Sizing up the Day 2 picks

Ivan Taylor's first request in Pittsburgh was readily accepted.<br><br> "Call me Ike, please," said the Steelers' fourth-round draft pick because, after all, ‘Ivan the Terrible' would hang on a raw, rookie cornerback like thick cigar smoke. And that's what defensive coordinator Tim Lewis must've been smoking after his boss gave him all he could ask for in this year's draft.

A day after the Steelers traded up to select Troy Polamalu, the No. 1 safety, and then picked a 6-foot-4, 266-pound linebacker, Alonzo Jackson, to rush the passer, Lewis was handed a cornerback at the top of the second day, who, on paper, offers great potential.

"That height, weight, speed, change of direction," Lewis said with a smile.

"He's tough. He's physical. I think it's all in front of him."

Taylor is a 6-0 3/8, 191-pound cornerback out of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Steelers followed up the pick by selecting quarterback Brian St. Pierre (6-2¾, 218) of Boston College in the fifth round. The sixth-round pick was traded in the deal for Polamalu. In the seventh, the Steelers chose fullback J.T. Wall of Georgia (5-11 5/8, 262).

The key addition this weekend, of course, was Polamalu, but the addition of Taylor helped re-shape a secondary that finished 20th in the NFL in pass defense last season. He's raw, having played only one year at the position in the Sun Belt Conference, but he claims to have run a 4.2 40 at his campus pro day.

"My slowest time was 4.36," he said.

"I believe him until I learn otherwise," said Lewis, who explained why someone so big and fast lasted until the late portion of the fourth round.

"He's a raw guy who doesn't really understand much about football, in terms of cover two, three-deep and the rest. But he's a guy who showed some aptitude. We sat down and spent a lot of time with him and the things he learned in hour one he retained in hour four."

Taylor has the excuse of inexperience. The New Orleans native came out of high school as a running back for the Rajun Cajuns. He sat out his first two seasons because of academics and played tailback in 2001. Taylor moved to cornerback last season and made 34 solo tackles, broke up eight passes and forced two fumbles. He went through a stretch of four games in which his man didn't catch a pass. In one of those games, he popped LSU's 229-pound star tailback, LaBrandon Toefield, and broke the runner's forearm and ended his season.

Toefield was drafted seven picks after Taylor by Jacksonville. Taylor's Louisiana-Lafayette squad (formerly known as Southwest Louisiana) also played Arkansas, Minnesota, and Texas A&M in non-conference games.

"We went Division One but they kept calling us a small school," Taylor said.

"We have two corners out and they are still calling us a small school."

Taylor was considered the second best cornerback prospect from Lafayette in the draft. He played opposite Charles Tillman, who was drafted in the second round by Chicago. Taylor was asked if he's the better of the two.

"Yes sir, no question," he said. "He will probably say the same thing, but we will see this year."

Well, maybe not this year. Taylor has much to learn.

"His only movement is going to be up," said Steelers secondary coach Willy Robinson. "We think this kid brings some energy at the position because he wants to absorb and learn. We think he brings size to the position, and he definitely brings speed. He is going to have to learn to play the deep ball and adjust. The ball-catching skills may be why they moved him because he could not catch it out of the backfield. But, you just are happy to get a guy with this size and speed. He has great character."

St. Pierre was a Steelers consideration in the fourth round, but the defensive needs won out. They were fortunate he was still available in the fifth round.

"He's a pocket passer who's athletic enough to move around and make plays with his legs," said quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. "He played in the west-coast system at Boston College and has a good feeling of where his receivers are and knows where to dump down."

"He is an accurate thrower," said offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. "I compared him a little bit, in my evaluation, to Charlie Batch. He can place the ball very well. It may not be the perfect spiral that you see by some quarterbacks, but it gets to the right place."

As a two-year starter, St. Pierre ended his Boston College career third all-time in yardage (5,837) and touchdown passes (48). He completed 57 percent of his passes. In his final game, the Motor City Bowl, St. Pierre completed 25 of 35 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns to beat Toledo. He'd led Boston College to a bowl win over Georgia the previous year.

"It was definitely one of my best games," he said of his last. "To win two bowl games as a starting quarterback was a great accomplishment for me."

Wall (5-11 5/8, 262) was Verron Haynes' backup at Georgia in 2001 before Haynes was moved to tailback and Wall became his lead blocker. Wall started 10 games last season as the lead blocker for Musa Smith. Wall has good hands and is yet another Steelers draft pick with great passion for the game.

"It's getting more difficult," said director of operations Kevin Colbert, "to find guys who are a.) good lead blockers and b.) willing to do it. We think he gives us both."

With his strength, Wall has the potential to be a battering ram out of the backfield. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 38 times at his pro day and was disappointed he wasn't given credit for 40.

Jim Wexell

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