Draft series: Special teams

The last installment of the Steelers draft series is special teams. Tomorrow, Jim Wexell will put the value board together and predict the Steelers' draft.

Stacking the Steelers' value board:
  • Defensive backs
  • Defensive line
  • Linebackers
  • Receivers
  • Offensive line
  • Running back
  • Quarterback
  • Square one
  • Let's see, there was the football-on-a-stick, the three huge hula hoops, the six little hoops, oh, and the skinny post -- can't forget the skinny goal post. And don't ever forget the Nerf Ball that Jeff Reed was kicking into the onrushing line.

    What was with the Nerf Ball anyway?

    "In special teams?" answered Mike Tomlin. "I have no idea. You know special-teams coaches are a little weird, or can be, and we fit the mold in that regard. But, no, they're very good at what they do."

    The Steelers put in plenty of time on the basic fundamentals of blocking and blowing up wedges, of making and slipping blocks. The drills worked both sides simultaneously. New special-teams coach Bob Ligashesky also discussed and displayed his "constricted snake" running lanes for covering kickoffs and blocking returns.

    The emphasis the Steelers put on special teams at minicamp was the identifying feature of the weekend. It may have looked like a three-ring circus at times, but the message was sent: Special teams are important to the new staff.

    With that, let's find some new athletes:

    PUNTER – Chris Gardocki showed up at minicamp but only watched Mike Barr kick the ball. Barr's not bad, but he should expect competition from a draft pick. If that happens, Gardocki will be released.

    The Steelers haven't drafted a punter since 1985, when they picked Harry Newsome in the eighth round. Unfortunately for Chuck Noll's first losing team in 14 years, Newsome was the Rookie of the Year.

    The last time the Steelers drafted a punter before the end of the seventh round was 1978 when they drafted Craig Colquitt in the third round.

    A pair of draftable prospects are out this year and the Steelers might be able to get one in the fifth round.

    The first two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award is Dan Sepulveda of Baylor. The lefty is an impressive athlete (6-3, 229, 4.49) who likes to cover his long – sometimes too long – kicks. He walked on as a linebacker and walked out as a three time All-America with a 45.2 career average. He's a scholar and a gentleman and a darn good punter, and he put on an impressive show at the rain-soaked Senior Bowl.

    The other guy in the Senior Bowl punting splashdown was Maryland's Adam Podlesh. Another good athlete (5-11, 202, 4.49), Podlesh is a two-stepper who didn't have a punt blocked in four years of college ball. Raised in Rochester, N.Y., Podlesh is accustomed to kicking in bad weather and finished school with a career average of 43.1.

    The Steelers brought Sepulveda in for a visit and sent a special-teams coach to work out each of them at their campuses.

    LONG SNAPPER – The Steelers have a good, young and cheap long-snapper in Greg Warren, but Zak DeOssie (6-4½, 250, 4.61) of Brown can also play linebacker, and pretty well. Warren shouldn't worry because DeOssie's not in his league as a snapper … yet.

    KICKOFF SPECIALIST – No one knows what Tomlin and Ligashesky prefer in terms of safe roster havens. Bill Cowher preferred an Ivy-educated punt protector; perhaps Tomlin sees the benefit of a booming kickoff man. Jess Ainsworth of Arizona State put 57 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone the last two seasons and could be signed after the draft.

    GUNNERS – A coach with Uniontown ties such as Ligashesky needs a Uniontown wedge-buster like Kevin "Boo" McLee (6-1, 244). The WVU tackles leader has plenty of heart, but his draft stock plummeted after running the 40 in 4.9 at his pro day. The Steelers like his type as a priority free agent.

    Another gunner possibility is Antwan Barnes (6-0¼, 240, 4.46) of Florida International. The Steelers hosted this defensive end who's being compared to Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts. Barnes is a pass-rusher who's probably not agile enough to drop as a linebacker, but the Steelers have to like his potential for explosive kick coverage.

    RETURN MEN – Ted Ginn (5-11¼, 188) of Ohio State is the crème de la crème, but the bargain hunters are eyeballing Yamon Figurs (5-11¼, 174) of Kansas State. His official combine time of 4.35 was the fastest at the meet. He showed that speed off at the Hula Bowl, where a long punt return was called back after he was incorrectly called out of bounds. Figurs also dazzled with a reverse and showed his toughness as a gunner. In fact, draft expert Mike Mayock calls Figurs the best gunner in the draft.

    Steelers' value board:

    YAMON FIGURS, Kansas State, wide receiver, fourth round.

    ANTWAN BARNES, Florida International, defensive end, fourth round.

    ADAM PODLESH, Maryland, punter, fifth round.

