Steelers Draft Series: Receivers

A new chapter in Jim Wexell's draft series on the Pittsburgh Steelers' options will run every other day throughout the three weeks leading up to the draft. Today: The receivers.

Malcolm Kelly made a forgivable sin last week when he ran a 4.68 40 on FieldTurf at a workout at the University of Oklahoma.

Kelly, though, made an unforgivable sin by blasting the school's strength coach and later the training staff because he thought the first sin cost him millions.

As scouts like to say, Kelly showed us his rear end after his workout, and this after his character had come under question.

"He must learn what it means to work and become more of a team player," reported Pro Football Weekly, which published the remark before Kelly's pro day.

Kelly has been compared in part to Larry Fitzgerald because of his hands, long arms and competitiveness, and to a degree his lack of speed. Fitzgerald ran a 4.51 at Pitt's pro day and he ran on AstroTurf, the harder surface upon which Kelly expected to run.

Scouts could've put their own spin on the numbers, and would have, but there was no excusing Kelly's flameout after the workout. The Steelers still brought him in for an interview two days later and will likely have the option to draft the falling wide receiver with pick No. 23 of the first round.

Ben Roethlisberger has requested the Steelers draft a big receiver and Kelly, at 6-3¾, 224, would fit the bill. But it's unlikely the Steelers will gamble on such a volatile commodity.

The only other wide receiver to visit the South Side this spring was James Hardy, and he certainly fills Roethlisberger's request.

While Hardy didn't wear Plaxico Burress's No. 4 in college as Kelly did, Hardy measured in at the exact 6-5 and three-eighths of Burress. Hardy also played for Roethlisberger's former college coach, the late Terry Hoeppner at Indiana University. But Hardy has one glaring line on his resume: He was arrested and charged with domestic battery and interfering with the reporting of a crime during an alleged incident with his girlfriend in 2006. The charges were dropped after Hardy agreed to enter a program.

Hardy's other problem is that while he ripped off a 4.54 40 at the combine, he has trouble getting into and out of his breaks. He looked like Walter Young at the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma State.

The better fit for the Steelers – a player who could help Roethlisberger get rid of the ball more quickly and who would work with the quarterback until exhaustion – is Limas Sweed, the 6-4, 215-pounder who ran a 4.54 40.

Sweed's said to have the deep tracking skills Burress is still developing, and is said to play faster than his time. His work ethic is beyond reproach. Some scouts even wish he had more confidence -- a rare complaint in this era of self-absorbed wideouts. Still, Sweed has his detractors. A reoccurring wrist injury wiped out his senior season and former NFL scout Tom Marino, who reviewed tape of every prospect this spring for, has Sweed ranked as a mid second-rounder.

"I wouldn't feel comfortable taking him in round one. He hasn't done it," Marino said. "I was at the Senior Bowl and instead of chopping and dropping his hips to make his break, he digs his heels in and pushes backward. I never saw that before. But people do love mismatches."

Some bullet notes on a few of Marino's second- and third-rounders:

"Andre Caldwell (6-0, 204, Florida) is a nice-sized guy who ran fast (4.39). Sweed is the biggest guy. I wouldn't count him out of the second round. I don't like James Hardy at all. This guy Jordy Nelson (6-2½, 217, Kansas State), all he does is beat your (butt) -- very talented guy who walked on, not real fast (4.53) but the guy from Kansas (Aqib Talib) couldn't close a yard on him, not a bit. He's a good one."

Marino's fourth-round sleepers are Kenneth Moore (5-11, 195, 4.5) of Wake Forest, Arman Shields (6-1, 193, 4.40) of Richmond, and Jerome Simpson (6-2, 198, 4.44) of Coastal Carolina.

"Kenneth Moore reminds me of Hines Ward. He takes a blast and comes back smiling," Marino said. "Jerome Simpson might have been the best catcher I saw all year. He's very similar to Kelly in that he reaches for the ball and makes athletic catches, has great dexterity, and he ran a 4.4."

The Steelers also need help in their return game. Darrell Blackman (5-10½, 210, 4.62) of North Carolina State and Kevin Robinson (5-11¾, 196, 4.67) of Utah State are late-round possibilities.

As for the tight end position, the Steelers may bring in a blocking specialist after the draft but they're otherwise set with Jon Dekker and Cody Boyd fighting for the third job behind Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth.

Value Board

2nd Round – Limas Sweed, Texas; Jordy Nelson, Kansas State.

4th Round – Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina.

6th Round – Darrell Blackman, North Carolina State.

7th Round – Mario Urruttia, Louisville.

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