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hawaiiansteel
04-24-2012, 03:08 AM
Potential Steelers Draft Pick Sees Stock Climb

Will Steelers Take Alabama's Dont'a Hightower WIth 24th Pick?

April 23, 2012


MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Dont'a Hightower insists he's right where he expected to be all along: A projected first-round NFL draft pick.

The former Alabama star just had to convince NFL teams that he was worth such an investment, and that he was fast enough to play middle linebacker at that level.

"I always knew I was going to be a first-round draft pick," Hightower said Friday. "That's the way I've always worked. I pride myself on going out and doing the best I can to the best of my ability. I might have started slow during the season but whenever my teammates needed me to make a play or make a call, I was always there and did my job.

"It's not about what the media thinks. It's about what the team thinks."

Teammates Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw and Dre Kirkpatrick just had to prove their first-round projections were on the money before next week's draft.

Hightower needed to change a few minds.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay called Hightower "the guy I'm most surprised with" after studying tape in the weeks leading up to the draft.

"I think he's a Top 20 player in this draft," McShay said. "I know he had the knee injury (in 2009), and he doesn't have elite speed. But he's 265 pounds, somewhere in that range, great versus the inside run. Pass rusher that can get off the edge, which was an addition to his game this past year.

"It's not just something that he did that was cute to help out for Alabama this year."

Hightower's agent, Pat Dye Jr., thinks the 6-foot-2 linebacker has improved his stock by 20-25 spots since regular season's end.

Dye said the teams that have expressed the most interest in Hightower are the Chargers (18th) Bears (19), Titans (20) and Steelers (24). He said several teams who pick later with needs at linebackers and are high on him include the Ravens, Patriots and Giants.

He said teams have commented on his ability to line up at end in three-man fronts, like another client, the Dallas Cowboys' Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Hightower was a finalist for four national awards last season and had career-highs in tackles (85) and sacks (four). He also was responsible for play calls and checks.

He capped the season with a sack in the BCS championship game against LSU, when coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart also gave him more freedom to get the front seven into the right formations with quick on-the-field judgments.

"(NFL officials) know coach Saban and they know coach Smart, and the fact that they gave me that much leeway in the national championship game against a big time team like that, kind of opened their eyes," Hightower said.

Hightower feels he's resolved uncertainty about whether he would be moved to defensive end because of his speed.

"All those questions are kind of in the past now about can I do it," he said. "It's more about am I going to be able to apply myself to learn a new playbook that's different from what I've known for four years.

"The defense I played in at Alabama is a lot more complex than a lot of defenses that a number of defenses in the NFL. A lot of teams have told me that."

Hightower was an almost instant starter for the Tide and a two-time team captain, but missed most of the 2009 national championship season with a knee injury. He opted not to seek another year of eligibility from the NCAA.

His Alabama coach doesn't think he had anything left to prove in college.

"I think that he's really done it all here," said Saban, a former NFL assistant and Miami Dolphins coach. "He's got a lot of diversity as a player because he's played a lot of different positions. I think he's going to offer the same thing at the next level - inside backer, nickel backer, defensive end, odd rusher. There's not very many other things that you can do, and I think he does all those things very well. He's very smart and has leadership qualities. I think people are starting to recognize that the more they're around him."

Read more: http://www.wtae.com/sports/30940295/...#ixzz1svnrpgjn (http://www.wtae.com/sports/30940295/detail.html#ixzz1svnrpgjn)

calmkiller
04-24-2012, 08:13 AM
No they won't....



also why do I have to enter more characters than 2. I just wanted to say no but i couldn't.

Oviedo
04-24-2012, 08:16 AM
I think it is 50/50. They should go OL but if all the OL on thier board is gone he or Courtney Upshaw could be the defensive players I see us taking. Why Upshaw? We may have begun to see age catch up with Harrison last year and he could be a cap casualty if he doesn't have a great season.

SteelAddicted
04-24-2012, 08:37 AM
If Hightower is available at 24 I think there is a great chance of drafting him. I think the Steelers FO feels good about the direction of the offensive line contrary to outsider belief. I personally view inside linebacker as a greater need than OL myself.

