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First-day draft thoughts

April 23, 2010 - Buck Frank

Four years ago, I thought the Steelers should go after Ohio State center Nick Mangold with their first pick of the draft.

They had just won Super Bowl XL, were picking last in the first round and needed someone as Jeff Hartings' eventual replacement at center. The Steelers had a successful history at center with Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson and Hartings holding that spot for 40 years.

The Steelers, instead, traded up to take wide receiver Santonio Holmes. The pick turned out to be a great selection in the short run -- Holmes was of course the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII. The Steelers stuggled at center one year with Sean Mahan and have gotten by with Justin Hartwig the last two years.

Still, they won that Super Bowl with Holmes and Hartwig.

Now, though, for the long term, the pick of Holmes won't be paying off. He's actually on the same team -- the Jets -- with Mangold, and the Steelers are still trying to get by with Hartwig.

That's why the pick of Maurkice Pouncey was the best fit for the Steelers Thursday night. He can move into their weakest spot on the line -- right guard -- this year and learn the game before shifting to center in 2011 or 2012. The Steelers are going to try and pound the football more, and they desperately needed to upgrade the offensive line.

That all starts with a great center.

Is Pouncey a lock for greatness? There are no sure bets in the NFL, and the Steelers have had their share of first-round offensive lineman busts -- Jamain Stephens and John Reinstra. But considering where they were picking and what they needed, they made a solid pick.


Looking ahead to Friday's second and third rounds, the top five cornerbacks are gone, including Alabama's Kareem Jackson. I thought it was possible he could slip into the second round, but he was rocketing up draft boards the last few weeks.

Some of the next best corners are Oklahoma State's Perrish Cox and South Florida's Jerome Murphy, but neither has the 4.4 speed the Steelers covet. The Steelers may go after Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee, who is actually in New York, or Virginia's Chris Cook.

They may also be looking at outside linebackers to back up LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, and many are there for the taking in the second round, including Texas' Sergio Kindle, Clemson's Ricky Sapp, Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds and Ohio State's Thaddeus Gibson. If the Steelers take a cornerback in the second round, OLBs Koa Misi of Utah, Navorro Bowman of Penn State and Eric Norwood of South Carolina could be decent third-round choices.  


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