Steeler Needs:
1) Linebacker
2) Power Running Back
3) Defensive End
4) Big Wide Receiver
5) Cornerback

1st Round draft probability


Who Will the Steelers Draft?
Pre-Draft Analysis - 2007

The 2007 Draft should reveal a lot about the intentions of new Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Will he keep the 3-4 defense long-term? Will he keep a power running offense used by old Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt?

Since the answers to these questions are not yet known, this author has been tardy in his annual analysis of this year's college prospects. However, I have done much thinking and watching of old games to make some opinions.

1) The Steelers should start to use some 4-3 defensive fronts like the Ravens and Patriots. The Ravens defense last year was ravenous. Except for some poor corner play from Samari Rolle, they were dominant. Their front 7, in particular, was fearsome. They did it with personnel who were athletically agile and smart enough to play either a 3-4 or a 4-3.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the days of lining up and physically dominating an opponent is practically over. What wins in the NFL is surprise and awareness. In short, it is the mental aspect of the game that separates winners and losers because the physical separation between teams and players is so small.

While the 3-4 is excellent at creating surprises: which LB's will rush? Most teams have caught on to its tricks. Just don't leave an outside LB on a back or tight end and your QB should be OK. Increasing the complexity of defensive schemes is what is in vogue today. The Steelers need to find front 7 players who can play both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Fortunately, they already have several who can.

2) The Steelers should move away from a strictly Power Offense. Power running is showing diminishing returns. As the players get bigger, faster and more physical, the Power running game loses effectiveness. Offenses are now geared towards getting skilled players with the ball into space. Student body right or student body left running plays are best for running backs with limited skills. If you have players with speed and skill, you need to find them space or their talents will be wasted.

I am excited to see Bruce Arians' new offense which will open up the field and create space by using more 3 and 4 WR sets in 1st and 2nd down. The Run and Shoot it won't be, but opening up space it will be. Power running will become an option rather than the primary game plan for the Steelers. To do this, the Steelers need to slowly revamp their offensive line away from fat, slow-footed linemen who don't move well. They need to find linemen who are agile are smart.

Steeler Draft Strategy
So the trend to watch this year is: players who are agile, smart and can play multiple positions/techniques. As always, the Steelers want high-character guys with minimal criminal records. They're looking to build a team, not a collection of great athletes.

Joey Porter was effective, but clearly lost a step against the top Left Tackles. Clark Haggans play has improved dramatically, but he is somewhat fragile. James Farrior has one more good year left with the Steelers, IMHO and Larry Foote just gets by on smarts while being undersized and slow. For the Steelers D to thrive and take pressure off the Secondary they NEED QB pressure from the Linebackers. This draft is somewhat thin at LB talent.

Patrick Willis - 6-1, 240 Ole Miss - A perfect Middle LB in a 4-3 (4.4 speed) or a very good ILB in the 3-4. Either way, ILB James Farrior is getting old. Top 15
Lawrence Timmons
- 6-1, 235, Fla. St. - May be too small to play OLB in 3-4. 1st Round
Paul Posluszny
- 6-2, 240, Penn St. - A very smart player who does not have top shelf talent. Like Zach Thomas but taller. Better as an ILB. 1st Round
Jon Beason - 6-0 235, Miami - 40 slow (4.7) but very productive. 1st Round
Anthony Spencer- 6-3, 260, Purdue. A DE/LB Tweener who is being compared to Adaleus Thomas and Shawn Phillips. 1st Round
Jarvis Moss - 6-5, 250, Florida - Looks like Alonzo Jackson to me. 1st-2nd Round
LaMarr Woodley - 6-2, 265, Michigan - 12 sacks as DE led Wolverines last year. Won Lombardi Award (top lineman) and Ted Hendricks Award (top defensive end). How much did it help playing with Alan Branch? 1st-2nd round
Stewart Bradley - 6-4, 250, Nebraska - Got injured and ran a slow 40 (4.8), but was very productive. 2nd round
Justin Durant - 6-1, 230, Hampton - Ran a 4.5 40, but is raw. 3rd round
Brandon Siler - 6-1, 235, Florida - Good 40 speed. 3rd round
Quincy Black - 6-2, 240, New Mexico - Great speed (4.45) and good in coverage. 3rd round
Antwan Barnes - 6-1, 240, Florida Intn'l - 4.45 speed. Like Robert Mathis. 3rd round
Anthony Waters - 6-2, 245, Clemson - Tore ACL last year. Can play in or out-side. 4th-5th round

Power Running Back
The wheels fell off of the Steelers season in 2006 because they could not consistently convert 3rd and short situations. Not coincidentally, Jerome Bettis, was not playing. The Steelers need to find a power running back who can push the pile in short yardage and goal-line situations. Najeh Devenport is a nice back who looks the part, but isn't that type of punishing runner.

Brian Leonard - 6-1, 230 Rutgers - A force of nature in college, but does not have a clear NFL position. 1st-2nd round
Michael Bush
- 6-1 245 Louisville - Busted his leg, but he looks like "the man" if he's healthy.
3rd Round
Tony Hunt - 6-2, 235, Penn St. - Working class type of back who can move the chains. 3rd Round

Defensive End (in a 3-4 Scheme and a Defensive Tackle in 4-3 Scheme)
Bret Keisel thrived as a 3-4 end. I think he could even be better as 4-3 Tackle. Aaron Smith's play has plateaued, but still can be counted on.

