Room For Another Long, Tall 5-Tech?

Henry Anderson of Stanford looks as if he was born to play in the Steelers' 3-4 scheme. Here's what the big man had to say about that.

Now, if I have this right, the signing of defensive end Clifton Geathers to a one-year contract yesterday shouldn't be taken as a sign that the Pittsburgh Steelers are plugging this particular hole with a non-productive journeyman. It's probably only temporary.

That's what they all told us about Darrius Heyward-Bey anyway last week.

"They" being what can only be described as team apologists, because DHB is certainly looking like a roster lock at wide receiver due to that particular position having had two holes before the signing.

It's not the case at defensive end where Geathers filled the only roster hole behind -- gulp -- top reserve Cam Thomas.

So, competition might be able to put Geathers back on the open market, where he's been eight times since being drafted five years ago by the Cleveland Browns.

And I have just the right man for the spot. In fact, Henry Anderson could throw a scare into Thomas as the next end up behind starters Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.

After all, the 6-6 1/4 Anderson looks like he was born to become a Steelers 5-tech, or 3-4 defensive end.

"Yeah, I've heard that," Anderson said at the combine.

Has he heard that when he gets those long arms out in front of him and creates space with his blocker that he looks like Aaron Smith?

Particularly with that No. 91 on his chest?

"Um, no, haven't heard that one," Anderson said with a laugh.

But he does have that look, and the production to match. As a three-year starter in Stanford's 3-4, Anderson made 142 tackles, had 32 tackles for loss, 17 sacks and seven passes defensed.

Last season was his best, naturally, as the big man had a team-high 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. He was named to the Pac-12 first team, as well as the Pac-12 All-Academic team for the third time.

Anderson's most recent work has been sublime. He had 6.5 sacks in his last four games, opened eyes with his one-one-one work during Senior Bowl week, and at the combine ran a 5.03 40 (1.63 10) and his agility times weren't bettered by anyone weighing more than 271 pounds.

In fact, among prospects weighing within 50 pounds of the 294-pound Anderson, only nine bettered his 7.2 3-cone time and only three beat his 4.19 clocking in the short shuttle.

That's one agile big man.

And there's more.

"Scouts love his intelligence and team-first attitude," wrote Lance Zierlein for NFL.com. "Will pursue hard to the sideline and rarely gives offensive linemen a snap off."

"I just love competing," said Anderson. "That's part of the reason I chose Stanford, I like competing on the football field and I like competing in the classroom. I try and beat everyone else on the test or the paper or whatever. I just love competing. In football I just never want to get beat by anyone. I always want to dominate the guy that's in front of me. I don't think there's a better feeling in the world than manhandling the dude you're playing against, just embarrassing him."

Sounds a lot like the undrafted DE who was plucked off the Steelers' practice squad by the Arizona Cardinals last season. Except Anderson's former linemate at Stanford, Josh Mauro (6-5.7, 271), wasn't as big, athletic, or as productive as Anderson was at Stanford.

Mauro did find his way into the hearts of Steelers fans by the way he played last preseason. Anderson would no doubt do the same.

"I don't know about that," Anderson said. "But, yeah, playing the Steelers' 3-4 -- consistently one of the best defenses in the league -- would obviously be an honor for anybody."

Anderson's draft range is pegged at anywhere from the second round to the fourth. Yes, he's big, agile and has a great motor and work ethic, and an intense competitive will, but his down side, according to Zierlein, are Anderson's "Slender legs, tight hips and boring feet," Zierlein wrote. " Lacks power to play inside. On the ground far too often. Must improve hand usage as pass rusher. ... Benefited from team-oriented defensive scheme."

Stanford no doubt plays solid team defense. Anderson matriculated there from his hometown of Atlanta just as the Cardinal were moving into their 3-4 scheme. Anderson grew up under coordinator Vic Fangio, who has since moved on to the 49ers and now the Bears, and also grew up working against current Steelers right guard David DeCastro.

"I do remember going against him quite a bit," Anderson said of playing the scout team opposite DeCastro as a freshman. "Obviously he was a stud. I was 260 pounds trying to go against him, so I didn't have a lot of fun playing across from him. Yeah, he was a stud. I think I beat him once on a pass rush. Other than that he was pretty dominant."

What about as a friend?

Anderson chuckled.

"Yeah. Yeah," Anderson said as he tried to gather his thoughts about the no-nonsense guard. "He's definitely -- there are some stories I'm not going to tell, but, yeah, he's definitely not the nicest -- uh -- he's got a mean streak when he's on the field. He's different off of it, but he definitely gets after it when he's on the field."

Did DeCastro ever help him up?

"Oh, no," Anderson said with a laugh. "No."

Perhaps if the Steelers get lucky in the fourth round -- as they did 16 years ago with another long, tall No. 91 -- Anderson can go through the process all over again.


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