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New Steelers punter Sepulveda is a strong pick

Punter Daniel Sepulveda doesn’t fashion himself as a specialist. The 6-2, 227-pounder walked onto Baylor as a linebacker and is so devoted to lifting and working out that he said he can bench press 335 pounds. Sepulveda, who twice won the Ray Guy Award while at Baylor, said he wanted to take part in the 225-pound bench press test at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Steelers’ first fourth-round pick Sunday didn’t get a chance to show how many repetitions he could do since NFL teams generally don’t concern themselves with punters’ upper body strength. Sepulveda, for the record, said he bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times before.

“I don’t know how much good that does at the position that I play,” Sepulveda said, “but it certainly can’t hurt.”

• Offensive line coach Larry Zierlein said versatility will factor into which centers make the Steelers next season. Several of them will get repetitions at guard during the next Steelers’ mini-camp, including Chukky Okobi and Marvin Philip.

“Whoever is going to be on this roster as center,” Zierlein said, “is also going to play some guard.”

A prime candidate to start at center, Sean Mahan will get plenty of work at the position during the mini-camp that will be held May 11-13. Mahan lined up primarily at guard during the Steelers’ first mini-camp, Zierlein said, because he wasn’t familiar enough with the offense to play center. Mahan, a free free-agent signee, and Okobi are the frontrunners to take over for the retired Jeff Hartings at center.

• Cornerback became a little more crowded after the Steelers took Louisville’s William Gay with their second pick in the fifth round yesterday. Even though the Steelers already have Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, Deshea Townsend and Ricardo Colclough among others at cornerback, defensive backs coach Ray Horton said he thinks Gay has a good chance of making the team. Horton compared Gay to Deshea Townsend because of his instincts and feel for the game. He said Townsend, 31, isn’t in danger of losing his roster spot to Gay, who had six interceptions his senior season.

“I thought that I was a pretty smart player,” said Horton, who played defensive back in the NFL from 1983-92, “but I’ve never seen somebody as smart as Deshea on defense.”

Horton said the competition for the two starting jobs at cornerback will be wide open.

• Special teams coach Bob Ligashesky was probably still smiling when he left the Steelers’ South Side practice facility yesterday. In addition to taking a punter in the two-day draft, the Steelers drafted a handful of players who are expected to contribute on special teams. Those include first- and second-round picks Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley, respectively, and Gay. Ligashesky said the Steelers’ draft reflects the emphasis coach Mike Tomlin places on special teams.


Digits

0 – Punts Daniel Sepulveda had blocked during his final three seasons at Baylor.

4 – Punts Sepulveda had blocked his freshman season at Baylor.

1,177 – Times Chris Gardocki has punted in the NFL without ever having one blocked.

4 – Punters the Steelers have drafted in team history.

– Scott Brown


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