Steelers Draft 2012: Receivers

Two recent signings have put the Steelers in an opportune position as the draft approaches. Jim Wexell offers some interesting choices at WR and TE in Part III of his draft breakdown.

The signings of Jerricho Cotchery and Leonard Pope took a big bite out of the Steelers' needs list as the team chugs along toward the April 26-28 draft.

Cotchery returns to provide the Steelers with a solid No. 4 receiver and insurance against either a Mike Wallace holdout or an Emmanuel Sanders re-injury.

Pope gives the Steelers a No. 2 tight end who'll complement Heath Miller as a blocker and red-zone target, and fill the hole blown open by the suspension of Weslye Saunders, the second-year player who fouled up the paperwork regarding his medication.

With Miller, Pope and David Johnson – who just signed his RFA tender – as the presumed tight ends on the roster, Saunders might even be cut loose once his 4-game suspension expires. Or, the Steelers could keep all four tight ends, as is becoming the norm by an increasing number of teams these days.

Clearly, the Steelers don't need to draft a tight end, but they shouldn't pass on a chance to improve at "move" tight end if the opportunity arises.

While current H-back/fullback Johnson can deliver the occasional crushing block, he hasn't been much of an offensive threat and that's the reason tight ends replaced fullbacks in the offense in the first place.

A player such as Dwayne Allen – who caught 50 passes last season for 598 yards and 8 touchdowns to win the Mackey Award as college football's best tight end – just might provide that opportunity after the 6-3.1, 255-pounder ran an unimpressive 4.89 40 at the combine.

That kind of time might cause the talented Allen to fall in the draft and tempt the Steelers to select him.

"I hope so," Allen said at the combine. "Coach [Mike] Tomlin's a great guy. I was able to run into him yesterday."

Not that the Steelers initiated the conversation. The enthusiastic Allen had approached Tomlin.

"I introduced myself to him," Allen said. "I believe I fit the Steelers' system. I actually pattern my game after Heath Miller, a guy who's a do-it-all type of guy. He's not one-dimensional. He's not just coming in to catch balls. He's not just coming in to block. He's an every-down tight end. As he's getting older I feel I could come in and complement him on the other side until he's done playing."

At Clemson, Allen lined up wide, in-line, in the slot, in the backfield, as a pass-downs sidecar for the quarterback, and also in a unique spot directly behind the tackle, which Clemson called the "sniffer" position.

A turf toe injury caused Allen to fade down the stretch. He caught only 8 passes in his final four games, and the injury may have played a part in his poor 40 time.

The Steelers could also improve their "move" tight end position in the later rounds with a candidate such as Oregon's David Paulson (6-3.2, 246, 4.93), an Owen Daniels-type who played fullback in the East-West Shrine game.

As for wide receiver, the Steelers are in an excellent position. They'll be forced to draft one wide receiver from a rich vein of prospects in the mid to late rounds, and, because of the four veterans on the roster, that draft pick will be given time to develop.

If the Steelers want a slot receiver/return specialist, they could choose from Keshawn Martin (5-11.4, 188, 4.45), Devon Wylie (5-9.1, 187, 4.39), Joe Adams (5-10.5, 179, 4.55), T.Y. Hilton (5-9.5, 183, 4.49) and Danny Coale (5-11.7, 201, 4.5, 6.69 3-cone) among others.

If they want a more classic-styled split end, the Steelers could choose from bigger bodies such as Juron Criner (6-2.4, 224, 4.68), Marvin Jones (6-1.7, 199, 4.46), Jeff Fuller (6-3.4, 223), Marvin McNutt (6-2.4, 216, 4.54), DeVier Posey (6-1.5, 211, 4.5) and Penn State's Derek Moye (6-4.2, 209, 4.52), also in the mid to late rounds.

Or, the Steelers could even snag an all-around playmaker such as Ryan Broyles (5-10.1, 192), who set an FBS record with 349 career catches at Oklahoma before tearing his left ACL last November, an injury that will cause him to fall in the draft.

Broyles is a flanker with above-average strength (21 bench reps) who runs well after the catch, returns punts, and plays with a savvy and enthusiasm that resembled the college style of the former third-round flanker he would replace on the roster, Hines Ward.

Wexell's Value Board for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Third Round – Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma.

Fourth Round – Dwayne Allen, Clemson.

Fifth Round – T.Y. Hilton, Florida International; Juron Criner, Arizona State.

Sixth Round – Devier Posey, Ohio State.

Seventh Round – Derek Moye, Penn State; Danny Coale, Virginia Tech; David Paulson, Oregon.


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