NFL Draft: Steelers' wants and needs mostly satisfied
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The Steelers filled both wants and needs in a nine-man draft class that concluded Saturday with an important trade and players at some skill positions who could tweak the way they do things on offense.
Although general manager Kevin Colbert insisted they did not try specifically to fill the team's obvious needs, their choices looked as though they filled the team's obvious ones.
Their biggest needs were guard, tackle, inside linebacker and nose tackle. They drafted the first three in the first two days and began the third day by making a trade to fill the other spot.
"Really, the last three days unfolded very well for us," Colbert said. "We got a lot of players we targeted. We didn't feel we reached for anybody."
They did, however, move up for one.
The Steelers hit another need hard by trading with the Washington Redskins to move up 10 spots and draft nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu of the University of Washington. They swapped their sixth-round pick to the Redskins to flip-flop picks in the fourth round.
"In Ta'amu's situation, there were only four or five nose tackle-types available, and he was the last man standing," Colbert said.
Another need fulfilled with Casey Hampton likely in the final year of his contract.
And, with Rashard Mendenhall rehabbing from January ACL surgery, they chose a versatile little back in the fifth round, Chris Rainey of Florida.
The Steelers used the first of their four seventh-round picks on Colorado's Toney Clemons, a Valley High School graduate who, at 6-2, 210, has sub 4.4 speed in the 40.
Their three other seventh-round picks were tight end David Paulson of Oregon, cornerback Terrence Frederick of Texas A&M and Southern Methodist tackle Kelvin Beachum, who the Steelers will put at guard.
Rainey is not your typical Steelers running back.
He stands 5 feet 8, weighs 180 pounds and is as fast as they come at that position, running a 4.37 in the 40.
And he's not bashful.
"I can play running back, I can play slot, I can do special teams," Rainey boasted. "I'm a playmaker all around. I'm perfect for this offense."
He is used to running behind one of the Steelers linemen, too, because Rainey not only was a teammate of Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey at both Lakeland High School and at Florida, but he also stayed with the Pouncey twins' family while in high school.
That helped the Steelers decide to draft him, even though he was arrested in 2010 for allegedly sending a threatening text message to a girlfriend. He accepted a plea by pledging to avoid legal trouble for six months, perform 10 hours of community service and undergo anger-management classes.
"Everybody knows about the texting situation," Colbert said.
"But we had some unique background on this kid because of his relationship with the Pouncey family.
"For them to take the kid in and provide him a home in high school said a lot to us."
Rainey said while he believes it hurt him in the draft, it taught him a lesson.
"I became a man, matured, learned a lesson not to do that ever again," Rainey said.
"Stuff happens for a reason."
Todd Haley, the Steelers new offensive coordinator, said they will try Rainey everywhere, including on punt returns, where they might try to cut back the duties of Antonio Brown now that he's become a starting wide receiver.
"He's a very versatile player who is fast, explosive, he can catch the ball, run with it and return it.
"That's a commodity."
Rainey was first-team All-SEC last year.
He rushed for 861 yards and also caught 31 passes for 381 yards. He is the younger brother of running back Rod Smart of "He Hate Me" fame in the old XFL.
Clemons, a late bloomer who transferred from Michigan to Colorado, is the cousin of Woodland Hills High School product and NFL veteran wide receiver Steve Breaston.
"He was a guy we were all kind of crossing our fingers on," said Steelers wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery.
"He has a unique combination of size and speed."
Clemons has a shot to make it as the fifth wide receiver on a team that carries that many and sometimes six, especially if he can prove himself on special teams.
In addition to their nine draft picks, the Steelers later Saturday night agreed to terms with 12 undrafted rookies. They are punter Drew Butler (Georgia), cornerback Terry Carter (Lousiana Tech), wide receiver Connor Dixon (Duquesne), safety Robert Golden (Arizona), defensive end Ikponmwosa Igbinosun (Southern Connecticut State), center/guard Ryan Lee (Furman), linebacker Brandon Lindsey (Pitt), wide receiver Marquis Maze (Alabama), kicker Grant Ressel (Missouri), linebacker Adrian Robinson (Temple), offensive tackle Desmond Stapleton (Rutgers) and defensive end Jake Stoller (Yale).
First Published April 29, 2012 6:01 pm