Defensive Rookies Shine Day 1

Steelers Rookie Camp Reviews – Defensive Rookie Impact

Pittsburgh – The Steelers unleashed their collection of young talent to the media this afternoon. The rookies and other free agent tryouts worked out as F-16 fighter jets circled over head in anticipation of tomorrow’s air show.

It served as the first official practice for their 2017 collection of NFL Draft picks that included T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster respectively. The day also allowed dozens of other free agents to show their skills to the Steelers coaching and scouting departments.

The morning practice revealed several prospects that warrant attention and their listed below.

Brian Allen, CB, Utah
Acquired 2017 NFL Draft 5th Round
Mike Tomlin seemed to express a special interest in the 6-foot-3 and 215 pound Allen who may possibly remind most of Mel Blount due to his impressive stature.

“I heard him,” Allen said. “I knew he was a great coach from the beginning and when he gave me the phone call on draft day he kind a gave me a little joke on the telephone but I’m just happy to be out here and thankful for the opportunity.”

Allen made a terrific one-handed interception every bit as impressive as the Odell Beckman made famous.

“I practice catches,” Allen said. “When I was a wide receiver I used to stay after practice and practice one handed catches like that. I wouldn’t necessarily say its luck but I would say there was a little bit of skill put into it.”

He made the switch from receiver to safety but only stayed their two games after injuries forced him to move to defensive back and he has been there ever since (2014).

Dillon Buechel, QB, Duquesne
Tryout ‘17
After the first practice Buechel put together a solid morning. He threw tight spiraled passes with some zip and looked like a arm that could hang around for the duration of camp.

A real long-shot in terms of making the team but again after one day of practice he looked as poised and mechanically inclined as fourth round selection Josh Dobbs.

It is also taking nothing away from Dobbs who looked equally relaxed deliver his passes, but considering Buechel’s background and level of competition. The NEC (Northeast Conference) is a far cry from the most powerful collegiate conference (SEC) where Dobbs used to reside.


Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
Acquired NFL Draft 3rd Round
“A little bit (laughing),” Sutton said in regards to how much film he has seen of his new teammate Antonio Brown. “We are definitely going to have some good battles and competition but at the end of the day we are all working towards one goal and that is to win.”

Sutton was impressive after once practice showing nice anticipation to break on the ball and some very fluid hips that allow him to sink into coverage without losing the gap between him and the receiver.

His acquisition in the third round could be the steal of the Steelers draft his year if he continues to display the ability he revealed today.

Keion Adams, LB, Western Michigan
Acquired NFL Draft 7th Round
It was hard to not be impressed by the athleticism shown by Adams this afternoon. His basketball background and decisive steps trigger his ability to pursue the ball effectively.

He covers the field quickly and his hallmark ability is rushing the quarterback. That coincides with the most important aspect of the Steelers defense and that is rushing the passer.

If Pittsburgh can develop this talented 7th round selection out of Western Michigan he could become a will asset on situational passing plays that warrant his skill set.

Corey Jones, WR, Toledo
Tryout ‘17
Pittsburgh used the 97th overall pick (Third Round) of the 2014 NFL Draft on Dri Archer. Jones is a splitting image of Archer is both size and ability.

The Steelers envisioned big things for Archer who never materialized and now is with the Buffalo Bills. That is why Jones is a special player to watch because Pittsburgh could still be looking to curve their appetite for a player like Archer.

Jones is a return specialist and solid pass catching prospect that Todd Haley could mix and match in his offensive scheme. Making the team is the first priority but he is worth keeping an eye on.

 

Jarvis Jones (2013), Ryan Shazier (2014) and Bud Dupree (2015) were the Steelers first-round picks. McKinley makes it the fourth linebacker drafted in the last fives years.

