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Steelers try to emulate nemesis?

April 29, 2008
The Altoona Mirror
Many say the NFL is a copycat league.

The Steelers may have proven that with their top selections in this past weekend’s draft.

The Steelers were beaten at home by the Jacksonville Jaguars twice last season, including once in the playoffs, and now all of a sudden the Steelers look more like the Jaguars.

I guess if you can’t beat them, at least you can try and be like them.

Both teams have physical defenses, but on offense the Jaguars utilized a dual running threat in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew along with tall receivers and an athletic quarterback in David Garrard.

The Steelers now appear to have that same luxury at running back with the pick of Rashard Mendenhall to pair with Willie Parker, they have their tall receiver with second selection Limas Sweed, and although fifth pick Dennis Dixon won’t be starting at quarterback anytime soon, his athleticism at QB could be used in certain situations.

The Steelers’ defense gave up 29 and 31 points in the two games to the Jaguars last year, so when coach Mike Tomlin was asked Saturday about the Steelers opening up their offense and possibly scoring 40 points per game, not surprisingly he answered, “Why not?’’ They may have to score that many to beat teams like the Jaguars.

Now, if only the Steelers could teach their offensive linemen how to get away with holding on fourth-down quarterback draws, they and the Jags will nearly be identical.

Other draft observations

n Although I think cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Antoine Cason were worth taking with the 23rd pick — they both were taken within four picks after the Steelers by two playoff teams — Mendenhall was a top 10-15 pick by many scouting services. At the very least, he brings excitement to the upcoming season, much like Ben Roethlisberger did in 2004.

n If the Steelers switched their first four picks with the Carolina Panthers — running back Jonathan Stewart, tackle Jeff Otah, cornerback Charles Godfrey and linebacker Dan Connor — I would like their draft better. Carolina, though, gave up a 2009 first-rounder.

n The Steeler aging defense, which didn’t get much help from the draft, is going to need big years from last year’s first two picks, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley.

n The Steelers had a plan and stuck with it. Unlike several other teams, all of their players were taken near the same spot they were projected.

n If you feel bad for Penn State’s Justin King slipping two rounds, consider Maryland linebacker Erin Henderson. He came out as a junior and was projected to be a late-second round pick and ended up not even being selected. He later signed with the Vikings.

n The Steelers helped further speed up the draft by making most of their selections with several minutes left on the clock. Their third pick, Bruce Davis, came nearly seconds after Detroit selected Andre Fluellen. Either the Steelers were decisive with their picks or they were hoping to spare the viewing audience more Mel Kiper analysis.

Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or

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