Draft Notebook

PITTSBURGH - The Steelers have had great success over years taking college defensive ends and turning them into outside linebackers in their 3-4 defense. In fact, current outside linebackers Jason Gildon, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans were all defensive ends in college.<br><br> But before Saturday, the Steelers had never taken a player they intended on converting to an outside linebacker prior to the third round, during the Bill Cowher era.

They changed that by selecting Florida State defensive end Alonzo Jackson in the second round of Saturday's draft with the intent of converting him to a linebacker.

"It's going to be a transition for him because he was a defensive end in college," said Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. "But we worked him out at linebacker at the combine and he did a good job moving."

"He still has some things to work on, but he should be able to make the transition. ... He'll help right away as a situational pass rusher."

The 6-4, 266-pound Jackson is by far the biggest player the Steelers have taken with the thought of converting to linebacker. He was very productive in his career at Florida State, recording 23 sacks and 33 career tackles for a loss during his Seminoles career. His sack total is fifth in school history, while only Darnell Dockett and Ron Simmons have more tackles for a loss. Butler feels Jackson's athletic ability will allow him to make the move to linebacker.

"He's 266 pounds, but he's a slim 266 pounds," Butler said. "The more you can weigh and still keep your mobility the better, and he's got mobility."

Jackson is good friends with Steelers' safety Chris Hope, the team's third-round pick in last year's draft. He said Hope told him what to expect from the Steelers during a weight lifting session earlier this week.

"We were working out and I asked him about the Steelers," said Jackson who hails from Americus, Ga., the same hometown as former Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves.

"He said that Coach (Bill Cowher) works you hard and expects a lot out of you. But I don't have a problem with that at all."

Talking trades
The trade the Steelers made with the Kansas City Chiefs was not the only one they explored in the first round of Saturday's draft in an attempt to move up to take strong safety Troy Polamalu.

"We had conversations with a few other teams," said director of football operations Kevin Colbert. "We had discussions, but I wouldn't say we had offers. But when Kansas City became doable, we did it."

Trading their second round pick in a package to move up was not a consideration. "We said no real quick," Colbert said of any teams asking for their second rounder.

No more Knight
With the drafting of Polamalu, the Steelers won't likely be in the market for the services of free agent safety Sammy Knight, who the team had some negotiations with leading up to the draft. "I would say that for all intents and purposes, that's finished," said Cowher.

Odds and end zones
The Steelers have three picks remaining in the final four rounds of the draft. The Steelers own picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds. ... Polamalu's uncle, Al Pola, played defensive line at Penn State. ... The best thing about the day was that, by trading their third round pick, Jim Wexell and I were able to score Pearl Jam tickets and head to the show.

See you Sunday, fellas.

Dale Lolley
SteelCitySports.com


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