay, why they won. The Bucanneers stopped the #1 passing offense and intercepted Rich Gannon a dozen times becasue their defense got pressure on Gannon.

Although the Steeler defense last year sacked opposing QB's 50 times (#3 in the NFL), there wasn't consistent fear in opposing QB's eyes like there was in the past. The repeated breakdowns in 3rd in long situations is the best evidence of an inadequate pass rush last year. No team's QB should be able to consistently look comfortably down field 20 yards and deliver a well-thrown ball. Let's face it, the Steelers defense rarely scared anyone last year and a new pass rushing end/linebacker to replace Gildon or Haggans will restore that fear in opponents. Cower has diagnosed the problem simillarly, and his cure is to get Kendrell Bell on the field in 3rd downs. The problem is where? OLB Joey Porter is excellent in the middle of field in the Dime Defense's 4-1-6 allignment. Bell was tried at Rush end in preseason last year opposite Jason Gildon, but he didn't look good. Clark Haggans played there all year instead and looked worn down by the 2nd half of the season after getting 6 sacks in the first half. One possibility is to play a 3-2-6 Dime with Porter and Bell in the middle of field, or even a 4-2-5 Nickel. In any case, the Steelers need a new, young, QB-hurrying OLB.

The Outside Linebacker prospects for the Steelers are college defensive linemen who are fast enough to play OLB in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. There aren't any prospects that fit this description who will be available for the Steelers in Round 1, though many will be available later:

Jerome McDougle – 6-2, 256, Miami; Probably won't be available for the Steelers in Round 1. Ran a 4.61 40 at the combines. Would be a good Strong Side LB. Round 1.
Antwan Peek
– 6-2, 245, Cincinnati -- Ran 4.52 40 at the Combines, Round 2 or 3. Visited the Steelers in early April.
Alonzo Jackson – FSU, 6-3, 265: Reports are that he dominated the Hula Bowl and simply could not be blocked coming off the edge. 4.7-40, Round 3 or 4.
Bradie James – 6-2, 240, LSU, 4.55 speed, Round 3 or 4
Tully Banta-Cain - 6-2, 265, Cal, Ran 4.62 40, 4-5th round
Chaun Thompson – 6-2, 240, West Texas A&M -- Ran 4.48 in the 40 at the Combines
Shurron Pierson – 6-2, 247, S. Florida: Ran a 4.6 40 twice at the combines and reports are that he looked good in LB drills. Like Porter and Gildon, Pierson played DE in college. 4th round prospect
Sam Williams - 6-4,250, Fresno State, ran a 4.59 40. 5-7th round

Strong Safety
Lee Flowers has been a good Strong Safety for the Steelers. But the fact is, he is a has-been. The Steelers need to find a replacement for him who can cover receivers. In my mind, that's Mike Logan and I think Chris Hope will replace Brent alexander at FS in 2004, if not sooner. His durability is spotty, so the Steelers need to find another Safety who can cover fast Tight Ends and big Wideouts. All attention so far has been on drafting a new Strong safety. The problem is, for several reasons, college safeties don't come in and start for the Steelers. First, the Steeler defense is very complicated for rookies to understand and implement out of college, although FS Darren Perry did it in 1992 as a Rookie. Second, they have to be very vocal and direct the secondary in coverages, which is hard if you're at all uncertain of it. Finally, there aren't any great prospects in the draft who are big and can cover. A future starting SS might come from this list:

