Steelers Fever – Steelers Walk Away With A Typical Draft

Steelers Walk Away With A Typical Draft

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
By Tom Van Wyhe
Steelers Fever Columnist

The draft day dust has diminished (pardon the alliteration) and every draftnik in the country is throwing in his or her two bits regarding the subject, ranting and raving over every pick of the draft.

LaMarr WoodleyBut, hey, I’m no different! I’m here to break down the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL Draft; who they picked and how it will work out (seriously, I know).

2007’s edition of the NFL draft was typical in the minds of Steelers’ fans. The team walked away with players who were more blue collar than white collar, more grit than flash. It was the initiation of a defensive overhaul that began with the selection of Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons in the first round.

Timmons is a Pittsburgh-type player, someone who can play the 3-4 or hold his own in the 4-3. A violent tackler who will likely work to replace linebacker Joey Porter, Timmons does have his share of weaknesses. Most importantly, he lacks good technique. But he’s quick off the snap and has the athleticism and speed to react and make a play on any given down.

Similar to the first round, Pittsburgh drafted defense again in the second, this time a defensive end: LaMarr Woodley. A former Wolverine, he has the ability to create pressure on the opposing quarterback and wreak havoc on offenses. His fundamentals are sound, though he does lack a solid burst off the line and his size makes him an ideal linebacker-end combination-type player.

A player who does have substantial size, however, is third round draft choice Matt Spaeth of Minnesota. Spaeth is a 6’7, 270 pound behemoth who, oddly enough, needs to work on his blocking. His receiving skills are fine, though speed is the only other concern. That said, he’ll get playing time in 2007 in two tight end sets and should develop into a balanced tight end.

To break from the norm of Pittsburgh-style drafts, the team opted to select a punter in the fourth round, Baylor’s Daniel Sepulveda. It was the first time in 22 years the franchise drafted a punter. Hey, they even traded up to get him! It is apparent the team is concerned with current punter Chris Gardocki, who, incidentally, experienced the worst season of his 17-year career last season when he booted only 11 punts inside the 20 yard line (previous low was 16 — 1995) and averaged 41.3 yards per punt (worst since 1994 when he averaged 37.8 yards.

The team’s second pick of the fourth round, however, was back to the norm: the selection of another defensive end — though he is more of an end-tackle — Ryan McBean. The Oklahoma State end will work to be a 3-4 end in the defense. He wasn’t the most productive player in college, but he can work to be a rotation player for the team. They are, after all, continuing to work on the defense; a rotational player won’t hurt on that front.

Protection was another issue entering the draft, and Pittsburgh hopes to have made a dent in the problem by adding guard Cameron Stephenson of Rutgers in the fifth round. He will compete to be a backup in 2007, but he has potential to be a starter within the next few seasons. Whether he will realize that potential remains to be seen.

The fifth round featured one other draft choice, cornerback William Gay of Louisville. Gay will compete with Chidi Iwuoma for roster spot and there is a distinct chance he will make the team as a special teams player.

The final pick of the Steelers draft was wide receiver Dallas Baker of Florida. Baker is physically a decent specimen, but his potential is limited and it would be a surprise if he makes the final roster cuts for the team this season.

Overall, this draft was “B”-worthy; nothing over-the-top and plenty of potential for roster spots few fans care to pay attention to: linemen, a tight end and punter. But the Steelers did what they set out to do; they added Pittsburgh-style players to the roster — and there is something to be said for that.

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