Found March 31, 2013 on SteelBlitz Steelers Blog:
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have a poor history when it comes to drafting outside linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft. Last time the Steelers drafted an outside linebacker in the first round of the draft they selected Lawrence Timmons in 2007. However, Timmons was an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense in college at Florida State and was considered an inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense that could possibly play some outside linebacker as well. In the second round of the 2007 draft the Steelers showed their cards with Timmons when they drafted another outside linebacker in LaMarr Woodley. Woodley played defensive end at Michigan and was a true outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. Luckily for the Steelers Timmons and Woodley both made the transition to new positions and have been successful thus far in their NFL careers. Before Timmons the last outside linebacker that the Steelers drafted in the first round was Huey Richardson in 1991. Richardson was a huge bust for the Steelers as the fifteenth overall pick in the NFL draft he only played five games with the Steelers and only last one year. Chuck Noll wanted to use Richardson at inside linebacker and when he retired and Bill Cowher took over he tried to move him to outside linebacker. When that didn’t work either the Steelers traded him to the Redskins for a seventh round pick and moved on. Due to a poor history of drafting first round outside linebackers some believe they should avoid one during the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. However, the drafting of Richardson shouldn’t scare off the Steelers from drafting an outside linebacker in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. With the implementation of the 3-4 defense even in college football there are outside linebackers in the draft who have 3-4 experience. That is something that wasn’t common in the early nineties which is the last time they drafted a first round outside linebacker. Not to mention the Steelers drafting of Richardson was a fluke and something that is much less common now in the NFL Draft. When the Steelers were preparing to make their pick in 1991 they wanted Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Alvin Harper, Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Mike Pritchard and Arizona State Sun Devils running back Leonard Russell. Those three players went with the three picks before the Steelers were put on the clock. The Steelers were unprepared for this and were forced to make a selection before they ran out of time and they settled on Richardson. That turned out to be a huge mistake, but what was the bigger mistake was not having an idea of who they would draft if those players were off the board. These days the Steelers will have their big board prepared and will be ready for any circumstance that faces them when they are put on the clock with the seventeenth pick in the draft. Add to it that there are now players available in the draft that fit the Steelers 3-4 scheme and will have a much easier time filling into the Steelers defense than the players they used to mold into outside linebackers in the 1990′s and early 2000′s. They also have had plenty of misses on outside linebackers later in the draft. Therefore, thinking that they can simply wait to the later rounds to find an outside linebacker is not the best idea; especially if they think replacing James Harrison is their biggest need. In the past ten years the Steelers have drafted Jason Woirlds, Bruce Davis, LaMarr Woodley, Rian Wallace, and Alonzo Jackson to become outside linebackers. Of those players only Woodley has become a full time starter and Wallace, Jackson and Davis are considered busts. As for Worilds the jury is still out, but 2013 will be his last chance to show that he can play outside linebacker full-time in the NFL. With that poor recent-history of drafting outside linebackers in the later rounds it may be time for the Steelers to look at one in the first round once again. Players like Jarvis Jones of Georgia, Barkevious Mingo of LSU, and Damontre Moore of Texas A&M all have at least som experience as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 set from their college playing days. That means an easier transition in the NFL and a better chance of making an instant impact. If the Steelers have faith in Worilds as their starter than there is no reason to go outside linebacker in the first round, but if they feel they still need a long-term replacement for Harrison they can’t let old history scare them off from doing so. Heck, Kevin Colbert has never drafted a first round outside linebacker because of a lack of need and Mike Tomlin was still in college when the Steelers drafted Richardson back in 1991 so that old history that has nothing to do with the current regime is unlikely to add any fear to the Steelers war room during the 2013 NFL Draft; nor should it.
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