Linebacker, receiver of interest to Steelers
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Two players who could be of interest to the Steelers in the first round -- Georgia pass-rushing linebacker Jarvis Jones and California wide receiver Keenan Allen -- are not working out at the combine and will wait for their pro days to be tested.
That, though, might not be an issue for the Steelers. They drafted tight end Heath Miller in the first round in 2005 without seeing him workout because of injury.
"Heath never worked out," general manager Kevin Colbert said. "He had a sports-hernia surgery and, to this day, I couldn't tell you what Heath Miller ran in the 40. And, quite honestly, it doesn't matter."
Jones (6 feet 2, 242 pounds) led Division I-A in sacks (14 1/2), tackles for losses (24 1/2) and forced fumbles (7) in 20212 at Georgia and is built in the mold of Steelers outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
But there are some medical questions about Jones, who was diagnosed with stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column, in 2009. Jones was at Southern California at the time and doctors there failed to clear him to play.
"The traditional thinking is those guys need to be 6-4, 250," Colbert said. "I think we've broken the mold with LaMarr Woodley at 6-1 1/2 and James Harrison at 6 foot. A lot of the times when you look at tackles in today's game, 6-6, 6-7, 6-8, sometimes the low man wins. I think James and LaMarr have been examples of that."
Allen is big (6-3, 212) and would help fill a void expected to be created by the departure of free-agent Mike Wallace. But the Steelers have drafted just two wide receivers in the first round in 12 years -- Plaxico Burress in 2000 and Santonio Holmes in 2006. Their current receiving corps was built with players who weren't drafted until at least the third round.
"It's good, it's deep," Colbert said of the draft's receiving crop. "Can you look at this draft and say are there a lot of marquee guys? No, that's pretty universal. But there are football players who can help in any given round,
"Mike Wallace was a third round [choice], Emmanuel Sanders was a third-rounder, Antonio Brown was a sixth. There are players to be found. It's our job to find them."
OL in first?
Another offensive lineman in the first round for the Steelers. A third in four years?
It can happen.
"Certainly can," Colbert said. "At No. 17, we're going to have a lot of options available to us and we won't close the door on any position in any round because that would be shortsighted."
Colbert conceded that the draft is thin in numbers in three areas, one of which is interior offensive linemen (centers and guards). And the Steelers don't really need an offensive tackle after drafting three in the past two years -- Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams and Kelvin Beachum, all of whom could be starters this season if Beachum gets tried at guard.
A year ago, guard David DeCastro slipped to No. 20 and the Steelers didn't waste a minute grabbing him. The other offensive lineman picked in the first round is center Maurkice Pouncey.
Could it happen again?
"If it's an offensive lineman, they have to have position flexibility because they may have to move and play another position," Colbert said. "But if we think they are a significant-enough players, and we want him at No. 17, we'll take him."
Back to school
New Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is acutely aware of needing to stop the read option because he's in a division that has two teams who utilize the attack -- San Francisco and Seattle.
But he is not alone. Quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have created a league-wide problem for defensive coordinators.
"That will be the emphasis in everyone's defensive room in the offseason and do a big study," Arians said. "I think everyone is going to be going to the colleges, rather than the colleges coming to the pros, as far as information on how to handle it."
Arians tried to get a head start by hiring New Castle native Nick Rapone as his defensive backs coach. Rapone was the defensive coordinator at the University of Delaware the past seven seasons.
"He's dealt with it," Arians said. "He's got some good ideas on it."
Colbert called the severe knee injury of inside linebacker Sean Spence an "unknown injury," but he was referring to the nature of the recovery, not the extent of the damage. And the damage was significant.
Spence, a third-round choice in 2012, dislocated his knee, tore multiple ligaments including the anterior cruciate, and did damage to the peroneal nerve behind the knee. The Steelers do not know when, or if, Spence can return because his ability to play football again depends on the recovery of the nerve.
First Published February 23, 2013 12:00 am