´ Steel Curtain Rising

What position(s) should be the Steelers highest priorities in the draft?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jason Verrett, 5 Others Visit Steeles, Aaron Barr Expected in Pittsburgh Soon

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue vetting the NCAA’s finest as part of the vetting process in advance of the 2014 NFL Draft. The Steelers closed last week by hosting another threesome at the South Side consisting of:
  • Carl Bradford, linebacker from Arizona State
  • Kevin Pierre-Lous, outside linebacker from Boston College
  • Bradley Roby, cornerback from Ohio State
The Steelers opened this week as cornerback Jason Verrett made his long-anticipated visit to Pittsburgh, while the team also entertained:
  • Scott Circhton, defensive end Oregon State
  • Saquiell Richardson, Arizona Cornerback
ESPN’s Scott Brown described Circhton’s visit as a “surprise” given projections that of him as more of an NFL 3-4 defensive end and someone who is not seen as a prospect to  be converted to a 3-4 outside linebacker .

Behind the Steel Curtain is also reporting that the Steelers will bring UCLA linebacker Aaron Barr to the South Side this week, a move which has been rumored for some time.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Ryan Shizier, Deone Bucannon, and Jordan Zumwalt Pay Steelers Pre-Draft Visits

The 2014 NFL Draft is 27 days away and if public reports are any indication, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have 19 pre-collegiate visitors to invite to their training complex on the South Side.

This past week the Steelers have welcomed three such NCAA hopefuls:
  • Deone Bucannon, strong safety out of Washington State
  • Jordan Zumwalt, linebacker out of UCLA
  • Ryan Shizier, out of Ohio State linebacker
News that Shizier would visit Pittsburgh broke weeks ago, but Behind the Steel Curtain’s Neal Coolong characterized Zumwalt’s visit as a surprise, although the Steelers were linked to him at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

While the Steelers are potentially deep at inside linebacker with Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin and, health allowing, Sean Spence, neither Williams or Garvin are looked at as 3 down players. Newly signed free agent linebacker Arthur Moats is primarily an outside linebacker, but has position flexibility to move inside should the need arise.
  • Zumwalt is projected as a mid round prospect, and would need to be groomed for the position.
Shizier is projected as a late first round pick and someone the Steelers would have interest in should they trade down or should Shizier fall to day two, but given his athleticism he is not likely to fall.
  • Deone Bucannon’s name also raises eyebrows, given that he’s the second safety, after Calvin Prior, of Louisville, to visit the South Side. Like Prior, Bucannon is expected to go early in the draft.
The Steelers of course recently signed Michael Mitchell, extended Troy Poalmalu’s contract, traded up to get Shamarko Thomas, and resigned Will Allen to a one year deal. The Steelers are certainly not targeting safety in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, but due diligence is a must.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Antonio Brown, Jason Worilds Head Up Steelers Camp in... Mexico!

As they did in 2010 the Pittsburgh Steelers returned to Mexico to hold a fan based camp. The Steelers have a huge following south of the Rio Grande in large part because it was during the 1970’s that the NFL began showing games there.
  • In fact, their 2000 preseason game at Azteca Stadium vs. the Indianapolis Colts drew over 80,000 fans and at the time was the largest audience in the NFL to see an NFL football game.
Trivia buffs will remember that the Steelers lost due to a call that could not be reviewed because there was no replay equipment. That was also arguably the game where Tee Martin Beat out Anthony Wright for the third string spot behind Kent Graham and Kordell Stewart. Not that anyone cares that much…
  • The Steelers popularity in Mexico has only increased since then.
In fact, the wife for former Mexican President Filipe Calderon, Margarita Zavala, was such a rabid fan that she took leave from the World Cup in South Africa to attend the camp the 2010 Steelers held in Mexico with Ziggy Hood, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, and Daniel Sepúlveda in attendance.

  • Calderon and Zavala have also been guests of the Steelers at Heinz Field when Dan Rooney served as ambassador to Ireland.

This year the Steelers contingent was led by Antonio Brown, Cortez Allen, Kelvin Beachum, Maurkice Pouncey, Markus Wheaton, and Jason Worilds. Veteran Steelers tackle and current Steelers.com radio network reporter Craig Wolfley and former Steelers running back Willie Parker also made the trip.

Why Not Extend the Reach of the Nation End-to-End in Latin America?

Steel Curtain Rising fully cheers the Steelers’s foray into Mexico, but is nonetheless forced to ask the question, “Why stop there?” Why not extend the reach of Steelers Nation further into Latin America? In fact, just stop at crossing  the Rio Grande, why not extend it all the way to the Tierra del Fuego?
  • That’s right, why not hold a similar Steelers camp here in Argentina…?
Esperen un par de días mas, y voy a escribir explicando porque es un muy buen idea. Arriba los Hombres de Acero!