Slapstick
04-24-2012, 09:00 AM
If it comes down to a choice between a guy like Hightower and a guy like Zeitler and there are no teams wanting to trade back up into the first round, the Steelers need to take the better football player...

Both positions are a "need"...the Steelers lost a starter at ILB and could use an upgrade on the OL...

The Steelers are working Hood out at NT and Worilds out at ILB in order to be able to draft the best player available instead of reaching to fill a need in the draft...it's better to fill a need internally if you are not able to fill holes in free agency...

Some people on this board don't like Worilds, but I thought he did well at OLB last year...he didn't start off very strong (possible due to the lack of an offseason) but improved dramatically with increased playing time and finished way stronger...

Shawn
04-24-2012, 09:34 AM
Hightower is one twinkie away from being a DE. His lateral movement is average. His ability to cover...average. He is an old school thumper/run stopper. 15 years ago I would have been all over this pick. But, in the current NFL...you must have athletic LBs who can sort through the garbage to make tackles AND cover the pass. You have to have guys who can also go sideline to sideline, cover faster more athletic TEs, and slot WRs. I have little doubt that Hightower is an old school solution to a new school problem which makes him not the right fit.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
04-24-2012, 10:01 AM
The real question is this:

Is the Steelers board set up so that if the draft falls a certain way then is Hightower a name that could be atop the board?

Everything that I've read about the guy, and the limited amount of action that I've seen, tells me that the answer could be yes. He seems to have many of the qualities that the Steelers like. He is smart enough to be able to set up his guys in the biggest game of his career, he os a leader. He has intimate knowledge of the type of D that we run.

I can see him behind players like Decastro, Glenn, and maybe some of the OTs like Martin, but I think that he is there on his board and the team would grab him if he was available and the highest player remaining.

pfelix73
04-24-2012, 10:02 AM
Totally 180% disagree with ya (Shawn). He's not only a solid ILB from a great program, he's a leader, and he has a great character. Would do some great off the field things in Pgh- I would guess. He's one of those that could be a star in the right program. And our program would fit him perfectly.

However, we're getting closer to draft day and some talk now is he might not even be there when we pick at 24.... We shall soon see....

I think the only other player rated higher than Hightower would be Glenn. No way Martin is...

So, if both Glenn and Hightower would be there- hmmm. Personally, I'd still pick the ILB because of need.

Shawn
04-24-2012, 11:10 AM
pfelix how can you "180%" disagree without addressing the deficiencies that I mentioned. I know he has some terrific intangibles. I believe he is a smart leader and a terrific run stopper. But, can the man go sideline to sideline in the NFL? Can he cover an athletic TE? Can he cover the flats? What about a slot? And lets not foget he was surrounded by terrific players in a terrific system. Those situations make players look better.

Don't get me wrong, I think Hightower is a good player, just not a #24 good player. Do I think the Steelers will draft him? If Glenn, or some freak doesn't fall...Hightower is looking more and more like the choice. But, I won't be excited about it.

grotonsteel
04-24-2012, 11:25 AM
Hightower is one twinkie away from being a DE. His lateral movement is average. His ability to cover...average. He is an old school thumper/run stopper. 15 years ago I would have been all over this pick. But, in the current NFL...you must have athletic LBs who can sort through the garbage to make tackles AND cover the pass. You have to have guys who can also go sideline to sideline, cover faster more athletic TEs, and slot WRs. I have little doubt that Hightower is an old school solution to a new school problem which makes him not the right fit.

Very well said Shawn.

On top of that his knee issues. I think Steelers called him for a visit to check his medical background. My 2 cents.

Slapstick
04-24-2012, 11:28 AM
pfelix how can you "180%" disagree without addressing the deficiencies that I mentioned. I know he has some terrific intangibles. I believe he is a smart leader and a terrific run stopper. But, can the man go sideline to sideline in the NFL? Can he cover an athletic TE? Can he cover the flats? What about a slot? And lets not foget he was surrounded by terrific players in a terrific system. Those situations make players look better.

