Ruszkowski / USA TODAY Sports Images

Pittsburgh Steelers' third-round pick Javon Hargrave a pass-rushing nose tackle

Joy erupted not only from wide-eyed Steelers' third-round pick Javon Hargrave, but from salty veteran d-line coach John Mitchell. A must read.

PITTSBURGH -- John Mitchell's been around way too long to throw bouquets at rookies, but maybe the veteran defensive line coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers really, really likes this one.

And maybe 6-1 1/2, 309-pound third-round pick Javon Hargrave is a really, really good one.

"The first thing I'd like to say," said Mitchell, "If Mr. (Bill) Nunn was alive today, he would really like this pick."

Nunn once scouted a Steelers legend out of South Carolina State, one Donnie Shell. So it was somewhat symbolic that Mitchell remembered Nunn after going down to South Carolina State himself to scout Hargrave, a young nose tackle with pass-rush capability.

"Javon Hargrave is a self-made man," continued Mitchell. "When he graduated (high school), he didn't have the grades to go to school. He set out, worked hard, worked his way in, got there and played very well. Out of anyone coming out this year, defensive linemen or defensive tackle, this guy is pretty impressive."

Hargrave is a big nose tackle who's quick off the ball and was a disruptive penetrator as the two-time MEAC Player of the Year in college. He compiled 37 sacks in his career, including 29.5 the last two seasons. At the NFL Combine he ran the 40 in 4.9, had a vertical jump of 34.5 inches, a broad jump of 9-1 and 29 reps on the bench press.

All of those numbers are eye-popping for a big man who once had six sacks in a game he didn't even start. It was against Bethune-Cookman during his junior season.

"He played up to his ability," Mitchell said. "He didn't play down to the talent that he faced. That's the problem that you have with a lot of guys that come from small schools. If they don't dominate the league that they play in, you're worried about if they are really competitive. This guy was competitive week-in and week-out."

Mitchell said Hargrave will play nose tackle but that "I'm looking for some guys that can come in and help us where (Cam) Heyward and (Stephon) Tuitt don't have to play 65 to 70 plays a game. I think if this guy comes in with the attitude he's had in college, and works really hard to pick up our scheme, I think he can help us.

"I'll tell you this, he will give us a new dimension for a big man in our sub-package."

It's the speed Hargrave possess that will make up that new dimension.

"The speed that he has and the quickness he has getting off the ball," Mitchell said. "He's going to be a big addition for us."

Mitchell was on a roll like few times in his 23 years with the Steelers. Was he perhaps pounding the proverbial table for Hargrave in earlier rounds?

"I thought we got him where he should go," Mitchell said. "I'm really happy. I told Mike Tomlin that if this guy was around in the third round or fourth round, if there was any way we could pick him, let's take him.

"I'm really happy. I think we got the best bargain getting him in the third round."

Mitchell may have been happy, but he wasn't crying tears of joy.

Hargrave was.

"I can't believe it," said the Salisbury, North Carolina native. "I grew up a Pittsburgh fan. I can't believe it, man. That's crazy. It's a crazy feeling, for real. I can't really speak. I can't believe it. It's just a blessing. It's just a real blessing."

Hargrave, of course, was a Casey Hampton fan.

"I was a fan of that whole defense growing up," he said. "Especially in those days when we were No. 1 -- 2008 -- the No. 1 defense. That's what I pride myself on, looking at guys like that."

Hargrave visited the Rooney Sports Complex for a pre-draft visit and "I tried not to show how happy I was to be there, but it was like, 'I'm really here?' It was crazy, just the whole thing. I kept telling everybody Pittsburgh was probably my best trip, but they all thought it was because it was my favorite team growing up. It was just because they made you feel welcome and at home, so that was great for me."


Steel City Insider Top Stories