Steelers' interests vary at combine

The Pittsburgh Steelers showed interest in players at positions expected to be weakened by free agency next month. The Steelers also showed interest in players they just flat out like.

Linebackers, running backs and safeties were the main targets of the Steelers, but there was some interest at some other positions as well.

Without any further ado, here's what we now know:

The Steelers talked to running backs Wali Lundy of Virginia and Maurice Drew of UCLA, two guys, it would seem, who would be a mid-round replacement for third-down back Verron Haynes. Given that the team is looking in that direction, it would seem that Duce Staley's standing with the team is safe – for now.

Lundy is a 5-10, 214-pounder who was timed at 4.55 and 4.60 seconds in his two 40s at Indianapolis. Those aren't burning times, but Lundy is a powerful inside runner who was a wide receiver in high school. Lundy, who could eventually be an every-down back, was a college teammate of last year's No. 1 pick, Heath Miller, so the Steelers may have some inside scoop there as well.

At just a shade over 5-6, Drew doesn't have the size you'd want in running back, but he also weighed in at 207 pounds, so he's no pushover. An electrifying return man, Drew could be used to help replace Antwaan Randle El – if/when he leaves as a free agent. Drew ran the 40 in 4.47 and 4.43 seconds at the combine, showing plenty of speed, more, in fact, than Randle El. Again, another player who could also replace Haynes as the third-down back. clocked him at 4.39 in the 40, one of the fastest times put up on Indianapolis' slow track.

At linebacker, the Steelers looked more at guys they may have to take in the first two rounds as they seem intent on adding some much-needed premium depth at the position.

The team talked to Iowa's Chad Greenway, a sure first-rounder and Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter, another player who figures into the end of the first round.

If it's Greenway they covet, a trade up may be in order. The sideline-to-sideline tackling machine is a guy who could play inside or out, but is widely viewed as a top 20 pick.

Carpenter, on the other hand, could be there when the Steelers pick at 32. At 6-2 1/2, 256 pounds, he could also play inside or out. An ankle injury kept him from working out at the combine, but he expects to be ready to work out by the time Ohio State has its pro day.

The Steelers also talked to Tennessee tweener Parys Haralson, a 6-1, 253-pounder. Quick off the edge with a variety of pass rush moves, Haralson had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and is no worse than a second-round pick after picking up 21 career sacks at UT, including 8 1/2 during the team's disappointing 2005 season.

At the safety position, Ohio State's Donte Whitner, a 5-10, 204-pound free safety caught the team's eye. Whitner is considered a strong second-round prospect, showing that the Steelers aren't likely to go for a safety in the first round even if Chris Hope leaves as expected.

Stanford defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo drew interest from the team. The 6-0 1/8, 305-pound Oshinowo is a nose tackle-type who would be a mid-round draft pick at best. He went to Stanford to be an engineer and got his degree in Electrical Engineering, so maybe the team talked to him about re-wiring Heinz Field's scoreboard to play something other than songs that aren't at least 10 years old.

Then again, they may have talked to him to bring up the team GPA. Babatunde Oluwasegun Temitope Oluwakorede Adisa Oshinowo Jr. – that's right, he has six names – was born in Columbus, Ohio, but his parents grew up in Nigeria and met at Oxford.

On a serious note, the Steelers may be looking at the possibility of moving Chris Hoke into the rotation at defensive end if Brett Keisel and/or Kimo von Oelhoffen leave as free agents.

On the offensive line, Pitt tackle Charles Spencer (6-5, 330), who most view as an NFL guard, drew the team's interest. A big man with good feet, Spencer is seen as a solid second-rounder who could give the Steelers a swing guy in 2006 and a guy who could challenge Chris Kemoeatu for the starting right guard spot in 2007 when Kendall Simmons isn't likely to be re-signed.

Another interesting guy is Oklahoma's Davin Joseph another big guy with good feet. Joseph can also play center in addition to guard and also played tackle last season. Now that's value.

Speaking of centers, message board favorite Nick Mangold of Ohio State checked in at just under 300 pounds and ran his 40s in 5.05 and 5.07. But with the team working to restructure the deals of both Jeff Hartings and Chukky Okobi, it doesn't look like Mangold is on the team's radar at this point. That could change by the end of the week if they have to cut one or both of them.

Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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