Don't get me wrong, I think Hightower is a good player, just not a #24 good player. Do I think the Steelers will draft him? If Glenn, or some freak doesn't fall...Hightower is looking more and more like the choice. But, I won't be excited about it.

Why can't he go sideline to sideline? Why can't he cover a TE? Why can't he cover the flats? Was he never asked to do those things at Alabama? I'm pretty sure that he was...

The Steelers study way more tape than any of us do leading up to the draft...if he is even available and they draft him, it will be because he stands out on tape to them as much as he did to Todd McShay...if the Steelers agree that he is a top 20 player, that makes him a value pick at #24...

You may disagree, but opinions vary...

Oviedo
04-24-2012, 11:31 AM
Hightower is one twinkie away from being a DE. His lateral movement is average. His ability to cover...average. He is an old school thumper/run stopper. 15 years ago I would have been all over this pick. But, in the current NFL...you must have athletic LBs who can sort through the garbage to make tackles AND cover the pass. You have to have guys who can also go sideline to sideline, cover faster more athletic TEs, and slot WRs. I have little doubt that Hightower is an old school solution to a new school problem which makes him not the right fit.


I tend to agree. So many remain fixated with stopping the run and having the "#1 against the run" slogan at the e4nd of the yar, but defending the pass is far more important. Every down is a passing down in the NFL today, yet many want a run stopper. There are far better ILBs in this draft against defending the pass than Hightower.

The Broncos did not beat us with the run, they beat us passing the ball when we were fixated on stopping the run due to a stupid defensive gameplan. That is how we will lose 90% of the games we lose...the pass not the run. So why get a player whose primary strength is run defense? Logical? Me thinks not!

Shawn
04-24-2012, 11:35 AM
Why can't he go sideline to sideline? Why can't he cover a TE? Why can't he cover the flats? Was he never asked to do those things at Alabama? I'm pretty sure that he was...

The Steelers study way more tape than any of us do leading up to the draft...if he is even available and they draft him, it will be because he stands out on tape to them as much as he did to Todd McShay...if the Steelers agree that he is a top 20 player, that makes him a value pick at #24...

You may disagree, but opinions vary...

It's reasonable to believe that a LBr who was average in coverage in college will not suddenly improve in coverage in the pros.

grotonsteel
04-24-2012, 11:41 AM
I tend to agree. So many remain fixated with stopping the run and having the "#1 against the run" slogan at the e4nd of the yar, but defending the pass is far more important. Every down is a passing down in the NFL today, yet many want a run stopper. There are far better ILBs in this draft against defending the pass than Hightower.

The Broncos did not beat us with the run, they beat us passing the ball when we were fixated on stopping the run due to a stupid defensive gameplan. That is how we will lose 90% of the games we lose...the pass not the run. So why get a player whose primary strength is run defense? Logical? Me thinks not!

:Clap

Broncos burned Steelers with their passing game and not running game. NFL offense has evolved and i think Steelers Defense should also change. We see teams throwing 40-45 times a game. Gone are the days of Marty-ball. I think we need a Defense with speed inside. Young DBs and ILB like Timmons are the way to go in future.

Let your OLB and D-linemen bull-rush the O-linemen.

BradshawsHairdresser
04-24-2012, 11:42 AM
I suspect he'll be gone before the 24th pick comes along. If he doesn't go to a team like the Chargers or Bears before our turn, I'd not be surprised to see the Ravens trade up and grab him before #24. They covet a player like Hightower as a replacement for Ray-Ray.

Steelersrock151
04-24-2012, 11:48 AM
:Clap

Broncos burned Steelers with their passing game and not running game. NFL offense has evolved and i think Steelers Defense should also change. We see teams throwing 40-45 times a game. Gone are the days of Marty-ball. I think we need a Defense with speed inside. Young DBs and ILB like Timmons are the way to go in future.

Let your OLB and D-linemen bull-rush the O-linemen.

