2006 Draft Preview: Linebacker

Last year at this time, the Steelers were fortunate the player they coveted – tight end Heath Miller – was unable to work out in the weeks leading up to the draft because of a sports hernia that required surgery when Virginia's season ended.

Thus a player who was no worse than a top-20 talent fell to the Steelers at the bottom of the first round.

Could the same thing happen two years in a row?

It's quite possible as the Steelers are very interested in Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter.

But because the 6-3, 255-pound Carpenter suffered a broken fibula in Ohio State's final regular season game, he was unable to participate in many of the drills at the draft combine. Though he did come back and participate in Ohio State's pro day – running 4.66 and 4.68 in the 40 – he did so at an estimated 90 percent according to the team's trainers.

The son of former New York Giants running back Rob Carpenter, the young linebacker, who played for his father in high school, honed his skills at running down running backs by running down calves on the family's farm in Lancaster, Ohio.

Carpenter is definitely on the Steelers' radar as a first-round possibility this year, as is Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway, a former nine-on-nine player in his high school days in rural Iowa.

A month ago, most experts would have said there was no way Greenway would fall to the Steelers at the end of the first round, but for some reason, many have the All-American linebacker falling.

Greenway ran 4.58 and 4.62 40s at Iowa's pro day before injuring his hamstring, so he has plenty of speed and is capable in coverage. He's not as accomplished a blitzer as Carpenter, however, and would likely be used at inside linebacker more than he would outside.

The Steelers taking an outside linebacker and keeping him at that position would be something of a change. The team usually looks for undersized defensive ends to shift to outside linebacker, taking advantage of a high number of smallish players that other teams have no use for.

But with more teams shifting to 3-4 defenses, the market is getting a little tougher to take advantage of.

Florida State defensive end Kamerion Wimbley (6-3, 245) has the measurables, but the team may still be smarting from the pick of former Seminoles star Alonzo Jackson a couple of years ago in the second round. Plus, the Steelers would likely have to take Wimbley in the first round if they wanted him because he won't last until the end of the second.

If the Steelers choose to wait and take a project a little later, Georgia Tech's Eric Henderson or Alabama's Mark Anderson would be nice picks in the third round.

A little later in the draft, Syracuse's Ryan Lacasse or Brandon Guillory from Louisiana-Monroe would be interesting picks.

At inside linebacker, the Steelers like D'Qwell Jackson from Maryland. But the 6-0, 230-pound Jackson would need to add a few pounds to hold up on the inside in the Steelers' 3-4. He would provide immediate competition for Larry Foote, but would probably have to be taken in the second round.

Stanford's Jon Alston could probably be had a round or two later, though he's a little lighter. Alston, however, has similar speed to former Steelers' inside linebacker Kendrell Bell and would be an excellent blitzer coming up the middle.

Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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