Draft analyst impressed with Steelers’ picks
By Scott Brown
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Dan Shonka doesn’t assign letter grades to drafts.
But the former NFL scout couldn’t get the superlatives out fast enough when evaluating how the Steelers did in the annual player selection process that concluded Saturday night.
“I think it’s an excellent draft,” said Shonka, the general manager of Ourlads NFL Scouting Services. “If they were calling roll, who had the best draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers would come up real quick. You look at their draft and say, ‘This guy is a Steeler.’ ”
Shonka said guard David DeCastro, the Steelers’ first-round pick, will “play in six or seven Pro Bowls.” And he may have liked the Steelers’ fourth-round pick as much he did the selection of DeCastro.
Shonka had rated Alameda Ta’amu the best true nose tackle in the draft, and he said the former Washington standout is suited for the grunt work required of tackles in the Steelers’ defense.
“He can drive a center back and he’s a perfect team guy,” Shonka said. “He could have easily gone in the second round. I don’t know why he lasted until the fourth round.”
Shonka said the Steelers did as well at the end of the draft as they did in the early parts of it. He said Terrence Frederick, the third of four seventh-round picks the Steelers made Saturday, is an “athletic cornerback” who could be a surprise.
Shonka said SMU offensive tackle/guard Kelvin Beachum was a better college player than teammate Josh LeRibeus, and the Washington Redskins picked LeRibeus, a guard, in the third round.
As effusive as Shonka and other analysts have been about the Steelers’ haul — they have gotten solid to rave reviews across the board — the draft, like a weather forecast, is an exercise in educated guessing.
The Steelers dispelled any notions that they have overlooked or even neglected the offensive line in past years.
The Steelers used three of their nine picks this year on offensive linemen. They have addressed the line with more than a fifth of the draft picks they have made since 2007, general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin’s first year together.
DeCastro looks like an immediate starter though Tomlin didn’t tip his hand, saying with a smile that the former Stanford All-American will line up with the first team Friday when the Steelers commence rookie minicamp.
Shonka said second-round pick Mike Adams is a future starter at left or right tackle if he steers clear of off-the-field issues. Adams may have been the second-best offensive tackle in the draft, Shonka said, and he slid to the Steelers because of character concerns.
DeCastro and Adams give offensive line coach Sean Kugler options and depth. He didn’t have much of either in 2011 when injuries forced the Steelers to use 25 different offensive line combinations, the most in the NFL.
Kugler has had to cobble together offensive lines his first two seasons with the Steelers, and he could finally enjoy some stability if DeCastro and Adams make a successful transition from college to the NFL.
“Realistically, I don’t want moving parts,” Kugler said. “It has been more of a necessity for us to have moving parts. We love to have guys at five stable positions and keep them there. We’ll get the right five and see where we go from there.”