Pittsburgh Steelers: Grading the 2011 NFL Draft


The Pittsburgh Steelers fell just shy of winning another Superbowl Championship in part because of their at times shaky offensive line play, and their lack of talent and depth at the cornerback position. The Steelers, though, have been a team that has focused on drafting the best players available. Which direction did they pursue this year and how did they do?

You can click on the names for the 4th through 7th round picks to see NFLMocks friend and site contributor Perry Biggerstaff’s interviews with those players (and stay tuned for more).

1st round: Cameron Heyward, DE, OSU

Had Heyward entered the 2010 draft he might have been a top 15 pick, but a moderately disappointing season and the emergence of talent at the defensive line position pushed Heyward down in the draft. Heyward has good size (6’5 294 pounds) and athleticism.

Philosophy: A.

The Steelers have some age on their defensive line and Heyward also happened to be solid value. The Steelers have a core organizational philosophy, which is defense first. The Steelers grab a young player who is going to play a big role in their success a few years down the road when players like Aaron Smith retire.

Player Value B+

This was a very solid value pick. Heyward isn’t flashy, but he fits in well with their system. He was also one of the best players available. Good pick by the Steelers.

Round 2: Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida

Gilbert has good height (6’6) good weight (330) pounds and solid athleticism for an offensive linemen. He played at Florida. Gilbert is considered a top notch pass protector, but a moderate run blocker who lacks great range.

Philosophy: A

The Steelers really needed an offensive linemen and Gilbert was solid value in the second round, though not great value.

Player Value B

Gilbert was above average value at the end of the second round, but not great value. There were a lot of quality players left. The concern for me about Gilbert is how will he help the Steelers reestablish their dominant run game. Giilbert is not Flozell Adams a powerful run blocking right tackle, Gilbert is more of a finesse offensive tackle. If Gilbert develops a mean streak, this could be a very nice pick a few years down the road.

Round 3: Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

Brown is a nice size/speed combo corner at 6’0 tall and running a 4.53.  Brown only managed 10 bench pres reps, but that’s not always the most important measurable for a cornerback.

Philosophy: A

The Steelers needed more cornerback help and they managed to grab a pretty talented cornerback in the third round. Was he the best cornerback available? That’s up for debate.

Player Value B

Brown is a pretty good fit for the Steelers who use a lot of zones because they blitz so often. Brown may not have been the best cornerback or best player available, but it was still an above average pick. Nothing less should be expected from a team that usually sticks right to their big board and grabs their top players.

Round 4: Cortez Allen, CB, The Citadel

Allen is a long rangy cornerback. He’s 6’1 inch and runs a 4.51 40 yard dash. Allen reps 18 on the bench presses. He has all the measurables N.F.L. teams are a looking for, but he didn’t play against top competition.

Player Value: C

Allen was an average pick on my big board at this point. There were still a lot of talented running backs available and the player the Steelers got a round later was also much better. This seems more like of a reach pick than a best available player pick. I’m not saying Allen won’t develop into a quality nickel cornerback, or even a number two cornerback. I’m just saying there were better players available.

Round 5 Chris Carter, OLB, Fresno State

Carter is an athletic pass rusher (4.58 40 yard dash) who is undersized, but if he could add strength could be an ice reserve player for the Steelers and possibly even develop into a starter down the road. Carter registered 11 sacks this past season. He should be able to come in and immediately help out on special teams.

Player Value B+

A high value pick by the Steelers here.

Round 6: Keith Williams, OL, Nebraska

Even though Williams played at Nebraska he was a relatively obscure offensive linemen prospect that was selected by the Steeleres in the 6th round.  Williams is known for a great work ethic. He’s also considered very coachable. The Steelers needed offensive linemen and they clearly thought he was the best one available at this point.

Player Value C-

Round 7: Baron Batch, RB, Texas Tech

Batch is a versatile running back who played for the Red Raiders. Batch never carried the ball 200 times in a season, but he was a pass catching demon out of the backfield for the Red Raiders. He had 89 combined receptions over the last two years at Texas Tech.

Player Value C

Overall B

This wasn’t my favorite of the Steelers drafts of late, but it was still a very solid draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are teams that every year you know are just going to make some good quality picks and the Steelers are one of those teams. The Steelers addressed both needs (OL, and CB) in the first four rounds as well as obtained some good value (Heyward and Chris Carter). There were better drafts out there this year, but the Steelers still helped themselves now and in the long run

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