Steelers Look At New-Age Defender

Scott Crichton, from outside linebacker to nose tackle, is quite simply a playmaker.

The stat sheet says that the nose tackle for Oregon State in its game against rival Oregon made 6 tackles with 2 for loss. And the newspaper account of the game said that nose tackle "disrupted Oregon's offense."

But the guy relaxing at the table at the combine certainly didn't look like a nose tackle.

"No," said Scott Crichton with a laugh. "In the Civil War, yeah, I played nose tackle. It was fun, but I can see why D-tackles want to move outside."

Crichton moved back outside for his bowl game against Boise State, and caused havoc there. As per his normal routine he had 3 tackles, all for a loss, including a sack.

It went much like his season did: 47 tackles and 40 percent of them, 19, for a loss, including 7.5 sacks.

In his career at Oregon State, Crichton made 165 tackles, 51 for loss, with 22.5 sacks.

And he did it at nose tackle, defensive tackle in their 4-3, defensive end in their 3-4, defensive end in their 4-3, and three times -- he was specific about that number -- he dropped into coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

That last position is where several teams want to see him play in the NFL.

"It was like speed dating, jumping from table to table," was how Crichton described the way he met teams at the NFL combine.

He also had a few serious interviews.

"I met the Niners yesterday, and a lot of coaches of 3-4 defenses," he said "I have an interview with the Steelers today."

The Steelers must've liked how that interview went, and how Crichton performed during linebacker drills at the combine, because they had him in for another visit earlier this week.

Crichton is a 6-3, 273-pounder who ran a 4.84 40 with a 10 time of 1.62. He repped 24 times and had a vertical jump of 31.5 and a broad jump of 9-0.

There's nothing too exceptional about those numbers -- until they're compared with the rather ordinary numbers of one of today's exceptional NFL defensive linemen, Michael Bennett.

At his combine in 2009, Bennett measured 6-3 1/2, 274, ran 5.0/1.62, repped 24 times, had a vertical jump of 31 and a broad jump of 9-2. And he just led the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in sacks and signed a four-year deal for $28.5 million.

Not bad for an undrafted player.

But don't take that as a sign the Steelers would be able to draft Crichton in a late round, because the NFL puts a much higher price tag on versatility than it did when Bennett came out of Texas A&M.

"Michael Bennett is a great example," Crichton said. "I might be in the same position as him, defensive-wise."

Which means he'll have no true position. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll signed Bennett as an inside pass-rusher in 2013, and after Bennett proved he could stand up to the run, the Seahawks released 323-pound Red Bryant and re-signed Bennett to the big deal.

The difference with Crichton is that he might be able to play outside linebacker along with several spots on the defensive line.

"I'll play anywhere," he said. "4-3 D-end is where I traditionally played, but if teams want me to play that 3-4 linebacker, that rush linebacker, I'll be more than happy."

Crichton came out a year early without even checking his draft status because he wanted to help his parents. "I've taken this responsibility to take care of them," he said. "My mom works two jobs, and my dad is disabled and still works a job, too. They are getting old and I want them to retire and just stop working."

His parents landed in Tacoma, Washington, from Western Samoa and had four kids, Scott the fourth.

"But I wasn't the spoiled one," he said as quickly and proudly as when he said "I have no issues off the field. It's as simple as that."

On the field, Crichton said his strengths are "my get-off" and "my motor. All the coaches have told me I've got a great motor."

It's obvious on tape. What's not so obvious is whether he can play outside linebacker. There just isn't much evidence, good or bad.

"Playing in space?" was how he responded to the question. "Um, not a lot. I don't have a lot of experience in space. But I made some tackles in space on some screens."

The opponent's backfield was Crichton's version of "space." But he has been spending the off-season working out with API in Arizona on potentially becoming an outside linebacker.

"I've been doing both d-line drills and linebacker drills," he said.

But what about his weight? Isn't it difficult to make that decision before the draft?

"Yeah," he said, as his mind began working.

If it's linebacker?

"Then I have to lose."

And if it's nose tackle you have to start eating, right?

"Oh, no, I'm not going to nose tackle," he said with a laugh. "Oh, no, no, no, no. Those days are over."

Until it's third-and-23 and an offense needs disrupted. Then one of these new-age teams just might move their outside linebacker over the center.

"It's crazy," said the guy who's already done it.

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