Broncos burned the Steelers with the passing game because we over-gamed planned. We were so worried about Tebow running the ball that we didn't get anything faintly resembling a pass rush. With the time he had, any pro-level quarterback could have beaten us.
And how exactly would a faster linebacker helped on the touchdown pass in overtime. Or those throw it up in the air passes that our corners got burned by? I don't remember the Broncos TEs doing very much against us at all.

grotonsteel
04-24-2012, 11:55 AM
Broncos burned the Steelers with the passing game because we over-gamed planned. We were so worried about Tebow running the ball that we didn't get anything faintly resembling a pass rush. With the time he had, any pro-level quarterback could have beaten us.
And how exactly would a faster linebacker helped on the touchdown pass in overtime. Or those throw it up in the air passes that our corners got burned by? I don't remember the Broncos TEs doing very much against us at all.

I am not worried about Broncos. I am more worried about Ray Rice and Ed Dickson. The Bengals with Andy Dalton and Cheatroits who throw more than 10 times a game to their TEs.

Oviedo
04-24-2012, 12:12 PM
I am not worried about Broncos. I am more worried about Ray Rice and Ed Dickson. The Bengals with Andy Dalton and Cheatroits who throw more than 10 times a game to their TEs.


Me too and that suggests Hightower is not the best selection at #24

Oviedo
04-24-2012, 12:19 PM
Broncos burned the Steelers with the passing game because we over-gamed planned. We were so worried about Tebow running the ball that we didn't get anything faintly resembling a pass rush. With the time he had, any pro-level quarterback could have beaten us.
And how exactly would a faster linebacker helped on the touchdown pass in overtime. Or those throw it up in the air passes that our corners got burned by? I don't remember the Broncos TEs doing very much against us at all.

A question back at you: "How would a slower, run stuffing LB help us against the elite teams like the Pats, Ravens, Packers, etc who
we have to beat to win a championship?' All adding Hightower does is increase the probability that you get the meaningless end of season title as "#1 against the run." But of course that is OK for some because it will skew the final stats and make the defense look more formidable than it really is.

We will win a championship because of Ben not the defense. Ben has to be near 100% healthy tyhe last two months of the season. We do that by protecting him. Everyone got their wish for a new OC and now many are willing to see the most glaring weakness on the offense continue to exist in the OL while we strengthen our "legendary defense." Our offense wasn't ineffective because of playcalling, it was an OL that couldn't execute the plays that were called. Fix the OL.

Shawn
04-24-2012, 12:27 PM
A question back at you: "How would a slower, run stuffing LB help us against the elite teams like the Pats, Ravens, Packers, etc who
we have to beat to win a championship?' All adding Hightower does is increase the probability that you get the meaningless end of season title as "#1 against the run." But of course that is OK for some because it will skew the final stats and make the defense look more formidable than it really is.

We will win a championship because of Ben not the defense. Ben has to be near 100% healthy tyhe last two months of the season. We do that by protecting him. Everyone got their wish for a new OC and now many are willing to see the most glaring weakness on the offense continue to exist in the OL while we strengthen our "legendary defense." Our offense wasn't ineffective because of playcalling, it was an OL that couldn't execute the plays that were called. Fix the OL.

I couldn't agree more.

pfelix73
04-24-2012, 01:44 PM
"The Broncos did not beat us with the run, they beat us passing the ball when we were fixated on stopping the run due to a stupid defensive gameplan. That is how we will lose 90% of the games we lose...the pass not the run. So why get a player whose primary strength is run defense? Logical? Me thinks not!"

So, now ya want to can Ike. If Ike could've tackled the guy, we may not have lost.....

pfelix73
04-24-2012, 01:48 PM
"We will win a championship because of Ben not the defense. Ben has to be near 100% healthy tyhe last two months of the season. We do that by protecting him. Everyone got their wish for a new OC and now many are willing to see the most glaring weakness on the offense continue to exist in the OL while we strengthen our "legendary defense." Our offense wasn't ineffective because of playcalling, it was an OL that couldn't execute the plays that were called. Fix the OL. "


How quickly we forget.....

