Pittsburgh Steelers 2007 Draft Summary
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Wednesday, May 02, 2007
By Paul Eide
Steelers Fever Columnist
Heading into the 2007 NFL Draft it was no secret that the Steelers were looking to add playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, specifically at the linebacker position. Whether or not new head coach Mike Tomlin was planning on switching the defensive focus from a 3-4 to more of a 4-3, the Steelers roster needed an upgrade and the team responded by spending its first two picks on improving the position.
"They are capable of doing a lot of things," said Tomlin about first round draft pick Lawrence Timmons and second rounder LaMarr Woodley.
"Similar positions, but different gains," continued Tomlin. "We view LaMarr as a guy that could put his hand on the ground and play a defensive end position. He has a defensive end background. If you look at Lawrence Timmons, he is a guy that is capable of playing on his feet. He has put his hand on the ground some. He is capable of covering people. He is capable of being the underneath rover in some of the pressure packages. The same position, different skill set. They are capable of doing a lot of things."
By addressing the needs at linebacker, the Steelers upgraded a unit that became rather old just two seasons after winning a Super Bowl and was surrounded by question marks.
"With Joey (Porter) leaving, we were thin at outside linebacker, and quite honestly, we have to be better than we were last year as a pressure team, especially on third down," said Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert.
"Everybody knows that we weren't good enough on third down. Quite honestly, I look at that as a personnel issue because we didn't get to the quarterback good enough, and that leaves your secondary exposed because you're not getting enough pressure. So, hopefully, we've added two guys that can help there right away."
The Steelers spent five of their eight picks in the draft on defense, but were able to shore up needs across the board:
Round One - Lawrence Timmons - 6'3", 232 lbs - Linebacker - Florida State
Timmons started every game at strongside linebacker in 2006, coming up with 79 tackles (42 solos), five sacks and two pressures. He scored on an interception, fumble recovery and blocked punt return while also deflecting six passes and blocking two kicks.
Timmons ranked 14th in the nation and second in the league with 18 stops behind the line of scrimmage, received All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorable mention in 2006. Coach Tomlin has already commented on Timmons potential role with the Steelers.
"He has some Derrick Brooks qualities. You don't necessarily want to put that on anyone because Brooks is a legendary player, but he runs around and strikes people. He is relentless and he loves the game."
"We're a 3-4 team. He's a right outside linebacker," added Colbert. "He has mack (inside linebacker) capabilities and we like what he has from the versatility standpoint."
Round Two - LaMarr Woodley - 6'2", 269 lbs - Defensive End/Linebacker - Michigan
Woodley played linebacker as a sophomore and junior for the Wolverines before moving back to defensive end as a senior. Led the Wolverines in sacks each of the past two seasons and became the first Wolverine to win the Lombardi Award (top lineman) and Ted Hendricks Award (top defensive end) in 2006.
The consensus first-team All-American led the team with 16.5 stops for losses and 12 sacks. He collected 36 tackles (28 solos) and recovered four fumbles, returning one for a touchdown. He also caused four fumbles.
"A lot of their defensive package is what we do," Colbert said of the Michigan defense which ranked first in division one at stopping the run last year. "He should have no problem assimilating into our scheme."
Round Three - Matt Spaeth - 6'7", 267 lbs - Tight End - University of Minnesota
Spaeth won the 2006 John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end and was a 2006 Associated Press All-America First Team selection. He is also Minnesota's all-time career leader in receiving yards (1,291) and receptions (109) by a tight end, breaking the records set by current Colts tight end Ben Utecht. When asked about his role in the offense, Tomlin said Spaeth immediately provides the offense with a number of options.
"I am a three tight end guy. We value the tight end without a doubt," said Tomlin. "You can get in a two-tight end set or multiple tight-end sets, it creates problems because of the number of gaps along the line of scrimmage that you have to defend. Matt's a big guy. He's got very good hands, and good route savvy. When it came time to pick Matt specifically, he was clearly the highest rated guy on our board. We really think that Matt can come in and give us another dimension at tight end."
"I am so excited to be part of a great football tradition like the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Spaeth on Monday. "I don't think it has completely hit me yet, but I am looking forward to contributing to their new regime and helping the Steelers to future success."
Round Four - Daniel Sepulveda - 6'3", 229 lbs - Punter - Baylor University
Sepulveda is the only two time winner of the Ray Guy Award, given to the top punter in the nation. His career punting average (45.24 yards per punt) is the best in the history of Division one football for players with at least 250 punts. He also established an NCAA record with 94 career punts of 50-plus yards. A two time All-American in college, Tomlin feels like Sepulveda can come in and contribute from day one, eschewing the idea that the Steelers essentially wasted a fourth round pick on a position that can be filled by countless free agents.
"It is a position that is very important. We are talking about field position and special teams. He is a left-footed punter and he punts it a great distance, with great flight time. He is a very talented guy and we supported that all the way."
Unless Sepulveda is effective from day one, Tomlin and company will face a lot of future criticism for trading up in the draft to select a punter that early in the draft.
Round Four - Ryan McBean - 6'5", 290 lbs - DT/DE - Oklahoma State
For an in depth look at Ryan McBean, click here to check out an exclusive pre draft interview!
Round Five - Cameron Stephenson - 6'3", 306 lbs - Offensive Guard - Rutgers
As a senior, Stephenson started every game at right guard, where he earned second-team All-Big East Conference honors. He allowed just one of the eight sacks given up by the front wall, as the Scarlet Knights averaged 180.2 yards per game on the ground. Also played tackle during his junior year and developed into an efficient trap blocker who could shift to tackle at the pro level because of his ability to move off the snap.
"He's really a one-year starter at the guard position, after having switched over from defense after having switched over from offense," said Colbert. "Again, big -- 305 pounds. He's raw, but we like his potential as well. He's got experience at both guard and tackle and we would like him to play both."
Round Five - William Gay - 5'10", 187 lbs - Cornerback - Louisville
Gay was a three-year starter for the Cardinals who was named First team All-Big East last season. He is a physical player despite his size combined with a 4.48 in the 40 at his pro day workout means he could compete for the starting nickel back job.
"He had six interceptions and13 PBU's (passes broken up)," said Tomlin of Gay. "Maybe his hands aren't as good as we think, because we counted maybe six dropped interceptions. This kid has a lot of Deshea Townsend qualities. He's a very smart guy, a very savvy guy."
Round Seven - Dallas Baker - 6'3", 207 lbs - Wide Receiver - Florida
Playing on Florida teams that were deep at the wide receiver position, Baker never got the chance to be a true number one. Productive when he got the ball, Baker appeared in 59 games for Florida, catching 151 passes for 2,236 yards and 21 touchdowns.
"One thing we really liked about Dallas was his touchdown productivity and his size," said Colbert. "We have a pretty good receiving group, but it's not the biggest group. Sometimes you'd just like to have another big receiver to go along with the other guys -- maybe as a red zone guy. He has good productivity, and we thought he was a good addition at that point."