When it dawned on Ta'Amu that he was about to become Troy Polamalu's teammate, the mood got almost spiritual.
Ta'Amu, a nose tackle from Washington, was selected by the Steelers in the fourth round with the 109th overall pick. At 6-2 and weighing 348 pounds, he has the size to man the middle.
"I'm glad I get to play with someone like Casey Hampton," Ta'Amu said. "He's up the middle, he holds his ground. It takes more than one blocker to play him and I'm going to try to do the same thing when I get there."
That would suit the Steelers just fine. They like Ta'Amu for the same reasons he likes them, according to defensive line coach John Mitchell.
"Anytime in our scheme when you get a nose tackle, first you want to make sure that this guy can play the double-team," Mitchell said. "His job is to keep the linebackers free or the safety free when we bring the safety down in the box. If he can't do that, he'll have a tough time playing for us."
As for DeCastro, the team's top draft choice had one of his better games against Ta'Amu, so he's glad they'll be banging heads only in practice, instead of in games. Of course, he had nothing but compliments for DeCastro.
Then, Ta'Amu was asked whether he was more excited to meet Hampton or Polamalu and a tone of reverence came to his voice.
"Troy, because he represents a lot of the Polynesians out here on the West Coast and the Samoans out here," Ta'Amu said. "To be able to play next to Troy Polamalu … I've heard a lot of stories from my coaches that have coached him and they say that he is the best football player overall that they've ever played with. The way that he is out there representing Samoans and his people, I will be honored just to meet Polamalu."
Ta'Amu had problems controlling his weight in college, but that didn't stop him from starting 42 of 50 games in college, including five as a true freshman. Mitchell doesn't expect weight to be a problem for Ta'Amu in the pros.
"Guys that are coming out of college aren't used to good nutrition," Mitchell said. "There are so many players in college that it's hard for a position coach or a head coach to make sure that a guy's weight is where you want it to be. That doesn't bother me."
Mitchell is more anxious to help Ta'Amu learn his craft than he is worried about his weight.
"I'm going to teach him the things that he needs to do to be a good football player for us," Mitchell said. "He's a rookie and we're going to treat him like a rookie. We're not asking him to play tomorrow, next week or next month.
"I'm not very smart, but I know that you play with 11 on both sides of the ball. Anytime the nose tackle can take two of the other team, I know that leaves nine, so we have one more than they have. That's the way our premise is for our nose tackle. I tell him, 'You eat up two, somebody else is going to make the play.'''
The Steelers traded up 10 spots to pick Ta'Amu and sent their sixth-round pick to Washington to make the switch from 119 to 109.
In the fifth round (159 overall), the Steelers picked Florida running back Chris Rainey (5-8, 180). Rainey was a high school and college teammate of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. Speed is Rainey's best asset. He posted a 4.39 40 at the combine and also had the fastest 10-yard split (1.47) and the fastest 20-yard short shuttle (3.93).
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley described Rainey as a "situational player when it comes to offense. We've seen him do a little bit of everything."
Everything includes playing slot receiver, returning punts and blocking punts. Rainey set a school and SEC record with six blocked punts in his career.
"Plus, he's going to have to be a running back," Haley added.
Rainey has a bit of a checkered past. He was suspended from the team for three weeks while facing charges of aggravated stalking for texting an obscene threat to a former girlfriend. The charges were later reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor when he entered an intervention program. The charges were dropped when he completed the program.
The Steelers hope Rainey can prove himself enough on punt returns to take that duty away from Antonio Brown. Haley said he's not a big fan of starters playing special teams.
"When you talk about guys who are not 6-4, 220 pounds and are tough guys, sometimes they are their own worst enemy," Haley said. "They aren't going to shy away from contact. We, as coaches, have to look out for some of those guys and make sure they are around for the long haul because it's a long season."
The Steelers had four picks in the seventh round and used the first of them on wide receiver Toney Clemons (6-2, 210). The Valley High School product played two seasons at Michigan before transferring to Colorado. He sat out the 2009 season because of the transfer.
He caught 86 passes for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons with the Buffaloes, including his only three 100-yard games in his last four outings. In that span, he caught 25 passes for 476 yards and five touchdowns.
Clemons has excellent speed (mid 4.4s) for his size, but lasted into the seventh round because of what he termed a "rough career."
"I transferred, plus I had a different position coach and a different head coach every year," Clemons said. "It took me a while to find myself. Without those last four games, I wouldn't even have a shot."
With their first compensatory pick (240), the Steelers selected Oregon tight end David Paulson (6-3, 245). He is a player tight ends coach James Daniel said has good "position flexibility. He can catch, he can block on the line and he can block in the backfield," Daniel said. "He's a good football player who can contribute on special teams, as well."
Paulson was able to show his versatility in the wide-open Oregon offense. He started 26 of 27 games in his last two seasons and, for his career, caught 67 passes for 1,041 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Steelers selected Texas A&M cornerback Terrance Frederick (5-10, 187) with pick No. 246 and came back to get SMU offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum (6-2, 303) at No. 248.
Frederick started the last 39 games of his career, which he finished with 205 tackles, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions and 29 pass breakups (sixth-best in team history). He returned a blocked punt 63 yards for a touchdown against Texas Tech.
Beachum started all 52 games SMU played after a redshirt season and all 52 starts came at left tackle. Beachum said, and GM Kevin Colbert confirmed, that the Steelers will look at him at guard because of his size and his intelligence.