Wexell: Looking at Steelers' draft

These are the thoughts of a sportswriter who must disclose that they're tainted by a healthy respect for Kevin Colbert:

• Otherwise, I might've been disappointed with the draft.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers' first day was fine. I hadn't been a Santonio Holmes fan until hearing from the many Ohio State fans who've watched him more closely. So I re-watched the Fiesta Bowl and saw that Holmes is explosive. More impressive in that game was his blocking. Holmes played like a man who cares.

• The 2006 Fiesta Bowl will be replayed at midnight (12:01 a.m. Thursday). Watch two plays in particular: Holmes's block during Ted Ginn's reverse and Holmes's block that sprung running back Antonio Pittman for a long touchdown.

• Trading up for Holmes wasn't as difficult as expected. Perhaps other teams held my same reservations about the small, skinny receiver. Anyway, he was the best all-around receiver in a draft that was thin at the position. Teams who needed a receiver couldn't confidently pass on Holmes and expect to get a good one later. In fact, the Bears, picking 26th, would've taken Holmes, but had to trade out of the spot once Holmes was taken. They never did draft a receiver.

• The Giants hoped to draft John McCargo at No. 32 and missed. They drafted Mathias Kiwanuka instead and added Gerris Wilkerson and my favorite O-line project, Guy Whimper, with those Steelers picks.

• Funny that after years of hearing personnel folks say "you can get a receiver anywhere," the Steelers had to trade third- and fourth-round draft picks to get one.

• In a refreshing twist, Holmes was happy to fall to pick No. 25. He wasn't thinking about lost revenue when he said, "I had no doubt I would drop to 25." It sounded like it was his goal.

• The trade-up didn't hurt the Steelers because of the generosity of the Minnesota Vikings. They traded two third-round picks to the Steelers in order to grab Alabama State QB Tavaris Jackson. Imagine the disappointment in the igloos of the great white north.

• The Steelers wanted Anthony Smith in the second round, but used the 4.7+ 40 time he ran at the combine to their advantage. They knew teams would put too much emphasis on the time, so they traded down and drafted Smith in the third. Willie Reid was a cherry on top.

• Someone Who Should Know told me after the draft that Smith is a "flat-out 'baller." I think that's as effusive as the Steelers get about players.

• Secondary coach and former eighth-round pick Darren Perry entered the media room to speak about Smith. Someone asked if Smith reminded Perry of anyone he knew. "I wish I had this guy's athletic ability," Perry said with a wide grin.

• Smith did tie for his position lead with a 41-inch vertical jump.

* Ryan Clark reported to the Steelers' facility a week before the draft to begin studying tape. Perry said that when he was coaching with the Bengals he wanted to acquire Clark, but couldn't -- until now. "Guys like that you keep your eye on," Perry said.

• The third pick, Reid, was a great pick. I always say that if you're going to error with too much, always error on the side of too much speed.

• Honest. I always say that.

• Reid will have the early advantage over Holmes because he'll be at all of the spring practices. It'll be interesting to see if he holds that edge through training camp.

• Neither WR will open up ahead of Nate Washington. Bill Cowher gives deserving vets the first chance and he has no reason to believe Washington won't continue to progress.

• A former running back, Reid should emerge as option No. 1 in the trickoration department. Although, we may see Cedrick Wilson show off the arm that made him the MVP of the 1996 Tennessee state championship game.

• The WR corps is quite interesting now, isn't it?

• The second day of the draft kind of left me cold. The Steelers could've done so much, but seemed to draft practice-squad projects again. I worry that 4A pick Willie Colon follows in the tradition of Bo Lacy, Drew Caylor and Mathias Nkwenti as second-day O-line projects that missed.

• I presume Colon was a guy they really wanted and weren't going to mess around waiting any longer. How else to explain drafting the 6-foot-3, 320-pound tackle from Hofstra so early? It sure wasn't the 5.36 40 he ran. Anyway, based on the information I've outlined this was the riskiest pick.

• Colon is an eloquent speaker. He reminded me of the late James Parrish.

Orien Harris was beat up by the LSU offensive line in the Peach Bowl, but then again, most Miami Hurricanes got beat up that night. I did note, at the time, that Harris was a better pass rusher than run-stopper, but deduced he was far from a first-round pick as most draftniks were expecting.

• The Saturday night between draft sessions, Someone Who Should Know ran down about five different techniques and positions that Harris couldn't play in the NFL, so I was kind of surprised to see the Steelers make him their 4B pick.

• It's tough to switch from not liking someone as a first-rounder to liking him as a fourth-rounder, so I'll just observe for awhile. Line coach John Mitchell was excited about Harris, so that's a plus. The minus sign appeared five minutes later during the conference call with Harris. I couldn't perceive any enthusiasm. The fact he's the younger brother of underachiever Kwame Harris didn't help that perception.

* One draft guide reported that Orien Harris's love of the game is in question, so I asked him if he loves the game. "It's all I want to do. It's my first love," Harris said in a flat tone.

Kyle Williams, the next player taken, would've shown enthusiasm. I don't know him, but I did watch him play three games last season and saw Chris Hoke. Williams brings everything on every play, like Hoke.

• Ryan O'Callaghan, the 6-foot-7, 343-pound tackle-guard from Cal, went two picks after Williams. He'd have been my O-line pick in the fourth.

• My favorite mid-round prospect, tweener linebacker Parys Haralson, went four picks after O'Callaghan, and Texas' 6-6, 314-pound left tackle, Jonathan Scott, went right after Haralson. Those are four players I'd have taken instead of Colon and Harris.

• The fifth-round pick doesn't do much for me, either, and it doesn't help to remember that Colbert also drafted Brian St. Pierre and Tee Martin in the fifth round. Omar Jacobs, frankly, throws like a … a … well, he throws funny. Yes, he's bigger than Bruce Gradkowski, and is a year younger, but I'd rather have Gradkowski.

• It's been said that Gradkowski is a West Coast-offense QB, but he showed a big enough arm in the Shrine Bowl for my taste. He could play for the Steelers. I think he's the Tom Brady/Marc Bulger pick that I wanted in 2000, when the Steelers instead chose Martin.

• Kevin Gilbride walked into the media room in obvious disgust after the Martin pick. Mark Whipple was the opposite after the Jacobs pick.

• The second fifth-round pick, Charles Davis, looks like the worst the Steelers made. With so many tight ends in this draft, to come away with a finesse receiver who doesn't have much speed is a disappointment.

• After the draft, Colbert was asked about the selection of their sixth-round pick. He said, "Coach (Cowher) said at one point, let's talk about who is the best football player that is left and Marvin Philip fit that description because he's a very intense, tough, smart player."

• I wonder if the pick of the slow-but-weak tight end one round earlier had disgusted Cowher.

• In watching Haloti Ngata a second time, two days before the draft, I came away impressed with the center blocking him. But the draft guides didn't have anything good to say about him, so I forgot all about Marvin Philip until the Steelers drafted him in the sixth round.

• Philip strikes me as a Mike Webster-type who isn't the best athlete but he's strong and will fight until the end.

• The seventh-round choice of big back Cedric Humes continued that end-of-draft momentum, and the Steelers carried it into free agency with the signings of Mike Kudla and Mike Lorello. It gave the second day some bulk, in my opinion.

• Since there isn't room for nine new players on the roster, the Steelers are being criticized for keeping too many draft picks. But to me, the nine picks should've all been used on serious competitors for jobs, the practice squad be damned. Let the competition kick-start training camp.

• In five years, this draft could be viewed as a missed opportunity because of the weak second day. But, on the flip side, a championship team that didn't have any holes just got faster.


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