Don't you remember Ben got his leg all beat up because of his actions in the Cleveland game? That was not on the OL there. Go back and watch it again. Ben is Ben- he stays in there too long at times- so what.. Yea, he's probably gonna have a shortened career because of it- so be it... It's the way he is- Gee whiz... we've been talking about this for years.......You can't expect any Olman to hold on blocks as long as Ben stays back there making plays..nothing wrong with that.

And furthermore- which is really funny- you are wanting a guy- Zeitler- who is a way better run blocker than pass blocker. Think about it- if you are so worried about protecting Ben wouldn't you want a better OL with pass blockers? So many inconsistencies on these boards..Personally, I'd rather run the ball more using better formations, a better blocking TE and maybe even a FB!! Haley will make a big difference...

Oviedo
04-24-2012, 01:57 PM
"We will win a championship because of Ben not the defense. Ben has to be near 100% healthy tyhe last two months of the season. We do that by protecting him. Everyone got their wish for a new OC and now many are willing to see the most glaring weakness on the offense continue to exist in the OL while we strengthen our "legendary defense." Our offense wasn't ineffective because of playcalling, it was an OL that couldn't execute the plays that were called. Fix the OL. "


How quickly we forget.....

Don't you remember Ben got his leg all beat up because of his actions in the Cleveland game? That was not on the OL there. Go back and watch it again. Ben is Ben- he stays in there too long at times- so what.. Yea, he's probably gonna have a shortened career because of it- so be it... It's the way he is- Gee whiz... we've been talking about this for years.......You can't expect any Olman to hold on blocks as long as Ben stays back there making plays..nothing wrong with that.

And furthermore- which is really funny- you are wanting a guy- Zeitler- who is a way better run blocker than pass blocker. Think about it- if you are so worried about protecting Ben wouldn't you want a better OL with pass blockers? So many inconsistencies on these boards..Personally, I'd rather run the ball more using better formations, a better blocking TE and maybe even a FB!! Haley will make a big difference...


I would somehat disagree with you. Fix the OL and the time we keep the ball and the success rate of our offense will increase to the point Ben doesn't have to scramble. Yes that means better running. Because Zeitler is a great run blocker doesn't mean he isn't a better pass blocker than Legursky or Foster. Both are terrible and leak pass rushers up the middle all the time. The one who Pouncey doesn't help usually loses the battle with the interior rusher.

Steelersrock151
04-24-2012, 02:06 PM
Just guess that sometimes the Hightower hatred goes way overboard. He can't do everything, so why have him?
No one is arguing that we don't need o-line. Hell, if even the most pro-Hightower people on here saw us passing on him to pick Reiff, or DeCastro, or Glenn, they're not going to come on here and start an "end-of-the-world" thread. But holy crap, the anti-Hightower contigent will be here in full force if he's picked over Zietler or Silotulu.
Hightower ran a 4.62 40 at the combine. Same time as Lamaar Woodley. Same time as Lawrence Timmons. But he's slow? Stop repeating the crap you read on message boards. Every mock that has Hightower being passed over by the Steelers for some made up reason has him being picked by the Ravens as the perfect person to replace Ray-Ray. The Ravens draft boards, I can guarentee, aren't all over the place slamming him. They're praying to God that they get him.
You people are the same ones that would have had us passing on Jack Lambert because he was too small. Get a grip.

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
04-24-2012, 02:43 PM
:Clap

Broncos burned Steelers with their passing game and not running game. NFL offense has evolved and i think Steelers Defense should also change. We see teams throwing 40-45 times a game. Gone are the days of Marty-ball. I think we need a Defense with speed inside. Young DBs and ILB like Timmons are the way to go in future.

Let your OLB and D-linemen bull-rush the O-linemen.

The Broncos beat the Steelers when we had three backup fatties playing without subs for 3/4 of the game. We were beaten without our starting FS in the game. We were beaten with a good part of our pass rush playing in his first game back.

