On the Steelers: Williams not the cornerback the Steelers need
April 24, 2011 4:00 AM
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Texas cornerback Aaron Williams.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Among the handful of players most often slotted for the Steelers in the mega million mock drafts out there is one Aaron Williams, a cornerback at Texas.
Williams looks like a stud at 6 feet, 204 pounds. He also is the slowest of the top 10 cornerbacks in the draft, and many believe his ultimate position will be at safety. So, why would a team that is desperate for a cornerback who can cover receivers go after one who likely fits better at safety?
Jack Butler, who should be in the Hall of Fame, knows all about going from cornerback to safety, and he believes it is one of the easiest moves in football. He did it with the Steelers in the 1950s. He also knows all about scouting them because he not only became a scout but became the first head of the BLESTO scouting service and remained in that job for nearly 40 years until his retirement a few years ago.
Here's what he has to say about the difficulty of playing cornerback and of finding a good one in the draft:
"I think it's a real gamble," he said about drafting one high. "A corner is different. You can take a good athlete, and he can play strong safety and he can play free safety. A good athlete has good instincts and things like that, you can make them a safety really.
"But for corner, it's a different game altogether. You're like on an island and a lot of time you're playing man to man and you really have to have it; the balance, the burst, you need all that stuff and you have to have good instincts and reaction.
"And you have to put yourself in a position when you're covering a person, you have to look through the person and keep your eye on the quarterback. Then you have a chance if you have all the other things -- the speed and quickness -- because those receivers can fly, too.
"You pick a kid, 'Oh, he ran a 4.4 or 4.5,' but then when you get him, he has to have it all."
Playing safety? Piece of cake comparatively.
"It's an easier game to play for a safety," Butler said. "If you're a strong safety, OK, you might have coverage of the tight end or something. But a free safety, if you have good instincts and watch what's going on and can read a quarterback, I think you can develop like a cat-and-mouse game with the quarterback. You can kind of hang back and let the quarterback think this guy's going to be open and you can play that game with him and, if you have a burst, you can make the play and the whole bit. It's fun being a free safety; really, that's a great job.
"Cornerback is altogether a different person; you really, really have to have it. Going from corner to safety is like going to Sunday school."
Does Aaron Williams have it to play cornerback? Or will the team that drafts him be forced to send him quickly to Sunday school?
Adams retirement question
Flozell Adams, under contract to the Steelers through 2011, plans to play next season. There has been speculation on whether Adams, 36, will retire. But his agent says that is not the case.
"Flo is planning on playing," Jordan Woy told the Post-Gazette in an email. "We will need to talk to Pittsburgh [once the lockout ends] and determine his role and if it will be with the Steelers."
In other words, Adams does not want to be a backup. He wants to stay right where he was last season, as starting right tackle. It's no secret the Steelers will pursue a tackle in the draft next week, but that could work out perfectly. Adams could finish out his contract with the Steelers, start the 2011 season at right tackle, and any young tackle they might draft could have a year playing behind him.
Forget drafting punters
Who were the Steelers punters in their last three Super Bowls? Chris Gardocki, Mitch Berger and Jeremy Kapinos. That's further proof that you do not need a great punter, or even a good one, to be successful. Find a competent guy who can get the punt off quick enough that it won't get blocked, someone who can hold for placekicks and someone who will be consistent with his punts. They don't have to draw all the oohs and ahhs from the crowd as they boom up into the air.
The difference between a good punter and an average one may be three or four yards. They punt about four times a game. That's about 15 yards or one holding penalty and a false start.
Drafting Daniel Sepulveda on the fourth round in 2007 was folly. The Steelers threw away two draft picks -- a sixth and a fourth -- in order to move higher in the fourth round to take him. When he is healthy, Sepulveda has done a decent job, but he is not often healthy and does not give them the production to account for using two draft picks to get him. Ike Taylor was a fourth-round pick.
Fans have to hope they draft more players and fewer punters, starting this week.
Draft bests and busts
The New York Daily News is compiling a list of best and worst draft picks for each team and asked for our contribution for the Steelers.
It took little time to pick the best. The worst was a little tougher. There was the famous Gary Glick, the No. 1 overall choice in 1956, when they had "bonus" picks, but Glick played seven seasons in the NFL.
There were others, such as RB Bob Ferguson in 1962, OT Mike Taylor in 1968, RB Greg Hawthorne in 1979, DE Keith Gary in 1981 (spent his first two years playing in CFL), DE Gabe Rivera in 1983 (bypassing Dan Marino), DE Darryl Sims in 1985, G John Rienstra in 1986, DE Aaron Jones in 1988, the double whammy of RB Tim Worley and Tom Ricketts in 1989, LB Huey Richardson in 1991 and OT Jamain Stephens in 1996.
Those are a lot of first-round misses, too many of them in the 1980s and 1990s. I considered only first-round picks because they are the most important and, well, there were so many candidates in that round.
Here is what I sent the New York Daily News as my choices:
Steelers best -- DT Joe Greene, North Texas State, 4th overall in 1969: Chuck Noll's first pick as new coach, a Hall of Famer who set the tone for a complete franchise turnaround.
Steelers worst -- RB Dick Leftridge, West Virginia, 3rd overall in 1966: One year, 4 games, 8 carries, 17 yards.