Draft Picks:
1) DE Cameron Heyward
2) OT Marcus Gilbert
3) CB Curtis Brown
4) CB Cortez Allen
5) LB Chris Carter
6) OG Keith Williams
7) RB Baron Batch

Depth Chart

Pittsburgh Steelers 2011 Draft Picks

The 2011 Steeler Draft class made nice contributions last year, although there doesn't appear to be a Pro-Bowler in the group - at least not yet.

The team's Rookie of the Year was second rounder Marcus Gilbert who stepped in for Willie Colon at Right Tackle after Colon got injured in the first game and was out for the season. Gilbert played very well and gives every indication that he could even play Left Tackle as soon as next year if Max Starks is not re-signed.

First rounder Cameron Heyward also saw a lot of playing time his Rookie year due to injuries to Bret Keisel and Casey Hampton.

The third and fourth round cornerbacks drafted offer hope for the future. Curtis Brown was an ace on punt coverage and Cortez Allen played a lot in the Dime defense. Both will look to start next year and push Keenan Lewis.

RB Baron Batch tore his ACL in training camp but should come back strong next season. The team could use a "scat back" on 3rd downs and in spread formations.



1st Round - Cameron Heyward Defensive End, Ohio St., 6'5", 295#

2011 Evaluation: It was a good learning season for Heyward who had to watch as Brett Keisel may have had his finest season as a Steelers defensive end. Towards the end of the year, however, Heyward was getting more staps and playing well. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: The Steelers found great value in Heyward, baby "Iron" head. This player was very productive and durable for Ohio St. He comes from great bloodlines - his father was former Pitt Panther and Saints #1 pick RB Craig Heyward.

While his father did some stupid things as a Panther, like beating up a P-G paper boy, his son does not seem to carry any knucklehead traits and is said to be of high character.

Considering the recent success of preparing Ziggy Hood (the 2009 #1 draft pick) to replace Aaron Smith at the other Defensive end position, this pick makes great sense.

In the same way, Heyward will be groomed to take over for Pro Bowl Defensive End Brett Kiesel who is 33 years old and battled through injury in 2010.

Draft Grade: B+, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B+

Other players the Steelers could have drafted instead in round #1: OT Derek Sherrod (Green Bay), DB Aaron Williams, (Buffalo), CB, Ras-I Dowling, (Patriots)

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2nd Round - Marcus Gilbert Offensive Tackle, Florida, 6'6", 330

2011 Evaluation: Gilbert was forced to play Right Tackle full-time early in 2011. After some shoulder problems, he really stepped up his play. By the end of the season, the team had complete confidence in him. The plan is to move Gilbert to the all-important left, blind-side in 2012. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: This guy is Max Starks with better feet.

Gilbert and Starks have the same huge frame and both played Left Tackle at Florida. Hopefully, Starks will be able to recover from the Neck/Back injury that ended his 2010 season. If not, Gilbert may have to play immediately.

I think the best scenario would be for Gilbert to suit up as the 7th Offensive lineman this year and then play right tackle in 2012 and Left Tackle in 2013.

Gilbert played with Steelers center Pouncey while at Florida and are said to be good friends with each other which is helpful in communication on the line.

Draft Grade: B+, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B


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3rd Round - Curtis Brown Corner Back, Texas, 6'0", 185#

2011 Evaluation: Brown stood out in special teams play where he was the leading tackler in the kick coverage units. A fiesty, competitive player, Brown has a future in the Steelers' secondary in 2012. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: Brown was overshadowed by teammate and fellow corner Aaron Williams who was drafted at the top of the 2nd round by Buffalo.

But as often is the case, after scouts and coaches watched the game tapes, the Steelers liked this player just as much, if not more. In addition, Brown is a pure corner whereas Williams will probably move to safety.

Brown looks to be cut in the Bryant McFadden mold: good speed, good size, good hands, good coverage skills. Nothing outstanding. Just solid play and lots of experience.

He should be able to play in the Dime defense almost immediately and beat out the existing corners Crezdon Butler and Keenan Lewis in training camp. Brown also did some punt returning for Texas which is an area in which the Steelers need some help.

Draft Grade: B+, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B

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4th Round - Cortez Allen Corner Back, Citadel, 6'2", 197#

2011 Evaluation: Allen was a great surprise in 2011 because he played a lot in the Dime defenses in the second half of the season. Coach Lake did indeed do a fine job with him. Since William Gay signed with Arizona, Allen will compete for a starting CB role in 2012. Trend: Up

Draft Day Impressions: This is a Carnell Lake pick. Lake is the former UCLA Bruin linebacker and #2 Steeler draft choice who made the transition to Pro Bowl Safety and Cornerback for the Steelers.

Today, Lake is the Steelers rookie secondary coach. I can't help but to see the similarities between Lake and this 4th round pick. Both are about the same size, are excellent athletes and had little experience or training at their position coming to the Steelers.

Allen graduated from the Citadel, a military academy. And while he did play cornerback, unlike other "amateur" athletes today, football was truly not his #1 priority. He didn't get a lot of training in the craft of defensive back play. I'm sure Lake believes he can coach this excellent athlete with great size into a starting NFL corner -- just like Lake did himself.

It's a tall order for two tall people.

Draft Grade: B-, Predicted Grade after 3 years: C-

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5th Round - Chris Carter, Linebacker, Fresno St., 6'1", 245#

2011 Evaluation: Only dressed for half the games and then solely played on kick coverage units which was to be expected. Trend: Steady

Draft Day Impressions: It seems like the Steelers buy a lottery ticket on a college defensive end every year. At the least, he should be able to contribute on special teams.

While all the reports I have read indicate Carter will be placed at outside linebacker, I think he would be better on the inside. With his height (6'1), frame (245#) and speed (4.6-40), I see him playing inside and potentially as a replacement for James Farrior. That's a long way to go: from Fresno St. to calling the Steelers D, but I can see it happening.

Carter was projected as a 3rd round pick so this is great value.

Grade: A-, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B+

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6th Round - Keith Williams, Offensive Guard, Nebraska, 6'5" 315#

2011 Evaluation: Cut in pre-season. Trend: Down and Out

Draft Day Impressions: I can't get very excited about this pick. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler has to see the aggressive play and intelligence because he certainly doesn't display great athleticism.

Grade: C, Predicted Grade after 3 years: C-


7th Round - Baron Batch, Running Back, Texas Tech., 5'10" 200#

2011 Evaluation: Blew out his knee in pre-season and spent the year on IR.
Trend: Down

Draft Day Impressions: Current 3rd down back Mewelde Moore is slowing down and is not under contract. Batch has the opportunity to step into this role right away. Unlike many college backs coming to the NFL, he can pick up blitzers and understands that his role is not as a feature back.

Grade: B+, Predicted Grade after 3 years: B


Draft Day Impressions

This was another typical Steelers draft that featured:

  • Established, proven, low-risk players from Big college programs drafted in the first 3 rounds
  • Developmental players in rounds 4-7
  • Drafting to fill needs with the best player available
  • Little draft maneuvering. In this case, no trades at all

First rounder Cameron Heyward is a great long-term investment in the defense. Although the team needed a cover corner more, there wasn't one available with the type of skill Heyward demonstrated as a lineman.

The team got corners later in rounds 3 and 4 while filling it's other top need, Offensive line, in rounds 2 and 6. A 3-4 linebacker and 3rd down running back were added in rounds 5 and 7.

Overall, it was a solid draft of good value throughout with no major reaches.

Draft Day
Grade: B

©Mark Berger,