Don't make it seem like we need to make changes because of what happened against Denver. Any changes we may need to make have nothing to do with the Denver game.

hawaiiansteel
04-24-2012, 02:47 PM
You people are the same ones that have had us passing on Jack Lambert because he was too small. Get a grip.


my problem with Jack Lambert was always that he just wasn't tough enough...;)


528

Eddie Spaghetti
04-24-2012, 02:55 PM
we had alot of things break against us against Denver.

and even though I am a Lebeau supporter, that was an awful gameplan. he should have adjusted at halftime, very poor decision.

Slapstick
04-24-2012, 02:56 PM
The Steelers were #1 against the pass last year...

You know what really might have helped them in the Denver game? Another healthy pass rusher...

Sugar
04-24-2012, 03:05 PM
The Broncos beat the Steelers when we had three backup fatties playing without subs for 3/4 of the game. We were beaten without our starting FS in the game. We were beaten with a good part of our pass rush playing in his first game back.

Don't make it seem like we need to make changes because of what happened against Denver. Any changes we may need to make have nothing to do with the Denver game.

Can I get an AMEN! up in here? Remember also, that this much-maligned OL was plagued by injuries all year. How many games did we actually have the same group playing in position?

Do we need some depth to solidify the OL? Always. Would it be great to have a top OL talent fall to us. Sure. However, the sky is not falling if we don't take OL in the top 2.

The thing about Hightower is not just his physical presence, but also his football mind. We need a new QB for the D. Sure, Foote may work in the short-term. However, it would be great to get someone here before it becomes an emergency.

Oviedo
04-24-2012, 05:24 PM
I just find it amazing that for years this board has been filled with posts about our "inconsistent offense", "our inability to make plays in short yardage", "our failures in the red zone", etc. Is anyone really delusional enough to think that was really because of Arians' playcalling? It was because for the past 4-5 years we have had an OL that couldn't execute what was called consistently from one play to another. They are too easily overmatched.

So what do we do when we have a chance to add improved talent in the draft, we default to lets add more to the defense that has been getting the lions share of the talent for years. We aren't going to get better until we fix the OL. I also use to think you could do it with mid round talent but I now see that that is a false philosophy. We need some top end talent on the OL. It isn't a coincidence that the two best players on the OL going into camp will be a 1st Round pick (Pouncey) and a 2nd Round pick (Gilbert). The other guys are mediocre at best and should be back ups.

Ben is the most important player on this team and we have to protect him. A developmental pick in Round 4 isn't going to do that.

Steelersrock151
04-24-2012, 06:01 PM
So those are the only choices? Overdraft a guard in round one or we don't get to pick an offensive lineman until the fourth? seriously thats your arguement?
And define "Lions share of the talent" for me. Bunkus. If you want to talk prime picks, first four rounds, over the last six years we're split 12 and 12, with a punter thrown in. Last year, overall, 4 to 3, defense. year before, 5 to 5. Year before, 4 and 4. 2008, 4 to 3 offense. 2007, 4 to 3 defense with a punter. So for the last five years, 20 to 19, defense. and a punter.
We're going to get o-linemen. Cripes, you guys make it sound like if we wait to pick Brandon Brooks in the second instead of Silotulu in the first than we might as well shoot Ben and put him out of his misery. The Steelers management will do what is best for the Steelers. They've shown that they have a knack for that.

Slapstick
04-24-2012, 07:50 PM
I just find it amazing that for years this board has been filled with posts about our "inconsistent offense", "our inability to make plays in short yardage", "our failures in the red zone", etc. Is anyone really delusional enough to think that was really because of Arians' playcalling? It was because for the past 4-5 years we have had an OL that couldn't execute what was called consistently from one play to another. They are too easily overmatched.

So what do we do when we have a chance to add improved talent in the draft, we default to lets add more to the defense that has been getting the lions share of the talent for years. We aren't going to get better until we fix the OL. I also use to think you could do it with mid round talent but I now see that that is a false philosophy. We need some top end talent on the OL. It isn't a coincidence that the two best players on the OL going into camp will be a 1st Round pick (Pouncey) and a 2nd Round pick (Gilbert). The other guys are mediocre at best and should be back ups.

Ben is the most important player on this team and we have to protect him. A developmental pick in Round 4 isn't going to do that.

