Draft Evaluation: Small crop for big gamblers

So much time, energy and secrecy went into obtaining five measly players that it's almost embarrassing to admit to taking it all as seriously as the teams themselves. But embarrass ourselves we must as it's time to analyze the Steelers' most recent infusion of talent.

First Round – They feel Troy Polamalu is a great player, worthy of trading up 11 spots in the first round. The aggressiveness is admirable, but to give a fair opinion we have to take a look at what patience would have wrought. Andre Woolfolk was the guy they took in their official mock pre-draft. He's a raw cornerback who, in theory, would've given them rare size at the key position in two years. Another potential pick was running back Larry Johnson, but he doesn't appear to be much more special, if at all, than what the Steelers already have. Get the running back next year. It's a position rookies can play. Sammy Davis was the dark horse in what would've been a full 15-minute debate, but the player most are overlooking is Rodney "Boss" Bailey, who lasted until the 34th pick, or the same exact pick in which Carnell Lake was drafted in 1989. Lake is mentioned only because the Steelers wanted a strong safety – as they showed with Polamalu – but Bailey could've also been that linebacker-turned-strong safety that Lake became. And Bailey, at 6-feet-3, is certainly tall enough to cover Todd Heap, perhaps the most potent weapon of any division opponent. Bailey was a coverage linebacker at Georgia, and with 4.3-speed is probably fast enough to cover slot receivers as well the 210-pound Lake. Bailey weighs 233 pounds, and that's not comparable to Lake's 210, and we may never know if the comparison is close at all. As for the pick of Polamalu, there's never a problem from this corner in identifying an outstanding player and moving up. The Cowboys did it to the Steelers once for a guy by the name of Emmitt Smith.

Second Round – Was Alonzo Jackson taken so soon because the Steelers had traded their third-round pick? Perhaps, but the Steelers insist he was taken at the right time according to their board. Some rave about Jackson. He has long arms – someone said the longest – and recorded twice as many sacks than Pittsburgh media DE-turned-OLB favorite Antwan Peek, and Jackson did so playing for Florida State, not Cincinnati. Jackson weighs 266 but played near 250 in college. He pumped up for the combine, where he thought he had to be a defensive end instead of the linebacker the Steelers see. He'll have a quick opportunity with Clark Haggans undergoing surgery and will certainly be touted as Jason Gildon's eventual successor. If nothing else, this pick has to wake up Gildon, who wouldn't dare glide through another highly paid season.

Fourth Round – Oh, the Post-Gazette got wind of one particular personnel man's quick opinion on Ike Taylor's intelligence, or lack thereof. If you only knew about of the behind-the-scenes media maneuverings... Let's just say they found a good sucker for the most recent diatribe. Anyway, Taylor, who is only six credits shy of earning his degree, was a fallback option for the Steelers. They were looking hard at short-but-experienced corners Ricky Manning and Rod Babers to help immediately in their dime and nickel packages. When Babers was picked two notches ahead of the Steelers, they took the guy some consider the best athlete in the draft. Sure, he's a long shot, but what potential! And with that potential coupled with his sunny disposition, Taylor becomes an easy guy to root for, particularly when his foul opposition has already made himself known.

Fifth Round – Brian St. Pierre used to be a favorite name when a quarterback needed mocked, kind of like calling someone Little Lord Fontelroy. But veteran pro and college play-by-play man Billy Hillgrove says the kid has all kinds of fortitude and his best performances took place at the end of his senior season. The pick also might indicate a change in Steelers' personnel boss Kevin Colbert's tastes. Because he took Tee Martin over pocket passers Tom Brady and Marc Bulger in 2000, it followed he'd prefer a more mobile quarterback in the later rounds this year. But instead of, say, Casey Printers, the Steelers have the better passer in St. Pierre, even if he does have a funny name.

Seventh Round – J.T. Wall is noted for his passion and strength, so what more could you look for in a fullback? Hands? He has soft ones. There's a theory going around (Ok, I'm the one starting it) about this pick. Wall was Verron Haynes' backup fullback at Georgia in 2001, and moved to fullback when Haynes moved to tailback and tore it up in the last four games of the season. Well, after watching Haynes' average performance last season, the Steelers decided Wall was the one responsible for that prolific production in those final four games. Ah, it's just a theory. I like the kid because his favorite movie is Rounders. Life's on the wire. The rest is just waiting.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: After 7 seconds of serious thought, we at Steel City Sports.com give the Steelers an A+ and double dare anyone to prove us wrong.

--Jim Wexell
Steel City Sports.com

Steel City Insider Top Stories