Troy Polamalu (USC, 5-10, 206) According to both the BLESTO and National scouting combines, Polamalu is the top senior safety prospect in the 2003 draft. MVP of his team last year. Ran an amazing 4.35-40 and vertical jumped 43" at his "Pro day" workout, but isn't considered very good in coverage. Is short by NFL standards and he has a history of injuries (i.e., 2003 Orange Bowl). Late 1st -early 2nd round
Mike Doss (OSU, 5-10, 207) has been crowned the best safety prospect in the draft but he didn't look spectactular in games and he doesn't have great athleticism. Ran 4.5-40 and vertical jumped 39" at his "Pro day" workout. Late 1st -early 2nd round
Cie Grant – Ohio State 6-1 228 pounds - Played in front of Doss at OSU as a starting Linebacker and moved to cornerback in 2001 because he wanted to help the team. SS Carnell Lake made a simillar move for the Steelers in 1995-96. He prefers physical play which sounds like a Steeler SS to me. Might fit the bill as a Safety who can cover. Ran a 4.5-40 at his Pro-day, twice, same as Doss! Unanimous choice as the recipient of OSU's Most Inspirational Player award in 2002. 2-4th round
Terrence Kiel – 5'11, 205, Texas A+M, Ran 4.46 at the Combines, 2-4th round
Bryan Scott , 6-1, 215, Penn St., ran 4.45-40 at his pro-day, 3-5th round (played CB)
Curry Burns – 6-0, 215, Louisville - Ran 4.53 40 at Combines, 2001 Liberty Bowl Defensive MVP, 3-5th round
Charles Drake - Michigan 6-1 205 pounds, 3-5th round , 4.4-40
Colin Branch – 6-0, 207, Stanford -- 4.39 in the 40... 23 reps of 225 pounds; related to both Cliff and Calvin Branch, former NFL'ers, but had a hard time breaking into the starting lineup at Stanford. 3-7th round
Gerome Sapp - 6-0, 215, Notre Dame, 3-5th round
Cato June – Michigan 6-0 220 pounds, 5th round, 4.6-40
Shernard Newby - 6-1, 210, Virginia, 4-5th round
Jesse Sowells, 6-0, 204, Houston - developmental project, 4-7th round
Derek Pagel – 6-1, 205, Iowa, 4.55 speed, 5-6th round
Jonathan Martin - 5-11, 215, South Carolina, 6-7th round
Ralph Turner - 6-2, 215, Purdue, 6-7th round

Wow, what a difference a year can make. Kordell is out - Tommy Maddox is in as starting QB. The problem the Steelers face is a lack of depth. Kordell will be released any day now and Charlie Batch is looking for the opportunity to compete for a starting QB position somehwere else. The Steelers need a Developmental Quarterback and a veteran backup. Carson Palmer and Byron Leftwich will surely be gone before the Steelers pick in the first round. That leaves Kyle Boller, Dave Ragone and others:

Carson Palmer – USC , 6-4, 230: another Heisman bust drafted by the Bengals (remember Peter Warick and Ki-Jana Carter)?
Byron Leftwich – Marshall , 6-5, 240: Those boys in W. Virginia aren't very bright, but they sure can play some ball! Seriously, he works out with Charlie Batch who has been really impressed with his mental abilities as a QB.
Kyle Boller – California, 6-3, 233: He made a great impression at the combines and the Steelers probably won't be able to get him unless they trade up.
Chris Simms – Texas , 6-5, 225: Disapointing college career, but he should be an excellent Pro QB one day...
Dave Ragone – Louisville , 6-3, 250: Reminds me of Neil O'Donnell - big and slow footed with a good arm.
Rex Grossman - Florida, 6-2, 220: Beware of Florida QB's and WR's because the passing oriented offense that they played in College inflates their real value.
Seneca Wallace - Iowa State, 5-11, 196, A Stewart/Ward/Randle-El type of player who visited the Steelers 4/9/03. 4.5 speed. 3-4th round.

Chad Scott didn't have a great season, but he's the best CB the Steelers have, so he's not moving to Free Safety. Dwayne Washington had a very good season until the Playoff loss to Tennessee. Usually a sure tackler, Washington missed a big tackle in OT. That's what the Steelers have always required of their corners: tackling ability. They are alone in the flat with recievers and they must make 1 on 1 tackles. To do this, you need to be big - around 6 foot and 200 pounds. The problem is they also have to be able to run as fast as anyone on the field. It requires a tremendous athlete to play CB in the Steelers 3-4 Defense. Andre Woolfolk (6-1 195, 4.46) of Oklahoma fits the bill athletically, but only played 2 seasons on Defense. The Steelers would love to give him a year or two to develop into a starting CB. Alas, he won't last until the 27th pick, nor will Terrence Newman (Kansas State 5-11 180, 4.38) and Marcus Trufant (Washington State 5-11 185, 4.38).

