It's Time

Now just might be the right time for the Steelers to draft a cornerback in the first round. SCI publisher Jim Wexell takes a look at the candidates.

The most-discussed offseason position for the Steelers doesn't need much review this morning:

1. The Steelers haven't drafted a cornerback in the first round in 14 years (Chad Scott).

2. The Steelers allowed 288 yards net passing in the Super Bowl to a team that held the lead the entire game.

3. The Steelers' Nos. 1 and 3 cornerbacks (Ike Taylor, Will Gay) are unrestricted free agents, their No. 4 (Keenan Lewis) has been a disappointment, their No. 5 (Anthony Madison) is a special-teams ace who's been cut five times in his five-year career, and their No. 6 (Crezdon Butler) was a fifth-round rookie who was active for only four regular-season games last season and made only one tackle.

4. And Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 304 yards in the Super Bowl, wasn't the only quarterback to carve them up. Matt Ryan threw for 252, Drew Brees threw for 305, and Tom Brady threw for 350 against them.

So without further adieu, here are the first-round draft candidates:

* Jimmy Smith (6-2.2, 211, 4.47) – The only reason this big, fast, tough corner will fall to pick 31 is if rumors of his lousy character are true. And if they are true, the Steelers will pass because character is much more than just a PR matter to them. (See Aqib Talib.)

* Aaron Williams (5-11.7, 204, 4.56) – Appears to be the prototype for the Steelers, not only in size but in age. The third-year junior ran a track-adjusted 4.44 at his Pro Day, at which the Steelers' top brass scrutinized Williams closely. He's an honor-roll student who intercepted four passes, blocked five kicks, and forced six fumbles while playing in 37 games (23 starts) at Texas.

* Brandon Harris (5-9.4, 191, 4.44) – Another third-year junior who'll graduate from Miami after he completes a two-month internship. Harris was a CB/WR and part-time QB for his father at Florida State champion Booker T. Washington High in 2007, when Harris was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida and his father Tim was named USA Today National Coach of the Year. Harris is a passionate student of the game who also ran track for Miami and finished sixth in the 400 meters at the ACC Indoor Championship. Harris has also been honored various times at Miami for commitment, work ethic and community service.

* Ras-I Dowling (6-1.3, 198, 4.43) – Another organizational prototype who isn't as physical in the run game as Williams. The 23-year-old also has trouble staying healthy, particularly this past season when he endured three different injuries and then pulled a hamstring at the combine.

In the second round, the Steelers could be looking at a pair of visitors, Curtis Brown (5-11.5, 185, 4.54) and Johnny Patrick (5-10.5, 191, 4.56). Brown is considered one of the top special-teams gunners/jammers coming out of college, while Patrick came on strong as a senior and posted very impressive combine numbers: 6.58 3-cone, 38 vertical jump, 15 reps.

Another visitor, Curtis Marsh (6-0.4, 197, 4.46), is a converted running back who's considered a project, much like his father, Curtis Sr., who spent time in 1997 as a wide receiver with the Steelers.

Marsh is likely a third-round consideration, as would be Cortez Allen (6-1.2, 197, 4.51), a visitor to the South Side who also posted outstanding combine numbers with a 6.74 3-cone and 19 reps.

Allen played only one year of high school football who became a starter at The Citadel as a sophomore. He's raw and physical but the team captain draws raves for his work ethic and special-teams play.

Rashad Carmichael (5-10, 192, 4.51) of Virginia Tech is hoping to land with the Steelers, since he's the lifelong best friend of Jason Worilds. Carmichael's father and Worilds' brother served in the Air Force together. However, "Rock" hasn't drawn much interest from the Steelers.

At safety, 21-year-old Rahim Moore is the top prospect and played for Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake for one season at UCLA. In that season, Moore led the nation with 10 interceptions, but posted only one last season and is considered a second-round prospect.

A trio of strong safeties – DeAndre McDaniel, Tyler Sash, Jaiquawn Jarrett – would intrigue the Steelers' in the middle rounds, but it's unlikely the Steelers are looking to replace Ryan Mundy or Will Allen at this point.

The Steelers did bring one safety, Davon Morgan (5-11.5, 194, 4.76), in for a visit.

Morgan, whose father was murdered while selling drugs and whose mother was jailed for using drugs, was raised by his grandmother in Richmond and grew up with a distinct aversion to street life. He was a special-teams star at Virginia Tech and came on strong as a senior with all five of his career interceptions occurring after last Oct. 9.

Value Board

First round – Aaron Williams, Texas.

First round – Brandon Harris, Miami.

Second round – Curtis Brown, Texas.

Second round – Johnny Patrick, Louisville.

Third round – Cortez Allen, The Citadel.

Third round – Curtis Marsh, Utah State.

Seventh round – Davon Morgan, Virginia Tech.

Favorite late-round sleeper: Kendric Burney, North Carolina.


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