Thursday, October 20, 2011
Cardinals, Steelers and drafting for defense
By Mike Sando
Joey Porter played his final game for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2006 season. Clark Haggans was gone from the team a year later.
The veteran outside linebackers, now 34 years old, are scheduled to start for Arizona against their former team Sunday, a reflection of how the teams have drafted for defense recently.
In 2007, the year coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm left Pittsburgh's staff for the Cardinals, the Steelers drafted mainstay linebackers Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. Much of the Steelers' defense is aging, but Timmons and Woodley are ascending young players approaching their primes. Woodley represents the type of outside linebacker the Cardinals have coveted, but have yet to land.
Arizona takes criticism for drafting tackle Levi Brown over running back Adrian Peterson in 2007, but decisions made in addressing the defense stand out with Timmons and Woodley coming to town. That was the year Arizona used a second-round choice for defensive lineman Alan Branch, now reborn in Seattle after falling short of expectations in Arizona. The Cardinals used their third-round pick in 2007 on linebacker Buster Davis, who was cut as a rookie.
The Cardinals bounced back in 2008 by drafting defensive end Calais Campbell in the second round. Two other early defensive choices that year -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Arizona and Bruce Davis for Pittsburgh -- have changed teams. Rodgers-Cromartie went to a Pro Bowl with the Cardinals before the team traded him to Philadelphia. Davis, a third-round choice, was released after one season.
In 2009, the Steelers landed defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, who has played more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps this season. Arizona drafted Cody Brown, a second-round choice who never contributed, before selecting defensive backs Rashad Johnson (starting for the injured Kerry Rhodes) and Greg Toler (incumbent starter now on injured reserve).
The Cardinals have initially fared better than the Steelers in drafting for defense in 2010. They got nose tackle Dan Williams, ascending inside linebacker Daryl Washington and pass-rushing project O'Brien Schofield. The Steelers drafted linebacker Jason Worilds, who has made a positive contribution on special teams without factoring into the defense yet.
The chart shows defensive players the teams drafted in the first three rounds from 2007-09.