Notebook: Never too much speed

The Steelers drafted two speed demons for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a heady free safety for the rest of Steeler Nation.

One speed demon wasn't enough.

After trading out of the second round to acquire two third-round picks, the Pittsburgh Steelers ended the first day of draft weekend the way they began it: picking a speedy wide receiver who doubles as a kick returner.

That's what the Steelers found when they drafted Florida State's Willie Reid with the 31st pick of the third round.

"It's just the way the board fell," said receivers coach Bruce Arians. "We had Willie way up there."

Reid is a 5-foot-10 ½, 188-pound former running back who ran a 4.36 40 at the Combine. He moved to wide receiver in 2004 and became a starter last season, when he caught 50 passes for 634 yards and a touchdown. Reid also returned 31 punts at an average of 17.5 per return to finish fourth in the nation. He tied a school record with three touchdown returns.

"He's another extremely fast, quick guy," Arians said. "He's a dynamic player with the ball in his hands, like in the Orange Bowl. It's hard to pass on a guy like that."

In the Orange Bowl against Penn State, Reid had 180 yards in punt returns, including an 87-yard return for a touchdown.

"He has good hands, big-time speed and can run with it after the catch," Arians said. "We have the ability to return kicks. Kevin Spencer might have the most dynamic part of the offense now."


While the Steelers grabbed a couple of 4.3 speed-burners, they also drafted free safety Anthony Smith in the second round. He ran 4.71 and 4.76 40s at the Combine.

"He's a playmaker from Syracuse with great ball skills, is an excellent tackler and is smart," said Steelers defensive backs coach Darren Perry. "When things break loose in space he can get them on the ground, and that's what we look for in this defense: athletic safeties who can run and make plays on the ball. I think he'll be a good complement to Troy (Polamalu)."

But what about those slow 40 times?

"His 40-yard dash time was a little slow compared to some of the other safeties," Perry said. "Sometimes you have to look beyond that because he did much better at his individual work out at Syracuse. Not to make excuses for the kid but he kind of stumbled a little bit coming out."

At his Pro Day, Smith improved his 40 time, but only slightly. His times were 4.57, 4.65 and 4.67, according to

The most impressive workout number for the 5-11½, 192-pound free safety was his 41-inch vertical jump at the Combine. It tied for first among all safeties.

Of course, those numbers mean little to the Steelers, who base their rankings on what they see on film.

"We look at football players and this guy's a football player," Perry said. "He plays much faster than his 40 time would indicate. That won't be an issue."

Perry liked the fact Smith played hard, from start to finish, for a lousy Syracuse team. In a loss to Pitt at Heinz Field last season, Smith intercepted a pass in the end zone and blocked a punt.

In his career, Smith intercepted 14 passes to rank third all-time at Syracuse. Last year he had six interceptions, recovered three fumbles and caused two others. He was a first-team All-Big East selection.

"The more you watched, the more you were impressed with him," Perry said. "He's a complete player. When we brought him in, I spent some time with him on the board and he's very sharp. I don't think he'll have a problem coming in and learning our system at all because that's another area that we take very seriously – guys being able to come in and pick up our system because it's complicated and it does take guys time to learn it. He was pretty sharp from day one."


The Steelers don't believe in the points value board that other teams use to make trades, but according to the system they came away close to even.

In the first trade, in which the Steelers shipped third and fourth-round picks to move up seven spots, the Steelers lost a scant 29 points. In the second trade, in which the Steelers moved down 19 spots and picked up a late third-round pick, they gained 25 points. The net for the day was minus four.

The Steelers wanted a safety in the second round, but with Smith, Darnell Bing and Ko Simpson still on the board, they knew they could get one later, particularly Smith, who was rated below the other two players on most draft boards because of his slow 40 time.

"We thought that was going to happen," said Perry. "Anthony Smith was our fourth-rated safety coming off the board. There were some good players there with (Michael) Huff, (Jason) Allen and (Donte) Whitner. We knew they weren't going to be there when we picked but we thought that Smith would be there for us and we were lucky enough to get him."

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