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Steelers Do Due Diligence, Host Safety Calvin Prior Ahead of Draft

Never let it be said that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert weren’t prepared for the unexpected.
After all its less than a year after the team did something it had not done since before its first Super Bowl – trade a draft pick from next year’s draft to get one this year – to get safety Shamarko Thomas. Its less than a month after the Steelers made a rare day 1 free agency signing in the form of Michael Mitchell. Which came on the heels of a decision to extend Troy Polamalu’s contract by two years.
  • So why, pray tell, would the Steelers entertain a safety prior to the 2014 NFL Draft?
If cornerback and wide receiver are well known as the Steelers top early round priorities, safety is decidedly at the other end of the pecking order. Yet, as Dale Lolley explains, this is a wise move on the part of the Black and Gold Brain Trust.

The Steelers are picking 15th. It is little secret that the Steelers covet Michigan and Tennessee cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and  Darqueze Dennard and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. However, what if those players are gone?
  • Well, the first reaction will be to try to trade? But what if they can’t? Prior is projected as a mid-round pick. 
The Steelers clearly would like to invest such a high draft choice elsewhere, but success in the NFL Draft isn’t about selecting the players you know you want, it’s about knowing who to pick when your top choices are unavailable.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Steelers Closed Last Week with Visits from Vereen & Ellington; Reports of Unconfirmed Visits Surface

The Pittsburgh Steelers closed out last week with two more confirmed collegiate visits ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft, playing host to Brock Vereen, a defensive back for the University of Minnesota and Bruce Ellington, wide receiver of South Carolina.

Vereen 34 games as a Gopher, but only is only listed as playing in 1 during 2013. During that time he logged 3 interceptions. Bruce Ellington has played for three years at South Carolina, and caught 106 passes and for 1586 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Additional Unconfirmed Visits Reported

Each NFL team is permitted to entertain 30 visits prior to the NFL draft, minus visits from local schools such as the University of Pittsburgh. Thus far, there have been 8 confrimed visits to the South Side:

1. Donte Moncrief, wide receiver Ole Miss speedy wideout
2. Lanche Seastrunk, running back Baylor
3. Jason Verrett, cornerback
4. Ryan Shizier, Ohio State linebacker
5. Stephon Tuitt, defensive end Notre Dame
6. Darqueze Dennard, cornerback Michigan State
7. Brock Vereen, defensive back, Minnesota
8. Bruce Ellington, wide receiver South Carolina

The site Walter Football is associating the Steelers with 2 other NCAA prospects who would count against their limit of 30.

Seantrel Henderson, offensive lineman from University of Miami
Bradley Roby, cornerback, Ohio State
Anthony Barr, linebacker UCLA
Martavis Bryant, wide receiver, Clemson

Behind the Steel Curtain is also reporting that the Steelers visited with Aaron Donald, from Pitt. Donald is a senior who played defensive tackle for the Panthers , and amassed 29.5 sacks during 3 seasons in the Big East and one in the ACC.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Front Office Free Agency: Dolphins Poach Pittsburgh's Ryan Grove

Repercussions of the Richie Incognito story now reach Pittsburgh. And this connection has nothing to do with Maurkice Pouncey’s twin brother Mike.

No, Miami Dolphins athletic trainer Kevin O’Neil was implicated in Ted Wells investigation, and as a result has lost is position with the Dolphins.
Grove is a Pittsburgh native with both and M.A. and B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh. He first served as a training intern the early 1990’s, before joining the staff full time in 1999. In between, he served as the athletic trainer for the movie Jerry Maguire.

John Norwig Stays Put

Grove’s departure creates a vacancy on the Steelers training staff, but head athletic trainer John Norgwig is staying put.

Norwig has headed the Steelers training department since being hired by Bill Cowher in 1992, and in that capacity Norwig is the only Steelers staffer mentioned by name in Cowher’s fairwell press conference.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Darqueze Dennard, Stephon Tuitt Pay Pre-Draft Visits to Steelers

While the ink was yet to dry on free agent wide receiver’s Darrius Heyward-Bey’s contract, the Steelers moved on with their NFL pre draft visits.
This is hardly the first time either Stephon Tuitt and Darqueze Dennard names have been mentioned in association with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Dennard is an obvious first rounder and has been listed as one of the players the Steelers will not pass on if available at 15 during the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft.
The Steelers need for a cornerback is well-documented, with Ike Taylor pushing 34, and William Gay and Cortez Allen both heading into their contract years. With the washout that was Courtney Brown, the Steelers have no up and comer waiting in the wings.
  • The Steelers need on defensive line is equally well documented. 
With Al Woods in Tennessee and Ziggy Hood in Jacksonville, the Steelers have no starting defensive end opposite Cameron Heyward. Cam Thomas has of course been signed, but the early word is that Thomas has been brought on for depth behind both Heyward and Steve McLendon, not to start.

Stephon Tuitt at one point had been projected as a first round pick, but has draft stock has dropped due to a foot injury.

As Dale Lolley pointed out, the Steelers could benefit from this in the same way the benefitted from a sports hernia that limited Heath Miller’s activity prior to the 2005 NFL Draft – where Bill Cowher and Kevin Colbert selected Miller with the 30th overall pick.

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