Dennis Weathersby – Oregon State 6-1 205 pounds: Ran a 4.39 - 40 at the combines. On 4/21/03, Weathersby was shot 3 times in the back in Pasadena. My most heartfelt blessings go to him for a healthy recovery and may his assailants be brought to justice.
Rashean Mathis – Bethune-Cookman, 6-1, 203, 4.42 - 40 at the combines. Dominated play at a small school, late 1st - early 2nd round
Sammy Davis – Texas A&M 6-0 186, 4.41 speed, 2nd round
Eugene Wilson Illinois 5-10 190 pounds, 4.40 speed, 2nd round
Drayton Florence – Tuskegee 6-0 198, 4.39 speed, looked very good at Senior Bowl against top competition. 2nd-3rd round
Nnamdi Asomugha - California, 6-2 1/2, 210, 4.4 speed, 3-4th round
Kevin Garrett
5-9,194, SMU, ran the fastest 40 time at the Combines: 4.31, but is short, 3-5th round
Charles Tillman
– Louisiana-Lafayette 6-1 200, 4.43 speed, 4-6th round
Shane Walton
– Notre Dame 5-10 185 pounds, 4.7 speed: Just makes plays, as in the Senior Bowl to clinch the game. Isn't fast or big. 4-5th round
DeMario Suggs - Michigan St. 5-11, 196, 4.45 speed and lifted 225 lbs. an amazing 27 times! 4-6th round
Ivan Taylor - Louisiana-Lafayette 6-0 195 pounds
Derell Poland – 6-1, 210, Morgan State, 4.48 speed, 6-7th round
Trent Findley - 6'0", 196, Tennessee-Martin, 4.44/40
Jesse Sowells - Houston, 5-11 3/8, 197 pounds, 4.5 speed
Chris Crocker - Marshall, 5-11, 185, 4.5 speed

Running Back
It's tough to admit, but there isn't much tread left on the Bus. He claims that he has at least one more good year in him. He just turned 30, so he's probably right. But his one more productive season may come over the period of 2 years because of knee injuries. Amos Zeroue is a nice back, but doesn't carry the load for a full season - he's best as a 3rd down back. Chris Fuamatu-Maafala is repeatedly hurt becasue he loves hitting people so much. The Steelers need a new young, fast, Power Back to replace Jerome Bettis and carry the offense in the 4th quarter of games. Unfortunately, this is a bad year to draft a premier back coming out of college. The prospects:

Larry Johnson - 6'1", 225, Penn State, Ran for more than 2000 yards last year and almost won the Heisman. Looks like a poor man's Eddie George. Ran 4.4-40 and vertical leaped 41" at his Pro-day, late 1st round.
Musa Smith - 6'1, 230, Georgia, Ran a 4.5 40 and is very big. 2nd round
Justin Fargas - 6'1", 220, USC, Ran a 4.38 40 but was injured a lot. 2-3 round
Chris Brown - 6' 3", 220 lbs, Colorado, 3rd round
Kerry Carter - 6'1", 238, Stanford,4.55/40 4th round
Cecil Sapp- 5'11", 230",Colorado St., 5th round
Dontae Walker - 5' 10" 235 lbs Mississippi State. Had kidney problems and may not play football again. ?? round.

Defensive Lineman
The Steelers don't have a pressing need for a new starting lineman, but Kimo Von Olhoffen is 31 years old and his backup, Rodney Bailey, may not be an every down lineman. Besides, the team could always use another 6'4" 300+ pound defender to beat up on offensive linemen. The Steelers like their linemen to be tenacious and possess the "non-stop motor" to chase sideline to sideline. This year is especially deep in big, nose tackle types that the Steelers use in their 3 down linemen. The best should all be picked before the Steelers draft. These include Jimmy Kennedy (6-4, 322, Penn State), William Joseph, (6-5, 308, Miami), Jonathan Sullivan, (6-4, 315, Georgia), Rien Long (Washington St. 6-6 302), Dewayne Robertson (Kentucky, 6-6, 310), and Kevin Williams (Ok St., 6-5, 300). Others who should be available:

