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Pittsburgh Steelers continue to add speed to their defense on Day 3 of draft

But it's not just speed, explained Mike Tomlin after the Steelers wrapped up a fulfilling 2016 draft. (Undrafted free agents included.)

PITTSBURGH -- Upon the selection of lightning-quick outside linebacker Travis Feeney late in the sixth round Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter was asked by reporters for his opinion on how the team's draft was looking.

"It's looking very defensively," said Porter.

It's also looking very fast.

Feeney, out of Washington, with family roots in nearby Brownsville, Pa., had the second-fastest 40 time (4.50) of 31 timed linebackers at the NFL Combine.

Feeney joined a first-round cornerback in Artie Burns, who has a resume littered with national hurdling records; second-round safety in Sean Davis, who turned out the second-fastest set of agility times of the entire Combine; and third-round nose tackle in Javon Hargrave, who, at 309 pounds, ran his 40 in 4.93, the fastest Combine 40 time
out of all 300-pounders.

The Steelers also on Sunday added offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins in the fourth round and wide receiver/punt-returner Demarcus Ayers and inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich in the seventh round.

But speed was the common thread of the top four defensive players added to the team.

"Really excited about it, but it's playmaking as well," said Mike Tomlin. "Speed's just an element of it. Like the production of all the guys. Talked about Artie Burns' production with the six picks in '15; Sean Davis has been highly productive over the course of his career at Maryland; Matakevitch's production is well-documented. Speed is an element of it, something that we covet, but speed without production is less attractive and these guys have done it."

Feeney -- whose father was born and raised in Brownsville and moved to California after joining the Air Force -- was also a highly productive player at Washington.

After turning down an offer to play Major League baseball, Feeney was recruited by Washington as a safety. But as a redshirt freshman he started 19 games as a 4-3 outside linebacker.

Last season the Huskies went to a 3-4 alignment, and edge-rusher Feeney, a team captain, had eight sacks and 17.5 tackles-for-loss in being named the unit's Most Outstanding Player.

He finished his career with 15.5 sacks, 33 tackles-for-loss, four interceptions and five forced fumbles.

"He is a smaller guy but he runs really fast," said Porter. "He really strikes you when he puts a hit on you. I think he adds to our special-teams depth and hopefully our pass rush."

Porter said Feeney will begin as one of the Steelers' 3-4 outside linebackers.

"Freaking awesome," Feeney said of joining the Steelers. "I don't know what to say. Just sitting at home thinking nothing was going to come. My dad is from Pennsylvania, family lives out there, and I know they're all excited out there. I'll get to see my family while I'm there and they can watch me play. I'm ready to go. I'm ready to get up there and help the team out any way I can. I'm just ready to go. I'm hyped."

Feeney said he hasn't been to Brownsville since he was "about 13 years old. My dad showed me where he used to live."

Feeney was born and raised in Richmond, Ca., in the San Francisco Bay area.

The Steelers waited a prolonged amount of time to draft him -- 97 picks, or one pick fewer than the first three rounds combined.

"We probably would have taken him higher. We were very fortunate that he was there," said Colbert. "He's exciting because he flies around. He puts his body in some reckless places and does it without concern. That's very impressive. We interviewed him at the Combine. He's kind of a happy-go-lucky smiler, talker, and then when you watch him play he's a little bit of a different person."

In the fourth round, the Steelers landed the first of their two offensive players, Hawkins, the 6-5 5/8, 305-pound tackle who can play either side, but where he'll begin has yet to be determined.

"You bring a young guy in to see where he's most comfortable," said offensive line coach Mike Munchak. "The biggest thing with linemen coming in is to build their confidence up."

Hawkins, a native of Baldwin, La., a tiny town about an hour southeast of Lafayette, was a state shot put champion in high school and redshirted his first season at LSU. He started at right tackle the next two years before moving over to left tackle last season. He helped pave the way for Leonard Fournette's school rushing records of 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns.

At the NFL Combine, Hawkins ran a 5.23 40 (1.88 10) and benched 23 reps with a 23.5-inch vertical jump. Draft analysts like his strong hands and punch, his natural knee-bend and his potential as a mobile zone blocker. The negatives include tight hips and a narrow base. The LSU team captain turns 23 in October.

"I like that at LSU they run the ball quite a bit. They do a lot of things that pro offenses do," Munchak said. "He's way ahead of a lot of the linemen that come out of college and aren't exposed to a lot of the things. A lot of college linemen haven't even put their hand on the ground yet."

The Steelers concluded the draft with a pair of seventh-round picks. The first, Ayers, is a 5-9 3/8, 182-pounder who ran a slow 4.72 40, but special teams coach Danny Smith said he's fast enough to compete as a punt returner.

"Forty times matter," said Smith. "But maybe they matter too much. There's a play speed in this league and this kid plays fast. If I showed you the tape, you wouldn't think there's a match-up of the time he does."

Ayers caught 98 passes for 1,222 yards at Houston last season and returned 28 punts at 10.4 yards per clip with one touchdown. The Steelers ranked Ayers first on their list of punt-return specialists in the draft.

"You don't know what to believe, what to say, who's telling the truth," Smith said as he held up a paper with a list of names. "But that's my list. There he is."

The final pick, Matakevich, was an overwhelmingly productive inside linebacker at Temple. The 6-0, 238-pounder is slow by comparison to the rest of the defenders drafted, but his 4.78 Combine 40 didn't slow him from becoming his school's all-time leader with 493 tackles. He also became Temple's first defensive first-team All-America and the first overall All-America since running back Paul Palmer in 1986.

A three-time team captain, Matakevich was the only player in Division One to lead his team in tackles every week last season. He may lack the speed to cover on third downs, but could become a core special-teams player.

"You watch Temple play, he makes all the tackles," said Tomlin. "I have a lot of respect for the tape he put out, the quality of his play."

Undrafted Free Agents

Johnny Maxey, DL, 6-5, 283, Mars Hill

Tyriq McCord, LB, 6-3, 241, Miami

Will Monday, P, 6-4, 210, Duke

Giorgio Newberry, DL, 6-6, 295, Florida State

Christian Powell, RB, 6-0, 235, Colorado

David Reeves, TE, 6-5, 255, Duke

Jay Rome, TE, 6-6, 250, Georgia

Quinton Schooley, OL, 6-4, 298, NC State

Canaan Severin, WR, 6-2, 205, Virginia

Devaunte Sigler, DL, 6-3, 290, Jacksonville State










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