Defense Headlines Steelers 2017 Draft Needs

 

2016 Steelers Draft 2016                                                             College2Pro Steelers Mock Draft
1st Artie Burns, DB, Miami (FL)                                                     Eli Apple, DB, Ohio State
2nd Sean Davis, SS, Maryland                                                        Vonn Bell, SS, Ohio State
3rd Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina St                                 Correct
4th Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU                                                         Jacoby Brissett, QB, N.C. State
5th Travis Feeney, LB, Washington                                               Joe Dahl, G, Washington State
6th DeMarcus Ayers, WR, Houston                                               LeShaun Sims, DB, Southern Utah
7th Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple                                                 Marcus Johnson, WR, Texas

 

The Steelers head into the up-coming draft with the idea of replenishing depth rather than drat for drastic needs of replacing former aging stars on each side of the ball. The team has been able to stay relevant transforming the former nucleus with a new generation of play-makers.

We are underway for another fascinating off season for the Steelers. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are the marquee names that will garner the bulk of attention especially with Bell a pending free agent and one of the most dynamic players in the entire league.

A few years ago the team was desperate for offensive line help and then the secondary become a huge cause for concern. The offensive line allowed the second fewest sacks (21) behind only the Oakland Raiders (18). Pittsburgh finished seventh overall in total offense and proved to be a formidable force in 2016.

Defensively the unit is a work in progress. Their sacks an interception numbers dipped in 2016 prior to their 2015 production. In 2015 the team recorded 48 sacks and 17 interceptions and one season later Pittsburgh accumulated 38 sacks and 13 interceptions.

Their first three picks in the 2015 NFL Draft (Burns, Davis and Hargrave) play critically important roles and look to be big pieces to the defense moving forward. It will be a matter of them becoming more experienced along with more additions made via the draft or free agency.

 

First-Round
Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
He has immense upside and the Steelers defense functions best when the outside linebackers are making sacks. It will mark the fourth time in the last five years they have drafted a linebacker in the first-round. With Jarvis Jones likely not being brought back and James Harrison wizardry of avoiding Father-Time can only last so long before he is caught. Please keep in mind the size preference of the position and you will realize why McKinley or Alabama’s Tim Williams fit the mold of what the Steelers want as a pass rushing linebacker.

Second-Round
Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado
The former Buffalo defensive back is a lockdown corner with good field awareness who will help add depth and talent. The team really does not know what it has in Senquez Golson a former second-round pick in 2015 who has been unable to stay healthy and play in a regular season game. Awuzie only enhances the defense and possibly giving them a bookend opposite of Artie Burns.

Third-Round
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
One of the deepest running back classes in decades the plethora of players available are simply to talented to pass on in the third-round and it serves as an insurance policy in case Bell misses significant time. DeAngelo Williams is a free agent and turns 34 two days prior to the 2017 NFL Draft. While he has been superb in filling in for Bell the logical thinking if he can with stand another big workload is not the smartest bet to make.

Fourth-Round
Julien Davenport, OT, Bucknell
Pittsburgh prefers their offensive lineman to be well over 310 pounds when playing tackle. Bucknell is 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds and provides the team depth with some versatility to slide in at guard in a pinch. Expect the Steelers to add some weight to the Bucknell star lineman.

Fifth-Round
Conner Harris, ILB, Lindenwood
The most productive linebacker in NCAA history recorded 633 total tackles during his career and spent time at running back as well. Harris could be a factor in the fifth-round. Lawrence Timmons hopefully is retained when free agency begins but his departure would leave a real void in the Steelers defense. Timmons staying and showing Harris the way would be the ideal situation.

Sixth-Round
Al Riles, WR, Louisiana-Lafayette
This is where long road hours by regional scouts take effect when the draft nears its end. Pittsburgh is always a safe bet to pick a receiver in the sixth or seventh round and the tradition continues with Riles the ‘Jabrill Peppers’ of the Sun Belt Conference. He has played safety, linebacker and receiver at impact levels.

Seventh-Round
Javancy Jones, OLB, Jackson State
Knowing the young man I hope he goes a little higher than the seventh-round so he can exhale a bit on draft weekend. Jones is simply a play-maker with swagger and the ability to be productive in a wide variety of way defensively. He can tackle. He can get after the quarterback and I do believe if he had Alabama on his jersey he would be a third-round prospect.

Steelers Add Burns

Steelers Grab Artie Burns Round 1

First-Round, 25th overall
Eli Apple, DB, Ohio – Apple is one of the best defensive available in the draft and would serve an immediate need for Pittsburgh. The secondary is the unit most in need and must be addressed to help assure the defense can be relied on during the season.