Adam Carricker - 6-5, 300, Nebraska - Could play end in 3-4 or tackle in 4-3. Reminds everyone of Aaron Smith, but he may be more of a Richard Seymour. Top 15
Amobi Okoye - 6-2, 300, Louisville - Very young (19) and mobile player with lots of potential. Top 15
Alan Branch - 6-6, 325, Michigan - Imagine him and Casey Hampton on the same line! Wow. Top 15.
Jamaal Anderson - 6-5, 290, Arkansas - Could play end in 3-4 or 4-3. 1st Round
Justin Harrell - 6-4, 300, Tennessee - 1st-2nd round
Ray McDonald - 6-3, 275, Florida - Was a disruptive force for the National champions. May not be big enough to play DE in 3-4. 2nd round

Big Wide Receiver
Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are the starters. The Steelers do not have a big WR who can go over the middle, besides Ward. Cedric Wilson is a nice role player who needs better hands to be the go-to 3rd down guy. Nate Washington needs to get better - he dropped several touchdowns last year. Luckily, there are many big wideouts this year.

Calvin Johnson - 6-5, 240 GA Tech. - Everyone's #1 player this year. Top 5
Dwayne Bowe - 6-3, 220, LSU - Big, physical WR with good hands and loves to block. Good speed (4.5), too. 1st Round
Dwayne Jarrett - 6-4, 220, USC - Is he quick enough to separate from press coverage? 1st Round
Robert Meachem - 6-2, 215, Tennessee - More of a burner (4.3-40) than a physical receiver. 1st Round
Jacoby Jones - 6-3, 210, Lane College - Met with Steelers. 3rd-6th round
Jason Hill - 6-1, 205 Wash St. - Is not super big, but runs great routes. Would be a great successor to Hines Ward. 3rd Round
Aundre Allison - 6-0, 192, E. Carolina - Not super big, but fast (4.4-40) and visited with Steelers.
Rhema McKnight - 6-2, 210, Notre Dame - Possesion receiver opposite Samardzija. 4th round
Laurent Robinson - 6-2, 200, Illinois St. - Small school player who was productive. 4th-5th round
Legedu Naanee - 6-2, 225, Boise St. - Former QB who is still learning the position. Big upside. 5th-6th round
Jordan Kent - 6-5, 215, Oregon. Basketball and track star who hasn't played much football. 4th-7th round
Matt Trannon - 6-6, 235, Mich. St. - Reminds me of Plexico Burress. 4th-7th round

If Ike Taylor is back to 2005 form and Ricardo Colclough is recovered from neck injury, then this position is OK. However, Bryant McFadden is better suited as a Tampa-2 corner than a Man-off cover corner and Deshea Townsend is slowing down. Depending on how the Steelers want to play the Secondary next year (Tampa-2 zone vs. Man-off Zone blitzes), the Steelers may want to again draft another CB high. Considering how much free agent CB's cost (Nate Clements signed an 8-year $80 million contract with the 49ers), drafting CB's high makes more sense. There are a lot of good corners this year.

Darrelle Revis - 6-0, 205, Pitt - Can also return punts which the Steelers need. 1st Round
Chris Houston - 5-10, 185, Arkansas - Super quick and fast (4.32-40) press cover man. 1st Round
Aaron Ross - 6-1, 195, texas - Very smooth corner who tackles well. Won the Thorpe Award as top DB in the nation. 1st Round
Leon Hall - 5-11, 190, Michigan - The consensus #1 CB can play any CB style, and play it well. Got burned by Dwayne Jarett in Rose Bowl. 1st Round
Daymeion Hughes - 5-10, 190, Cal - Pac-10 defensive player of the year made a lot of plays, but doesn't have great speed. May be best suited as a short zone back in Tampa-2. 2nd Round
Marcus McCauley - 6-0, 200 Fresno - Great physical specimen but lacks confidence. 2nd Round
Jonathan Wade - 5-10, 190, Tennessee - Very fast corner (4.3). Only played Defense since 2004. A shorter Ike Taylor. 2nd Round
Josh Wilson - 5-10, 185, Maryland - Very fast and tight hips. Likes to hit. 3rd Round.
Fred Bennett - 6-1, 195, S. Carolina - Another big, fast corner in the mold of Dunta Robinson and Jonathan Joseph. 3rd Round.
David Irons - 5-10, 190, Auburn - 3rd Round.

Steelers First Round Draft Selection Probability*:

Pre-Draft Odds
Actual Draft Position
Chris Houston, CB - 1:6
#41 - Atlanta
Darrelle Revis, CB - 1:6
#14 - N.Y. Jets
Jamaal Anderson, DE - 1:8
#8 - Atlanta
Anthony Spencer, LB/DE - 1:10
#26 - Dallas
Joe Staley, OT - 1:10
#28 - San Francisco
Lamarr Woodly, LB/DE - 1:10
#46 - Steelers
Dwayne Bowe, WR - 1:10
#23 - Kansas City
Jon Beason, LB - 1:10
#25 - Carolina
Lawrence Timmons, LB - 1:10
#15 - Steelers
Leon Hall, CB - 1:12
#18 - Cincinnatti
Paul Posluszny, LB - 1:12
#34 - Buffalo
Levi Brown, OT - 1:12
#5 - Arizona
Adam Carricker, DE/DT - 1:12
#13 - St. Louis
Aaron Ross, CB - 1:12
#20 - N.Y. Giants
Patrick Willis, LB - 1:15
#11 - San Francisco
Alan Branch , DT - 1:20
#33 - Arizona
Amobi Okoye, DT - 1:50
#10 - Houston
Brian Leonard, RB - 1:100
#52 - St. Louis
Jack Ham - 1:1,000,000  
*Probability is based upon who is likely to be available, and whom the Steelers may pick from the players still available at the #15 position. It is not an indication of whom the Steelers like best, or whom Mark Berger likes best.

updated 04/29/07

©Mark Berger,