Steelers have options at fifteen

Finally, a set of rankings to believe in. Tom Marino has worked in various pro personnel departments for 35 years and it shows. He's now living the high life – as a writer - for Scout.com and his pre-combine player rankings come closer to my way of thinking than any that I've seen.

With the combine set to begin this week, here's a closer look – through Marino's rankings – at the players who'll tempt the Pittsburgh Steelers at pick No. 15:

* No. 12 – ADAM CARRIKER, DE, Nebraska. Mike Tomlin has us right where he wants us: in the dark. Oh, there's been speculation about his intentions on defense, but Tomlin hasn't indicated he's leaning in any direction, schematically. "Players defy scheme," he said, and I take that to mean he'll find the athletes first and then come up with the appropriate scheme. The first great athlete to come his way might be Aaron Smith, Jr., a.k.a. Carriker. One look at the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder makes that clear, and it's also evident on tape. Carriker doesn't bowl you over until you realize he's the rare college DE who's being coached to take on blockers and control two gaps at the point of attack. He's the best run-stopping DE in the draft. He also played plenty of 3-4 end, 4-3 dime tackle and dime nose at Nebraska. And the few times he's been unleashed he's not only produced, he's flashed. In the Cotton Bowl he beat Ben Grubbs easily on one pass rush, and also got a sack as a NT. Carriker had a similarly sublime performance against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.

Of course, the question is: Do the Steelers need another Aaron Smith? If we're trying to summarize neatly with a scheme in mind, no, they don't. But line coach John Mitchell has said he won't retire until Aaron Smith does. He LOVES Smith as a player, and it would behoove the Steelers to grab his clone should they get the opportunity. At the very least, the Steelers could use another DE in their 3-4 rotation.

* No. 13 – DARRELLE REVIS, CB, Pitt. Tape doesn't reveal much, other than the fact that top opponents respected Revis a great deal. Both WVU and Louisville threw at him exactly one time. WVU tried Revis deep on a fourth-and-one play-action pass and Revis intentionally dropped the pick. Louisville did beat him deep, but Revis interfered and Pitt blocked the subsequent FG attempt. Revis is similar in build to Ty Law, and Revis's speed is a question mark, as was Law's when he was drafted 23rd in 1995. Marino estimates Revis's 40 time at 4.5, which Revis says he'll thrash at the combine. If he does, he'll be the top CB drafted.

But do the Steelers need a CB? Ike Taylor slumped last year, yet it appears the Steelers are blaming the coaching (re: Darren Perry's departure), so drafting a CB in the first round isn't likely. But, value is the rule of thumb on draft day and there's no position more hyper-inflated in NFL free agency than CB. Check the price tags this year and you'll realize that Taylor's "big" contract last year has become the going rate for dime backs.

* No. 14 – MARSHAWN LYNCH, RB, Cal. In the race to define the Steelers' defensive preference, this Tomlin quote, on finding a second running back, has been overlooked as a first-round clue: "We need one. We have potential men identified. … If you look at the teams in the conference championship games, all of them had two backs." And the second backs to arrive with those teams – Reggie Bush, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai, Laurence Maroney – were all drafted in the first round.

On tape against USC, Lynch (5-10½, 220, 4.55 estimated speed) seems to go down too easily, but he was playing on a tender ankle. Upon second glance, in the Holiday Bowl, I saw a player with plenty of heart who was difficult to bring down. His strength and tenacity mesh with a package of shiftiness, quickness, size and pass-catching ability. And forget about that alleged skirmish with the law. It appears as if someone tried to out-scheme the soon-to-be millionaire, and of course the uncovering of the scheme wasn't given a tenth of the play that was given the original story.

Lynch may not be the logical complement to Willie Parker that the bigger Tony Hunt would be, but Lynch is almost as big as Hunt and certainly faster. He's a player.

* No. 15 – TED GINN, WR, Ohio State. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would like to implement more four-wide sets on run downs, but his Nos. 3-5 receivers consist of a veteran disappointment (Cedrick Wilson), a raw, inconsistent tease (Nate Washington), and an injured novice who's small enough to be injured again (Willie Reid).

Ginn would make sense as a return man and home-run hitter out of the slot, but the Steelers will look at his raw route-running and his non-existent blocking and forget about the 4.3 40 that he won't be able to run at the combine because of the foot he injured when his team piled on him in the end zone after he returned the opening kickoff in the national title game.

* No. 16 – BEN GRUBBS, OG, Auburn. Kendall Simmons enters the final year of his first contract and the Steelers can't be too happy about his performance at guard over the years. He runs well, and that was the lure from the start, but he doesn't hit anybody when he gets there. Neither is he the type to root out big tackles in the run game. However, a move to center could be in the offing, as Arians has indicated, and it could revive Simmons's career. On the field, he'd fill the void left by the retired Jeff Hartings, and, off the field, he'd give the Steelers more info about his future.

Grubbs can't run nearly as well as Simmons, but he's a mauler-brawler who won't have near the trouble physically with the Jamal Williamses and Marcus Strouds of the AFC world that Simmons has had. Grubbs also practiced at center at the Senior Bowl, which adds to his value.

Of course, if the Steelers opt to leave Simmons at right guard, with Chris Kemoeatu in reserve, Grubbs won't be the pick.

* No. 17 – DWAYNE JARRETT, WR, USC. Receivers, like defensive backs, are difficult to grade because TV scouts such as myself can't see the entire field. Every now and then you'll see a WR make a block, but not Jarrett. His knock is that he's not physical enough and this was evident in the Rose Bowl. Of course, he's a tall WR, which Ben Roethlisberger craves, and he's got great hands, but even those 205 receiving yards against Michigan aren't enough for the Steelers if the guy refuses to block.

In the first draft without Bill Cowher, the Steelers will want to make a point about remaining a physical team. In my opinion, they'd put more consideration into drafting LSU's king-sized WR Dwayne Bowe -- even though he drops too many balls – because of his vicious blocking and ability to run over linebackers after the catch. Bowe would make the necessary statement here, not Jarrett.

* No. 18 – LEON HALL, CB, Michigan. Why didn't Lloyd Carr use Hall in any press coverage on the allegedly timid Jarrett? That's the matchup I wanted to see in the Rose Bowl. As it was, the Michigan coach wasted Hall on USC's Nos. 2 and 3 receivers most of the game. He was rarely matched up with Jarrett, who did catch two passes on Hall: one for 9 yards and the second for a 62-yard touchdown. That play was more the fault of the safety, but it hasn't helped Hall's fading rep. He was beaten deep twice by Ohio State and is facing questions about his speed. Hall is expected to run a 4.6 40 at the combine, and yet deserves this high ranking from Marino because Hall had enough speed to run down USC's other senior WR, Steve Smith, from behind in the open field, and he has superb hip action, toughness and character.

Considering the aforementioned value of CBs, I'd have no problem with Hall as a fallback choice for the Steelers if they can't get Carriker, Lynch or Revis.


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