Steelers draft 2010: Defensive back
By Jim Wexell
Posted Apr 20, 2010
SteelCityInsider.com publisher Jim Wexell’s draft series on the Pittsburgh Steelers continues today with the offensive line position.
It was sometime during the first round of the 2008 draft when Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton wondered past the media room.
“You want Mike Jenkins, don’t you?” someone asked Horton, who immediately turned and smiled as if his questioner had read his mind.
“Don’t tease me,” Horton said.
The Steelers, of course, passed on the cornerback and drafted Rashard Mendenhall.
Jenkins went two picks later, but all along Horton knew he could look but not touch because Jenkins is a cover corner and the Steelers demand that their cornerbacks stop the run.
Of course, look where that philosophy’s gotten them: carved up by Bruce Gradkowski, among others.
So, the cornerback-deficient Steelers could change that philosophy tomorrow night by drafting Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson (5-10, 194, 4.43). Horton was at Wilson’s Pro Day workout, a workout that’s drawn raves from all who attended. That workout and Wilson’s Senior Bowl week have made him a solid first-rounder.
But does a finesse cover corner fit the Steelers’ traditional prescription?
Probably not. While Wilson did play the more physical “boundary” side of the Boise State defense, he’s not in the same category as Joe Haden (5-10¾, 193, 4.5
, Kareem Jackson (5-10½, 196, 4.4
or Devin McCourty (5-10¾, 196, 4.42) when it comes to a physical style.
Those three corners more than likely – since history must be our guide – interest the Steelers in the first round, or more specifically, in a trade down in the first round.
Of that group, Jackson, the underclassman from Alabama, might have the best mix of strength and coverage skills and just might be the Steelers’ primary target at the position.
One other defensive back interests the Steelers in the first round, Texas safety Earl Thomas (5-10¼, 208, 4.46).
Thomas could step immediately into the Steelers’ three-safety nickel package, and with his ball skills could soon develop into their No. 1 nickel back, and maybe even move over to the cornerback position full-time.
Thomas could slip to pick 18 since he’s on the small side and the safety crop is rather deep. The only other safety with first-round potential is Taylor Mays (6-3, 230, 4.36), but the Steelers will likely pass on him, a track star with a spotty tape resume.
Along with Thomas, the Steelers hosted one other safety, Darrell Stuckey (5-11½, 205, 4.51) of Kansas, a third or fourth-round pick. Other underrated safeties include Chad Jones (6-2, 221, 4.59) of LSU and T.J. Ward (5-10½, 211, 4.59) of Oregon.
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin is said to be enamored with Virginia Tech’s Kam Chancellor (6-3¼, 231, 4.71), who would bring an Anthony Smith-like physical presence to the middle of their cover-3 defense, but who would, unfortunately, also bring Smith’s coverage skills.
Along with cornerbacks Jackson and Wilson, the Steelers also hosted corners Brandon Ghee (5-11½, 192, 4.3
of Wake Forest and Nolan Carroll (5-11½, 204, 4.49), a quick but injury-prone cover corner from Maryland.
The Steelers have been on the trail of IUP cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (6-0, 207, 4.47), who ran a pair of 4.3 40s at the Ohio State Pro Day. The Steelers’ team surgeon even operated on the player’s shoulder this draft season. Owusu-Ansah performed extremely well at the combine and adds versatility as a kick returner and potential safety.
The Steelers also showed interest in California (Pa.) cornerback Terrence Johnson (5-9 ½, 190), yet another Woodland Hills High product. Johnson could be available as a free agent after the draft.
First round – Earl Thomas, Texas; Kareem Jackson, Alabama; Joe Haden, Florida; Kyle Wilson, Boise State; Devin McCourty, Rutgers.
Third round – Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, IUP; Chad Jones, LSU; Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest.
Fourth round – Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech; T.J. Ward, Oregon; Darrell Stuckey, Kansas.
Fifth round – Brian Jackson, Oklahoma.
Seventh round – Nolan Carroll, Maryland; Terrence Johnson, California (Pa.)