Steelers wrap up well-rounded draft by filling more needs
Not everything fell into place for an organization that places a premium on building through the NFL Draft.
It just seemed that way after the Steelers addressed multiple needs without straying from taking the best players available to them.
The Steelers dramatically altered the complexion of their offensive line, may have found a long-term successor to nose tackle Casey Hampton and added speed — not to mention a local kid — at running back and wide receiver.
It will be at least three years before the Steelers’ haul in the three-day draft can be fairly evaluated. But no one would have blamed general manager Kevin Colbert had he stopped to buy a lottery ticket on his way home from Steelers headquarters Saturday night.
“Really the last three days unfolded very well for us,” Colbert said. “We got a lot of players that we had targeted. Every player we picked, we liked. We didn’t think we reached for anybody.”
The Steelers left themselves open to questions on one flank after taking a pair of players — Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams and Florida running back Chris Rainey — with at least one significant mark against them.
Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin again stood by the selection of Adams, with Colbert saying he has never had a player take the steps Adams did when he sought out the Steelers after failing a drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Rainey, one of the fastest players in the draft, could help the Steelers as a running back, wide receiver and punt returner. But he also had to overcome an arrest for sending a threatening text message, one that got him dismissed from Florida’s team in 2010, though he was later re-instated.
Colbert said the Steelers looked extensively into Rainey, and they concluded that the result had been an isolated incident.
They talked to Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, Rainey’s teammate in high school and college. They also spoke with Pouncey’s parents, who took in Rainey while he was in high school and provided a stable home for him.
On the decision to draft Adams, a potential starting left tackle in the NFL, Colbert said, “If it doesn’t work it is on me, because I endorsed it.”
The third and final day of the draft started with the Steelers moving up in the fourth round to take Washington’s Alameda Ta’amu, the only prototypical nose tackle left on their board. They swapped picks with the Washington Redskins, moving up 10 spots at the cost of their sixth-round selection.
Ta’amu is a space-eating tackle that defensive line coach John Mitchell said the Steelers drafted because of his potential to command double teams — something Hampton has done at a Pro Bowl level for more than a decade.
Hampton, 34, is recovering from knee surgery and is going into the final year of his contract, making nose tackle one of the Steelers’ glaring needs heading into the draft.
The Steelers used the first of their four seventh-round draft picks on Colorado wide receiver Toney Clemons, and they like the Valley High graduate’s size, speed and swagger. Clemons appears to have a good chance to make the Steelers, given how wide open it is behind their top four wide receivers.
New offensive coordinator Todd Haley said before the pick of Clemons that the Steelers had landed three “potential difference-makers” in guard David DeCastro, Adams and Rainey.
Haley took a unique perspective into his first draft with the Steelers. His father, Dick, helped build the Steelers’ teams that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s, and the younger Haley said not much has changed when it comes to the organization’s approach to the draft.
“You’re finding the best available guy at the time without worrying a whole bunch about needs and stuff like that,” Haley said.
That consistency is why Tomlin shrugged off a question about whether this draft had been unique because of how everything broke for the Steelers.
“It didn’t feel any better than it did last year,” Tomlin said.