Draft series: Defensive line

The draft season is hitting the home stretch. We've moved into the defensive line portion of our series on this year's Steelers draft.

Stacking the Steelers' value board:
  • Linebackers
  • Receivers
  • Offensive line
  • Running back
  • Quarterback
  • Square one
  • Of the 22 defensive linemen drafted during the Bill Cowher era, only five were drafted in the first three rounds.

    Of those five, three were nose tackles.

    The other two were ends – Brentson Buckner and Jeremy Staat – and both were let go after three seasons.

    Perhaps those two players are reasons 1 and 2 why the Steelers don't draft 3-4 defensive ends on the first day.

    But if the Steelers get their way, they'd welcome a 3-4 defensive end this year. It's just that no one really thinks Adam Carriker of Nebraska will slip to pick No. 15.

    Carriker is unlike Buckner and Staat, and most collegiate linemen, in that he's played on a line that utilizes many of the Steelers' 3-4 techniques. Carriker is a defensive end who controls two gaps and lets linebackers make the plays, much like Aaron Smith.

    Smith, though, was a fourth-round pick who's already maxed his weight out at 300 pounds. The 6-foot-6 Carriker already weighs close to 300 and has the frame to grow.

    "He's a skinny 296 pounds," said scout Tom Marino. "He could be 315 easy." Marino calls Carriker "the perfect 3-4 end" because of his size and strength, and Carriker also has the perfect temperament. He's come to terms with the lack of glory that comes with playing in a two-gap scheme.

    "I wasn't really allowed to come off the ball, fly off the ball and make plays," he said at the combine. "In our scheme, I was like a two-gap guy. I either took up two gaps or two offensive linemen, so I wasn't really allowed to just come off the ball and make plays. You're not going to make a lot of plays. It's not designed for you, it's designed for the linebacker or the safeties or whoever's blitzing."

    The Steelers brought Carriker in for a visit because they need a young prospect in their DL corps. Backup Travis Kirschke is in the final year of his contract and the other backup, Nick Eason, was recently picked up off the scrap heap. The Steelers would also like to rotate their linemen more often, and Dick LeBeau wouldn't mind working Brett Keisel into the linebacker position on passing downs.

    Also, if Mike Tomlin has a future 4-3 alignment in mind, he'll need more defensive linemen and Carriker has the versatility to play either defense if needed.

    A 4-3 candidate who's too good to let pass in this draft is Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who'd play initially as the dime pass-rusher. But, like Carriker, Anderson (6-5½, 288) is expected to be picked before the Steelers draft.

    If the Steelers trade down in the first round, Tennessee tackle Justin Harrell (6-4½, 300) would be part of the potential-player pool. He's an explosive bull-rusher who projects best as a 3-4 end.

    Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-5, 280) is another college 3-4 end who visited the Steelers. Trained under Hawaii defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, Alama-Francis didn't play high-school football and is a novice to the game, but a growing one. He has the frame to add weight and so much agility that several teams are looking at him as a tight end.

    The Steelers met with another 3-4 end when Oklahoma State's Ryan McBean (6-4½, 286) visited. He's a long, lean and raw lineman who was able to survive a troubled childhood on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.

    The Steelers also met with nose tackle Tank Tyler (6-2, 306), who's considered an underachiever, and Amobi Okoye (6-2, 302), a one-gapper who'll be drafted too high.

    One marquee player who could fall to the Steelers is Michigan monster Alan Branch (6-5¾, 324). But they'd probably pass since Branch is being knocked for everything from a lack of heart to stress fractures in his tibia.

    "Branch is a lot stronger than Jimmy Kennedy but very similar," Marino said of the former Penn State bust. "I think Branch will be a major bust, too, like (Dan) Wilkinson or (Alonzo) Spellman. He looks the part. You don't even know he's there sometimes. I think he'll be a colossal mistake on draft day. He looks like an offensive tackle to me."

    Perhaps that's what the Steelers should've done with Buckner and Staat.

    Steelers' value board:

    ADAM CARRIKER, Nebraska, DE, first round.

    JAMAAL ANDERSON, Arkansas, DE, first round.

    IKAIKA ALAMA-FRANCIS, Hawaii, DE, third round.

    RYAN McBEAN, Oklahoma State, DE, fourth round.

    DAVID PATTERSON, Ohio State, DE, fifth round.


    Steel City Insider Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
    \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
    \r\n Stacking the Steelers' value board:
    \r\n
  • Linebackers
  • \r\n
  • Receivers
  • \r\n
  • Offensive line
  • \r\n
  • Running back
  • \r\n
  • Quarterback
  • \r\n
  • Square one
  • \r\n \r\n\r\nOf the 22 defensive linemen drafted during the Bill Cowher era, only five were drafted in the first three rounds. \r\n\r\n

    Of those five, three were nose tackles. \r\n\r\n

    The other two were ends – Brentson Buckner and Jeremy Staat – and both were let go after three seasons. \r\n\r\n

    Perhaps those two players are reasons 1 and 2 why the Steelers don't draft 3-4 defensive ends on the first day. \r\n\r\n

    But if the Steelers get their way, they'd welcome a 3-4 defensive end this year. It's just that no one really thinks Adam Carriker of Nebraska will slip to pick No. 15. \r\n\r\n

