Tuesday, April 29, 2008

First impressions of Steelers' third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round picks

Guest commentary by Nick Beckwith:

Third-rounder Bruce Davis (UCLA) was as good a pick as the two on the first day. “All he can do is sack the quarterback.” This is the kind of criticism one likes to hear about a player one’s team selects. Anyway, I am not inclined to question the Steelers’ judgment when it comes to linebackers. Since 1970 there have only been five years when there wasn’t at least one Steeler linebacker in the Pro Bowl.

Fourth-rounder Tony Hills (Texas) is easily the most intriguing player in this draft. At the end of his senior year in high school he damaged his peroneal nerve when he tore his LCL. Doctors told him he might never walk normally again, and he made his recruiting trip to Texas in a wheelchair! He started 24 games at left tackle during his junior and senior years, so I am optimistic. If his drop foot condition is cleared up he may be a steal. And team physicians Jim Bradley and Joseph Maroon (neurologist) have excellent reputations, which gives me some confidence.

In the fifth round the Steelers added Dennis Dixon, QB from Oregon. Let me be blunt; this was a stupid pick. Yes, the Steelers need to develop a young backup for Ben Roethlisberger, and though they say otherwise Dixon might be useful as a slash player. But he will not be any help early this season, as he is still rehabbing his knee.

Round 6: Mike Humpal (Iowa) is a solid pick who played weakside LB in Iowa’s 4-3. He’s a high motor, overachiever type who will likely contribute on special teams. As I said earlier, I am reluctant to second-guess the Steelers when it comes to linebackers.

Finally, there’s the enigma of Ryan Mundy (West Virginia), who reportedly has experience at both free safety and cornerback. Obviously the Steelers think more of him than other NFL teams and scouting services. But that is not necessarily an accurate barometer.

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