I'm all for drafting offensive linemen...however, I disagree that the Steelers should overdraft an offensive lineman...

pfelix73
04-24-2012, 08:44 PM
Bravo- well said. Yep, playcalling is a part of scoring. Gotta execute too, but if your play is flawed to begin with, execution really isn't gonna matter a whole bunch.

Further, I understand that it would be beneficial to pick up another OG and maybe a OT in this draft, however, with the depth that there is at OG, it would be wise to wait and take one in round 2,3, or even 4. But IF a top 15 prospect would happen to fall down the board then there would be value there to consider such a player. But the talk on here about the Ravens just waiting for the chance to draft Hightower for a long-term replacement for Ray-Ray is accurate. And I don't want to see that happen. They very well could move ahead of us to grab him anyway.. We shall soon see..

Steelersrock151
04-24-2012, 09:14 PM
Would almost like the Ravens to move up. I'm all for Hightower, but the Ravens already don't have a 4th round pick, and it would cost them at least a third rounder to move ahead of us. If it still leaves us a great player at 24, then what the hell.

hawaiiansteel
04-26-2012, 01:29 AM
Steelers’ pick could be obvious

By Scott Brown
Tribune-Review

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012


The Steelers have made 41 draft picks since 2007, general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin’s first year together. Here is a breakdown of the picks. The best pick at a position with more than two selections is in parentheses.

QB: 1

RB: 4 (Rashard Mendenhall, 1st round, 2008)

TE: 2

WR: 5 (Antonio Brown, 6th, ’10)

OL: 8 (Maurkice Pouncey, 1st, ’10)

DL: 5 (Ziggy Hood, 1st round, ’09)

LB: 8 (LaMarr Woodley, 2nd, ’07)

DB: 7 (William Gay, 5th round, ’07)

Specialists: 1

Needs is one of the NFL Draft buzzwords, and it will be said countless times during the made-for-TV extravaganza that starts tonight. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert prefers the term “wants,” but however he frames it, nothing would help the Steelers more than if Colbert is able to turn back the clock.

Ten years ago Colbert presided over the kind of draft every team is tries to pull off, as it provided immediate dividends and ones that are still paying off.

First-round pick Kendall Simmons started as a rookie at right guard and later helped the Steelers win a Super Bowl.

Second-rounder Antwaan Randle El, a receiver, return man and the NFL’s equivalent of Inspector Gadget, threw the only touchdown pass in Super Bowl XL.

Third-round pick Chris Hope played free safety at a high level before leaving for big money after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. Fourth-rounder Larry Foote started on two Super Bowl-winning teams and is slated to take over for James Farrior this season at left inside linebacker.

The Steelers made one of their greatest finds at the end of the draft when they took defensive end Brett Keisel in the seventh round with the 242nd pick. Keisel, entering his seventh season as a starter, has been a core player on teams that played in three Super Bowls and won two.

The Steelers could use the kind of drafting skill and serendipity that dovetailed 10 years ago over the next three days.

They have needs and wants on both lines. Farrior’s release and Foote’s age translate into short- and long-term questions at inside linebacker. And you can never have enough pass rushers (read: outside linebackers) for D!ck LeBeau’s blitz-centric defense.

The same can be said for cornerbacks in a pass-happy NFL, and starting safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have played 19 seasons between them, making reinforcements a priority sooner than later.

If the Steelers can go a number of ways with their first-round pick, No. 24 overall, the same can be said for what will happen in front of them.

“I guess there’s less easy picks this year than in a lot of years,” Colbert said.

The one the Steelers should make, assuming he is available, looks obvious. Maybe too obvious.

But Alabama inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower appears to be the right player at the right time. The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder did a good Farrior imitation at Alabama, serving as a leader and playmaker on a star-studded defense.

Hightower, the Crimson Tide’s leading tackler in 2011, is stout against the run and versatile enough to play outside and rush the passer. A left knee injury cost Hightower his sophomore campaign, but it didn’t appear to be an issue in 2011, particularly in the second half of the season.

If his knee checked out medically and another team hasn’t taken him earlier, Hightower is the pick for the Steelers.

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