Kenny Peterson – Ohio St., 6-3, 298: played behind Rodney Bailey in Columbus, Late 1st round
Ty Warren – 6-5, 307, Texas A&M, Late 1st round
Anthony Adams - 5-11, 293, Penn St., 2-3rd Round
Jarrett Johnson - 6-4, 285, Alabama, 2-4th round
Terrance Martin – NC St., 6-3, 299: Cower is an NC St. alum, 3rd round
Tyler Brayton - Colorado, 6-6, 277, Another Aaron Smith in the making? 3-5th round
Ian Scott – 6-3, 305, Florida
Sam Rayburn – 6-3, 305, Tulsa
Corey Williams – 6-4, 295, Arkansas State
Garrett Smith – 6-3, 305, Utah
Rashad Moore – 6-4, 295, Tennessee
Walter Sampson – 6-4, 290, Louisiana-Lafayette
Darrell Campbell – 6-4, 295, Notre Dame
LaWaylon Brown, 6-5, 295, Oklahoma State
David Thompson, 6-5, 290, Ohio State
James Lee – 6-4, 325, Oregon St.

Tight End
When Tight End Mark Bruener got injured last year, the running game suffered again. Jerame Tuman is a nice receiver, but not able to replace Bruener's blocking (few people can). The Steelers re-signed Jerame Tuman to a 3-year deal on Feb 28, so there is less need for a new TE although it would be nice to have a young 3rd TE. Ideally, the Steelers are looking big, blocking tight end who can also catch some red zone balls. The Steelers signed Buffalo Bills tight end Jay Riemersma to a 3-year deal on March 19 and re-signed Matt Cushing a couple days earlier. So, it doesn't look like the steelers can afford to draft a Tight End. Prospects are as follows:

Jason Witten – Tennessee , 6-5, 265: The only first rounder this year, could he eventualy replace Bruener?
Dallas Clark – Iowa, 6-4, 244, First Team All-American and won the Mackey Award as the best college Tight End. 4.6 speed.
Teyo Johnson – Stanford 6-7 255 pounds - He's compared to All-Pro TE Tony Gonzalez, but the Steelers don't need another receiver.
Aaron Walker – Florida, 6-6, 250: At the Senior Bowl, he blocked well.
Mike Pinkard – Arizona State , 6-5, 265: A Tood Heap comparison is easy
Spencer Nead – BYU 6-4 270 pounds: another pass catching TE from BYU
Benny Joppru – Michigan , 6-4, 265: A Jerame Tuman clone, but much faster.
Robert Johnson – Auburn, 6-6, 275: Maybe he can play left tackle?
LJ Smith – Rutgers, 6-3, 258: Ran a 4.64 40 at the Combines with 26 reps of 225 lbs.

Steelers First Round Draft Selection Probability*:

Pre-Draft Odds 2003 Draft Selection
Larry Johnson - 1:4 #27 Kansas City
Troy Polamalu - 1:6 #16 Steelers traded1st round picks with Kansas City
Sammy Davis - 1:8 #29 San Diego
Ty Warren - 1:10 #13 New England
Kenny Peterson - 1:10 #79 Green Bay
Andre Woolfolk - 1:12 #28 Tennesee
Rex Grossman - 1:12 #22 Chicago
Rashean Mathis - 1:20 #39 Jacksonville
Rien Long - 1:20 #126 Tennesee
Kyle Boller - 1:25 #19 Baltimore
Wayne Hunter - 1:25 #73 Seattle
Mike Doss - 1:50 #58 Indianapolis
Dave Ragone - 1:50 #88 Houston
Chris Simms - 1:50 #97 Tampa Bay
Jason Witten - 1:100 #69 Dallas
Donnie Shell - 1:1,000,000 NA
*Probability is based upon who is likely to be available, and whom the Steelers may pick from the players still available. It is not an indication of whom the Steelers like best, or whom I like best.

updated 5/11/03

©Mark Berger,