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Draft plans should be line, line ...

January 18, 2008
By Buck Frank
When the Steelers partake in the NFL draft three months from now, their selection strategy may be similar to what it was in 1987.

Back then, the Steelers saw a glaring need at a certain position — the secondary — and chose defensive backs with three of their first four picks, taking Rod Woodson, Delton Hall and Thomas Everett.

With that thinking, the Steelers may get a dud, like Hall was, but the position should be greatly improved with the infusion of several young, talented players.

The Steelers could certainly follow that philosophy this April as they try to improve their offensive line.

The Steelers will most likely lose All-Pro guard Alan Faneca to free agency, backup tackle Max Starks could also exit, and starting left tackle Marvel Smith will be coming off back problems in the final year of his contract.

Add in that center Sean Mahan had difficulty all season going up against big nose tackles, and one may wonder if the Steelers should take a guard, tackle and center, in any order, with three of their first four picks.

The top available linemen right now — and much could change after the Senior Bowl and Combines — are mostly tackles. Michigan’s Jake Long and Boise State’s Ryan Clady are the most highly touted and are expected to be selected in the first 10-12 picks, but the Steelers, with the 23rd, could get a tackle like USC’s Sam Baker or Pitt’s Jeff Otah.

The top guards — Oregon State’s Roy Schuening and Tennessee’s Eric Young — are currently projected as second-rounders, and the top centers — Wake Forest’s Steve Justice and Texas A&M’s Cody Wallace — are projected as third- or fourth-rounders.

If the Steelers could get one of those top guys in each of those rounds, it may not necessarily improve their line this coming season. It will, though, make training camp interesting.

With three top rookie linemen in camp, Mahan or Willie Colon could shift to guard, Kendall Simmons could move from guard to center, and guys like Chris Kemoeatu or Darnell Stapleton may get a shot somewhere.

Drafting that many players at one position may sound a little radical. From this view, though, getting major help for the line far outweighs any tweaking the Steelers need to do at other positions.

Useless stat

It was pointed out before the playoff game with the Jacksonville Jaguars that the Steelers had never lost to a team twice at home in their 75-year history.

Of course, the Jags became the first team to ever accomplish the feat.

But actually, the Steelers were only 2-0 ever in past similar situations. That doesn’t make what the Jaguars did seem that incredible.

What a weekend

The four NFL divisional playoff games made for a great weekend last week. Hopefully, the upcoming bigger games contain similar drama.

Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or

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