Easy to calculate draft needs

From the notebook of a sportswriter who's gotten so far ahead of the draft game he's begun worrying about Drew Henson's holdout with the Steelers:

  • Let's see. The Steelers now have ex-Lions backing up both cornerback spots, all four linebacker spots, quarterback and all points along the offensive line. Unless future ex-Lions can be found at running back, wide receiver and safety, those would figure to be the draft needs.

  • We have a lot of fun with Kevin Colbert being "The Lion King" and turning Pittsburgh into "East Detroit" -- no place anyone should be lost in -- but the fact of the matter is he's brought in some pretty decent players. Chidi Iwuoma has been a revelation as a kick coverer; Clint Kriewaldt's alright; Charlie Batch is a quality back-up who keeps his mouth shut. There's nothing wrong with bringing Terry Fair in for a visit. He's minimum wage with an upside.

  • If Ken Whisenhunt is anything like his mentor, Dan Henning, the Steelers' offense will have its running game back at peak efficiency soon enough. Henning drafted Whisenhunt in Atlanta and convinced Al Groh to hire him as tight ends coach with the New York Jets in 2000. Henning is now the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers and is being lauded as a genius in the running game. If Bill Belichick can't find a way to stop the Panthers in the Super Bowl, Henning's legend will grow exponentially.

  • Whisenhunt also mentioned that his other major influence is Joe Gibbs, which meshes nicely with Russ Grimm's recent promotion. Grimm, the new assistant head coach, is the coach who briefs the Steelers on their offensive adjustments at halftime. He's also the only assistant on the sideline to whom Coach Bill Cowher listens in clock management matters.

  • Back to Henson. Beyond the technicalities and, frankly, the nerve it would take to deliver his rights to the Steelers, there is the matter of signing him. The problem, on paper, would appear to be giving a second- or third-round pick the money a franchise quarterback has come to expect. But there would certainly be give and take on both sides. Both sides would understand the uniqueness of the situation, and Henson would surely realize that the Steelers can't fit everything under their cap. If there's as much mutual interest as I suspect, the deal would get done. It makes you wonder, though, if Cowher would need a contract extension before pursuing this course of action.

  • The way Dan Rooney is raving about his "outstanding" coach, we can assume a contract extension is upcoming.

  • Just wondering about new quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple from UMass. Was he brought in to speak New Englandese to Boston College's Brian St. Pierre? Seems like a waste when Henson's old quarterbacks coach, Stan Parrish, was recently cut loose by Tampa Bay.

  • Two more reasons to draft Chris Gamble -- motivate Chad Scott and the play of Andre Woolfolk. The former has coasted too long with his starting job. The latter was another converted wide receiver and raw cornerback talent who played very well as a nickel back for the Tennessee Titans last season.

  • Another draft pick who'd provide needed motivation would be D.J. Williams of Miami. This guy was to Jonathan Vilma last season what Ricky Jackson was to Hugh Green in Pitt's glory days. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Williams would not simply motivate Alonzo, he'd put the fear of NFL extinction in him.

  • Should we root for Pitt tight end Kris Wilson to run a poor 40 time at the combine? Yes, because we know he has football speed. Wilson recently was measured at 6 feet 1. Combine that unimpressive statistic with a pedestrian 40 time and you have a quality tight end slipping into, say, the fifth round. That kind of pick would be gold for the Steelers, who need a young tight end.

  • Running back Mewelde Moore showed some flashes in the Senior Bowl, but appeared rusty after missing the last month of the season with a hand injury. He missed some holes, but did flash some speed and reportedly has great hands (they didn't throw to him in the game). One scout compared Moore to Emmitt Smith, and the sizes are very similar, but Moore looks like a third-rounder.

  • Greg Jones had two big runs out of the fullback position and made a couple of cutbacks that showed more change-of-direction than he had this season. Maybe he's getting over his knee problem. Maybe he's the next Jerome Bettis (he does wear No. 6 in college). But his pass-catching problems will force him out of passing packages and you have to wonder if he'll pop through those holes as a tailback because he won't want to stay at fullback. Jones hits harder with the ball in his hands than he does without it anyway.

  • Philip Rivers stole the show in Mobile. He dominated the Senior Bowl, a mishmash of an all-star game in which quarterbacks rarely play up to their potential. Rivers was even off his game and still dominated. Whine all you want about his funky delivery and short throws, but the short-to-intermediate game is what the NFL's all about these days. He showed enough of a long ball to keep defenses honest. Mark my words, this QB will win more games than Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger in the NFL, and winning games is what it's all about.

  • How many games do you suppose J.P. Losman will win? If he wins 5, I'll lose my bet.

  • Those who've watched Tom Brady blossom into a champion keep pointing out that QBs can be had in the sixth round. Well, which of the five or six candidates do you take your chance on this year? Casey Claussen? Crack Smoker? Cody Pickens? It's not an easy call and it's not a call the Steelers have been able to make over the last, oh, 70 years. It's time to take the sure thing.


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