Sep 20, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals safety Gerod Holliman (8) intercepts a pass in the second quarter of a game against the FIU Golden Panthers in the second quarter at FIU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
There you have it Steelers Nation. Eight new players added to the roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers after seven rounds of the NFL Draft.
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Last Friday we knew who the first three picks were and those men all filled needs. From rounds four through the last pick in round seven, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin continued to attack need areas. With their final five picks, the Steelers went all defensive with the exception of a tight end taken in round five.
In the fourth round, just as they had done with the second pick, it was the secondary that Pittsburgh focused on. Doran Grant, joins his former teammate Ryan Shazier as the Ohio State cornerback joins the Steelers as the 121st pick overall.
Grant is a bit short for the secondary at 5’10” but comes in at 200 pounds. Grant will remind Steelers fans of Ike Taylor…a solid tackler. The word on him is that he is also football smart. That’s a plus when playing for Mike Tomlin. Given his size disadvantage and more of a tackler rather than a cover guy, if Grant makes the team he will as most rookies do, begin with special teams and could see action in special defensive packages especially when Keith Butler is expecting a short yardage or third down running play.
Following up the selection of Grant came a gunslinger known as Jesse James. That’s right. Same name as the infamous criminal. Only this James plays football and plays it big. The Penn State product is a tall 6’7” and 261 pounds. Leaving behind the Nittany Lions, James leaves behind as well the school record for touchdowns by a tight end with 11.
However, his receiving skills are far from what Heath Miller is capable of, and Miller is miles ahead as a blocking tight end. What this spells is a project for Todd Haley and the task for James to try to find room on the roster that sees last year’s rookie pick Rob Blanchflower, veteran Michael Egnew, and a very good Matt Spaeth ahead of him. With a solid training camp he would go past Blanchflower and Egnew and earn a third spot with the team at tight end.
In the sixth round last Saturday, the Steelers had two picks. One was their allotted pick at #199 and then their gift from the NFL in the form of a compensatory pick at number 212.
With the 23rd pick in the round, the Steelers drafted Leterrius Walton, a defensive tackle from Central Michigan who will battle Daniel McCullers for the backup nose tackle spot behind Steve McClendon. Walton is not quite as big as the sophomore McCullers, but he still a large man at 6’5”, 319. One thing Walton has going in his favor is that he has played on both sides of the ball, an offensive lineman who converted to the defensive line.
Like Grant before him, Walton could turn into more of a project than a sure thing and lacks some of the strength that say McCullers has. He needs some work on technique but as one unnamed AFC West scout evaluated him: “I have a feeling he’s going to be one of those guys who ends up being an NFL player that nobody sees coming. He was a baseball and basketball player, which means he has good hands and feet. More coaching might be able to unlock an NFL player.”
“I have a feeling he’s going to be one of those guys who ends up being an NFL player that nobody sees coming.” AFC Scout on Leterrius Walton
The second time the Steelers’ name was called at the podium in the sixth round, the name Anthony Chickillo was called. Another defensive end, the University of Miami player could be more suited to switch to an outside linebacker as many Steelers’ linebackers have done before him.
Chickillo is versatile but a bit small to line up on the front (6’3”, 267). The Steelers have a history of loving to convert college defensive ends into pass rushing and linebacking specialists. Chickillo could be one of those. He does show some strength in his technique but he will certainly be a project and will have a very difficult time making the regular season roster unless he really wows the defensive coaches this summer.
With their final pick in the 2015 draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers gave new Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler another body for depth. Seventh rounders can make NFL teams but free safety Gerod Holliman from Louisville now joins what has quickly become a very competitive training camp in the secondary.
When looking at what Holliman accomplished at Louisville, it’s a wonder he lasted so long. In 2014, he was the winner of the Thorpe Award presented to the country’s best defensive back. Holliman was a first-team All-American as well as first-team All-ACC. He started nine of 13 games last season and led the nation with 14 interceptions.
Holliman put himself in the record books with that mark tying Al Worley of the University of Washington for the most picks in a season. 2014 was his first as a starter and he showed he can play. Now Holliman must prove that 2014 was not a fluke and he can play on the next level. Of the eight new draft picks, Holliman may very well be 2015’s dark horse.
Issuing an overall grade for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 draft, it appears the first three picks were outstanding but the next five have question marks written all over them. It would be safe to say their final grade could be a solid B. Individually?
Bud Dupree: The Steelers first overall pick could be a first-year starter if the expectations of him are fulfilled this summer in training camp. Either way, Steelers fans should see ample playing time from the newest linebacker to join the team. There is reason to be excited about Dupree. Grade: A.
Senquez Golson: As it is right now, William Gay and Cortez Allen will be Pittsburgh’s starting cornerbacks. It would take a strong challenge from the five other corners on the roster to unseat either one of the two. Golson might have the tools to just that. Especially if Mike Maylock’s belief that “Golson is one of the best pure zone corners I’ve seen” pans out. Grade: B-.
Sammie Coates: Another speed guy joins the Steelers and Coates has good size. If he can prove to be a pass catching threat as well as a deep threat before the season begins, he could become the Steelers’ fourth or fifth receiver. Grade: A-.
Doran Grant: With the selection of Grant, the question marks begin to mount. Grant had plenty of playing time in his four years as a Buckeye. He will battle another rookie from this draft in Golson in the effort to earn a roster spot. Grade: C.
Jesse James: The Steelers count on their tight ends to block first and then be a receiver. At least that is the way it used to be until their offense became more potent in the passing game and got away from the old “smashmouth” running game. Still, they like their TEs to be good blockers. With that said, James will have to prove he can learn the Steelers rushing offense and be a leading blocker in it.
Heath Miller has proven that he can be a vertical threat and had the Steelers passed to him more during his career, he would probably be the top tight end in the league. But with Pittsburgh the running game is still vital so Jesse James will be counted on to prove he can fit in. Grade: C-.
Leterrius Walton: With a strong training camp, Walton could easily make the Steelers 53 man roster. That’s because after Stephen Tuitt and Cam Heyward, the talent level drops dramatically. Providing depth behind Heyward, Tuitt, and Steve McClendon is wide open. Walton has a good opportunity to take advantage. Grade: C.
Anthony Chickillo: Joining the competition to back up the starting defensive ends is Chickillo. Now the Steelers have two drafted rookies trying to win a spot at cornerback and two on the defensive line. Chickillo however could end up competing at linebacker. Either way he’s a project. Grade: C-.
Gerod Holliman: Holliman is the most intriguing of the eight draft picks for the Steelers. That’s because of the season he had in 2014.
He is easily the dark horse of the rookie class with some of the best stats among any of the players drafted. His post-training camp grade could rise if he proves to be the real deal. Steelers fans should be excited about the potential of this young man. Grade: B+.