Steelers draft 2010: Linebacker

SteelCityInsider.com publisher Jim Wexell's draft series on the Pittsburgh Steelers continues today with the linebacker position.

Mike Tomlin didn't like it all that much last April when one of the Pittsburgh papers predicted Ziggy Hood would be the first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Of course, Hood became the first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So, Tomlin's been pretty quiet this spring. His name appeared in a couple of newspapers after attending Pro Days, but nothing like in his first three years as the Steelers' coach.

This April, with just about every draft prognosticator in every publication mixing around the same three or four names – Joe Haden, Mike Iupati, Earl Thomas, Maurkice Pouncey – the question has to be: Where does Tomlin throw his change-up?

Well, how about at linebacker?

The Steelers are woefully thin outside behind James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, so it would be unwise to cross Michigan's Brandon Graham from the first-round short list.

Graham (6-1½, 268, 4.74) might not be an overly impressive physical specimen with his short 32-inch arms, but he was the first two-time Defensive MVP at Michigan for a reason. According to Pro Football Weekly, 41 percent of Graham's tackles were behind the line last season. He recorded 10.5 sacks. And the lasting image of Graham is his outstanding performance at the Senior Bowl and the oft-repeated replay of him whipping a tackle for a sack and circling back to his spot on the line and immediately putting his hand down on the ground for another.

Graham has a non-stop motor and a great passion for the game. And if the Steelers were to draft anyone at a position already stocked with Pro Bowl starters, it would be Graham.

But it's likely the Steelers will shore up their OLB depth later in the draft. An impressive second-round prospect is Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds (6-1¼, 254, 4.47), an underclassman who starred in Tech's bowl win over Tennessee.

A similar athlete, Thaddeus Gibson (6-2, 243, 4.79), has spent plenty of time as a drop end for Ohio State. The Steelers didn't bring Gibson or Worilds in for visits, but they kept an eye on both players during and after the season.

The Steelers did bring South Carolina DE/OLB Eric Norwood (6-1, 245, 4.76) into town. Norwood played out of position as a 4-3 OLB last season, but is a fearsome pass-rusher and a second-round prospect.

Koa Misi (6-2½, 251, 4.74) of Utah also visited the South Side. He only had five sacks as a DE last season, but has the hips and agility to project to OLB for the Steelers. He's considered more of a mid-rounder.

The Steelers also kept their eye on a quartet of smaller-school defensive ends who show the ability to drop into coverage. Junior Gallette (6-1¾, 244, 4.83) is probably the best of the bunch. He had pass-rushing success against highly regarded LT Jared Veldheer in the Texas vs. Nation All-Star Game, but Gallette is a character risk. He transferred from Temple to Stillman College after he was suspended for four games at the end of the 2008 season and kicked off the team last spring.

A better late-round option might be Adrian Tracy (6-2½, 248, 4.76), a four-year starter at Tomlin's alma mater, William & Mary. Tracy holds the school record with 31 sacks and looked like a classic Steelers 3-4 OLB in the Texas vs. Nation game.

Value Board

First round – Brandon Graham, Michigan.

Second round – Eric Norwood, South Carolina; Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech.

Third round – Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State.

Fourth round – Koa Misi, Utah.

Fifth round – Antonio Coleman, Auburn.

Sixth round – Adrian Tracy, William & Mary; Chris McCoy, Middle Tennessee State.

Seventh round – Albert McClellan, Marshall.


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