    DAN SEPULVEDA, Baylor, punter, 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
  • Defensive backs
  • \r\n
  • Defensive line
  • \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\nLet's see, there was the football-on-a-stick, the three huge hula hoops, the six little hoops, oh, and the skinny post -- can't forget the skinny goal post. And don't ever forget the Nerf Ball that Jeff Reed was kicking into the onrushing line. \r\n\r\n

    What was with the Nerf Ball anyway? \r\n\r\n

    \"In special teams?\" answered Mike Tomlin. \"I have no idea. You know special-teams coaches are a little weird, or can be, and we fit the mold in that regard. But, no, they're very good at what they do.\" \r\n\r\n

    The Steelers put in plenty of time on the basic fundamentals of blocking and blowing up wedges, of making and slipping blocks. The drills worked both sides simultaneously. New special-teams coach Bob Ligashesky also discussed and displayed his \"constricted snake\" running lanes for covering kickoffs and blocking returns. \r\n\r\n

    The emphasis the Steelers put on special teams at minicamp was the identifying feature of the weekend. It may have looked like a three-ring circus at times, but the message was sent: Special teams are important to the new staff. \r\n\r\n

    With that, let's find some new athletes: \r\n\r\n

    PUNTER – Chris Gardocki showed up at minicamp but only watched Mike Barr kick the ball. Barr's not bad, but he should expect competition from a draft pick. If that happens, Gardocki will be released. \r\n\r\n

    The Steelers haven't drafted a punter since 1985, when they picked Harry Newsome in the eighth round. Unfortunately for Chuck Noll's first losing team in 14 years, Newsome was the Rookie of the Year. \r\n\r\n

    The last time the Steelers drafted a punter before the end of the seventh round was 1978 when they drafted Craig Colquitt in the third round. \r\n\r\n

    A pair of draftable prospects are out this year and the Steelers might be able to get one in the fifth round. \r\n\r\n

    The first two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award is Dan Sepulveda of Baylor. The lefty is an impressive athlete (6-3, 229, 4.49) who likes to cover his long – sometimes too long – kicks. He walked on as a linebacker and walked out as a three time All-America with a 45.2 career average. He's a scholar and a gentleman and a darn good punter, and he put on an impressive show at the rain-soaked Senior Bowl. \r\n\r\n

    The other guy in the Senior Bowl punting splashdown was Maryland's Adam Podlesh. Another good athlete (5-11, 202, 4.49), Podlesh is a two-stepper who didn't have a punt blocked in four years of college ball. Raised in Rochester, N.Y., Podlesh is accustomed to kicking in bad weather and finished school with a career average of 43.1. \r\n\r\n

    The Steelers brought Sepulveda in for a visit and sent a special-teams coach to work out each of them at their campuses. \r\n\r\n

    LONG SNAPPER – The Steelers have a good, young and cheap long-snapper in Greg Warren, but Zak DeOssie (6-4½, 250, 4.61) of Brown can also play linebacker, and pretty well. Warren shouldn't worry because DeOssie's not in his league as a snapper … yet. \r\n\r\n

    KICKOFF SPECIALIST – No one knows what Tomlin and Ligashesky prefer in terms of safe roster havens. Bill Cowher preferred an Ivy-educated punt protector; perhaps Tomlin sees the benefit of a booming kickoff man. Jess Ainsworth of Arizona State put 57 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone the last two seasons and could be signed after the draft. \r\n\r\n

    GUNNERS – A coach with Uniontown ties such as Ligashesky needs a Uniontown wedge-buster like Kevin \"Boo\" McLee (6-1, 244). The WVU tackles leader has plenty of heart, but his draft stock plummeted after running the 40 in 4.9 at his pro day. The Steelers like his type as a priority free agent. \r\n\r\n

    Another gunner possibility is Antwan Barnes (6-0¼, 240, 4.46) of Florida International. The Steelers hosted this defensive end who's being compared to Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts. Barnes is a pass-rusher who's probably not agile enough to drop as a linebacker, but the Steelers have to like his potential for explosive kick coverage. \r\n\r\n

    RETURN MEN – Ted Ginn (5-11¼, 188) of Ohio State is the crème de la crème, but the bargain hunters are eyeballing Yamon Figurs (5-11¼, 174) of Kansas State. His official combine time of 4.35 was the fastest at the meet. He showed that speed off at the Hula Bowl, where a long punt return was called back after he was incorrectly called out of bounds. Figurs also dazzled with a reverse and showed his toughness as a gunner. In fact, draft expert Mike Mayock calls Figurs the best gunner in the draft. \r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n

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

    YAMON FIGURS, Kansas State, wide receiver, fourth round. \r\n\r\n

    ANTWAN BARNES, Florida International, defensive end, fourth round. \r\n\r\n

    ADAM PODLESH, Maryland, punter, fifth round. \r\n\r\n

    DAN SEPULVEDA, Baylor, punter, fifth round. \r\n\r\n","skipOnMobile":true,"skipOnMobileReason":"UnsupportedHtmlTable","unsupportedMarkup":"LackingResponsiveTableClass","media":[],"dateOverride":"2007-04-26T16:53:00","authorOverride":"Jim Wexell","role":"SteelCityInsider.com","isPremium":true,"isHotNews":false,"isRumor":false,"syndicationFlag":true,"isClassified":true,"hotNamesLinked":true,"storyImage":"[MEDIA:425842]","mainImage":{"url":"[MEDIA:425842]"},"thumbnailImage":"[THUMBNAIL:425842]","heroImage":{},"authorImage":"","tags":[{"id":"Draft","name":"Draft"},{"id":"9836","name":"Baylor - Football"},{"id":"369","name":"Baylor"},{"id":"372","name":"Kansas State"},{"id":"690","name":"Maryland"},{"id":"9873","name":"Maryland - Football"},{"id":"9842","name":"Kansas State - Football"},{"id":"182","name":"Pittsburgh 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