    Carriker is unlike Buckner and Staat, and most collegiate linemen, in that he's played on a line that utilizes many of the Steelers' 3-4 techniques. Carriker is a defensive end who controls two gaps and lets linebackers make the plays, much like Aaron Smith. \r\n\r\n

    Smith, though, was a fourth-round pick who's already maxed his weight out at 300 pounds. The 6-foot-6 Carriker already weighs close to 300 and has the frame to grow. \r\n\r\n

    \"He's a skinny 296 pounds,\" said scout Tom Marino. \"He could be 315 easy.\" \r\n\r\nMarino calls Carriker \"the perfect 3-4 end\" because of his size and strength, and Carriker also has the perfect temperament. He's come to terms with the lack of glory that comes with playing in a two-gap scheme. \r\n\r\n

    \"I wasn't really allowed to come off the ball, fly off the ball and make plays,\" he said at the combine. \"In our scheme, I was like a two-gap guy. I either took up two gaps or two offensive linemen, so I wasn't really allowed to just come off the ball and make plays. You're not going to make a lot of plays. It's not designed for you, it's designed for the linebacker or the safeties or whoever's blitzing.\" \r\n\r\n

    The Steelers brought Carriker in for a visit because they need a young prospect in their DL corps. Backup Travis Kirschke is in the final year of his contract and the other backup, Nick Eason, was recently picked up off the scrap heap. The Steelers would also like to rotate their linemen more often, and Dick LeBeau wouldn't mind working Brett Keisel into the linebacker position on passing downs. \r\n\r\n

    Also, if Mike Tomlin has a future 4-3 alignment in mind, he'll need more defensive linemen and Carriker has the versatility to play either defense if needed. \r\n\r\n

    A 4-3 candidate who's too good to let pass in this draft is Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who'd play initially as the dime pass-rusher. But, like Carriker, Anderson (6-5½, 288) is expected to be picked before the Steelers draft. \r\n\r\n

    If the Steelers trade down in the first round, Tennessee tackle Justin Harrell (6-4½, 300) would be part of the potential-player pool. He's an explosive bull-rusher who projects best as a 3-4 end. \r\n\r\n

    Ikaika Alama-Francis (6-5, 280) is another college 3-4 end who visited the Steelers. Trained under Hawaii defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, Alama-Francis didn't play high-school football and is a novice to the game, but a growing one. He has the frame to add weight and so much agility that several teams are looking at him as a tight end. \r\n\r\n

    The Steelers met with another 3-4 end when Oklahoma State's Ryan McBean (6-4½, 286) visited. He's a long, lean and raw lineman who was able to survive a troubled childhood on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. \r\n\r\n

    The Steelers also met with nose tackle Tank Tyler (6-2, 306), who's considered an underachiever, and Amobi Okoye (6-2, 302), a one-gapper who'll be drafted too high. \r\n\r\n

    One marquee player who could fall to the Steelers is Michigan monster Alan Branch (6-5¾, 324). But they'd probably pass since Branch is being knocked for everything from a lack of heart to stress fractures in his tibia. \r\n\r\n

    \"Branch is a lot stronger than Jimmy Kennedy but very similar,\" Marino said of the former Penn State bust. \"I think Branch will be a major bust, too, like (Dan) Wilkinson or (Alonzo) Spellman. He looks the part. You don't even know he's there sometimes. I think he'll be a colossal mistake on draft day. He looks like an offensive tackle to me.\" \r\n\r\n

    Perhaps that's what the Steelers should've done with Buckner and Staat. \r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n

    Steelers' value board: \r\n\r\n

    ADAM CARRIKER, Nebraska, DE, first round. \r\n\r\n

    JAMAAL ANDERSON, Arkansas, DE, first round. \r\n\r\n

    IKAIKA ALAMA-FRANCIS, Hawaii, DE, third round. \r\n\r\n

    RYAN McBEAN, Oklahoma State, DE, fourth round. \r\n\r\n

    DAVID PATTERSON, Ohio State, DE, fifth round.\r\n","skipOnMobile":true,"skipOnMobileReason":"UnsupportedHtmlTable","unsupportedMarkup":"LackingResponsiveTableClass","media":[],"dateOverride":"2007-04-24T15:27:00","authorOverride":"Jim Wexell","role":"SteelCityInsider.com","isPremium":true,"isHotNews":false,"isRumor":false,"syndicationFlag":true,"isClassified":true,"hotNamesLinked":true,"storyImage":"[MEDIA:402950]","mainImage":{"url":"[MEDIA:402950]"},"thumbnailImage":"[THUMBNAIL:402950]","heroImage":{},"authorImage":"","tags":[{"id":"9881","name":"Nebraska - Football"},{"id":"698","name":"Hawaii"},{"id":"9875","name":"Michigan - Football"},{"id":"416","name":"Michigan"},{"id":"10022","name":"Arkansas - Football"},{"id":"9980","name":"Hawaii - Football"},{"id":"9846","name":"Oklahoma State - Football"},{"id":"590","name":"Arkansas"},{"id":"374","name":"Oklahoma State"},{"id":"9885","name":"Ohio State - Football"},{"id":"421","name":"Ohio 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