Second-Round, 58th overall
Vonn Bell, SS, Ohio State – Incumbent strong safety Will Allen an Ohio State alum enters his 13th season in the NFL. He still plays at a high level and his locker room presence with worth its weight in gold. A leader and guy who can mentor Bell on perfecting the craft of playing safety in the NFL. Bell has the size and smarts to earn playing time early in his rookie season.

Third-Round, 89th overall
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State – Steve McClendon and Cam Thomas leave the defensive interior needy of depth and talent. Hargrave is a big man and Pittsburgh like beefy interior players. Standing at 6-foot-1 and 315 pounds, Hargraves is a stout force in the run game who is able to clog the running lanes and allowing the edge players to collaspe the pocket.

Fourth-Round, 124th overall
Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State – Only the second quarterback drafted by Pittsburgh with Kevin Colbert as General Manager. Brissett has some Ben Roethlisberger traits to his game. Landry Jones does not seem to be the guy Pittsburgh feels can help out in a quick pinch. I would not be surprised if another veteran name is thrown into the mix after the NFL Draft to provide Pittsburgh with additional options in case Roethlisberger misses any time.

Fifth-Round – Traded to Philadelphia Eagles for defensive back Brandon Boykin.

Sixth-Round – Traded to Jacksonville Jaguars for kick Josh Scobee.

Seventh-Round, 244th overall
Marcus Johnson, WR, Texas – Johnson never became the focal point of the Longhorns passing attack at Texas. However, Johnson is extremely talented and after his Pro Day performance he put himself on the back burner of late-round sleepers. Three of the Steelers seven receivers taken with Kevin Colbert as GM have arrived in the sixth-round. Johnson becomes the first seventh-round selection.

“This is my third year here,” said Cody Wallace. “So I have a good handle on the system, been with the same guys a lot with Ramon (Foster) and Dave (DeCastro) at the guard positions.”

Like a good ‘Neighbor’ Wallace is there

A lot of pressure falls on the shoulders of the center, especially when you’re replacing a Pro Bowler considered the best at his position – It intensifies with Super Bowl aspirations.

That is the situation for sixth- year veteran Cody Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pouncey was place on the teams Reserve/Injured; Designated For Return List back in September after hurting his right ankle.

“This is my third year here,” said Cody Wallace. “So I have a good handle on the system, been with the same guys a lot with Ramon (Foster) and Dave (DeCastro) at the guard positions.”

Wallace had done a superb job of directing the offense and snapping to three different quarterbacks this season.

“That’s life as a back-up in the NFL,” joked Wallace knowing that when your number is called you got to be ready roll.

The Steelers certainly know his value and establishing himself as a top reserve with starter potential. Prior to signing with the Steelers (2013) the 2008 fourth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft spent time on five other NFL teams that includes the San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Six teams in eight seasons puts Wallace in that journeymen type category – Or maybe relatively unknown.

“Everyone calls me the ‘Neighbor’,” laughed Wallace. “Tomlin started it. He kind of jokes and says, ‘Yah this guy looks like your neighbor, but you get him on the field and he’s a bad dude’, everyone enjoyed it and it kind of stuck.”

Wallace has stuck just like his nickname.

“I like to think I’m a nice guy in the locker room, but when we go on the field I try to be a little dirty.”

That nasty tough play has helped the offensive line stay aggressive and keep the offense ranked near the top of the league (9th) in points scored.

In his third season with the Steelers he is learning the trade under Hall of Famer Mike Munchak. He is in his second season as the offensive line coach and has helped not only Wallace excel but the entire unit.

“He’s huge (In his importance) and all guys in the room love him,” said Wallace. “He makes it fun coming in there and he’s a guy that played for a long time so he understands what we go through. He knows it’s not always going to be perfect. He just wants us to play hard and bring a nasty attitude.”

Like a good ‘Neighbor’ Wallace is there – Doing a superb job and keeping the continuity along the offensive front cohesive.

This is an unofficial and independent source of news and information not affiliated with any team(s) or the National Football League (NFL).

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