Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Countdown to combine: Steelers
By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH -- With the NFL scouting combine starting Feb. 22, we review positions of need and who the Pittsburgh Steelers might be looking at during the combine at those positions.
Position of need: Cornerback
Ike Taylor's play slipped last season, and there is no guarantee that the 11th-year veteran returns in 2014. Taylor is slated to make $7 million in base salary next season, and he will have to accept a drastic pay cut to play another season in Pittsburgh. Cortez Allen, who has shown signs that he can succeed Taylor as the No. 1 cornerback, is the only player at that position who still has upside. And Taylor, Allen and William Gay are the only three experienced cornerbacks on the roster. Look for the Steelers to draft at least two cornerbacks, as general manager Kevin Colbert has acknowledged that the position is lacking in depth.
Three players the Steelers may be targeting
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: He and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert are the consensus top two cornerbacks in the draft. The 5-11, 195-pounder Dennard has decent size and teams love his physicality. There are questions about Dennard's speed, so his 40-yard dash time at the combine could have a significant impact on his draft stock. Teams will love his game tape, and Dennard recorded 62 tackles and intercepted four passes last season while playing for one of the best defenses in college football. The Steelers haven't used a first-round pick on a cornerback since Chad Scott in 1997, and they won't get a crack at Dennard in the second round. There does appear to be some depth at cornerback if the Steelers opt to address another position with the 15th overall pick of the draft.
Pierre Desir, Lindenwood: Given his size and athleticism as well as the Steelers' success with Taylor and Allen -- both were fourth-round picks from small schools -- it seems logical that they will take a long look at Desir at the combine. The 6-1, 195-pounder intercepted 13 passes in two seasons at Lindenwood University, a Division II school in Missouri, and teams often threw away from him. Desir addressed questions about his level of competition in college by playing in the East-West Shrine game as well as the Senior Bowl. Desir is not ranked among ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s top 10 cornerbacks, and he could be available in the third or fourth round. It will be interesting to see what his combine measurables are, and how Desir handles the big stage in Indianapolis.
Bradley Roby, Ohio State: An up-and-down junior season raised questions about his maturity and probably cost the 5-11, 192-pounder a chance of getting drafted in the first round. Roby, who had 68 tackles and three interceptions last season, is arguably the most talented cornerback in the draft, and if he tests well and interviews well in Indianapolis he could re-establish himself as a first-round prospect. But if concerns about his inconsistency in 2013, as well as the one-game suspension Roby served for an offseason arrest, drop him into the middle of the second round or lower he could be of interest to the Steelers. Roby is a first-round talent and the right setting could make him a steal in the second round. Keep in mind that the Steelers have drafted 13 players from the Big Ten since 2007. Also former Buckeyes great Dick LeBeau is well-positioned to do the necessary homework on Roby.