Pittsburgh took a different path, in more ways than one, in its approach to the draft. For one, the Steelers stayed put in the first round and drafted a defensive end -- after 20 years of ignoring the position at the top of the draft. For another, they used their second-round draft choice to trade with Denver.
Evander "Ziggy" Hood of Missouri, Pittsburgh's first pick, is the first defensive lineman drafted in the top three rounds by the Steelers since Casey Hampton in 2001. Hood played defensive tackle in Missouri's 4-3; he'll be a 3-4 defensive end in Pittsburgh. The last time the Steelers drafted a defensive end in the first round was 1988 -- Aaron Jones of Eastern Kentucky, and he did little with them. The Steelers have never drafted a Pro Bowl defensive end in the first round.
After trying and failing to make a trade to move higher in the second round, the Steelers instead traded their second-round pick to Denver along with their fourth-round pick. In return, the Broncos gave them two higher picks in the third round, Nos. 79 and 84 overall.
Through it all, the 2009 draft was one of future need for the Steelers and that is how they treated it. They may not have fulfilled the promise of personnel boss Kevin Colbert, who said last week that "We need for it to be a special draft," but they stuck to the plan.
The Steelers had to provide help for their defensive line of the next decade. They have a good one now, but they're getting old with no promising youngsters behind them. End Aaron Smith is 33, nose tackle Casey Hampton will be 32 and end Brett Keisel will be 31, backup nose tackle Chris Hoke is 33 and No. 1 backup end Travis Kirschke will be 35 when the season starts. Hampton and Keisel are entering the final years of their contracts.
"Ziggy Hood is a Steelers-type of player," coach Mike Tomlin said. "There are no holes in this guy. He's a high-character guy."
While Hood looks like a 3-4 end of the future, the Steelers could use him on occasion at nose tackle and inside when they go to their sub packages this season. He also is likely to rotate in with Keisel and Smith.
They hit the third round with three picks that filled vital needs -- offensive line, wide receiver/kick returner and cornerback.
Many believe they won a Super Bowl in spite of their offensive line. Either way, right guard Darnell Stapleton was shaky at best and the Steelers had no depth at that position. With Kraig Urbik of Wisconsin, they have a big guard who also can play tackle.
They have been searching for a kickoff return man since before Mike Tomlin became their coach and they might have found him in Mike Wallace of Mississippi. Wallace also could compete with Limas Sweed for the No. 3 wideout spot but if nothing else he gives them depth and great speed at the position.
When Bryant McFadden left in free agency, the Steelers were left thin at cornerback, and they helped that spot by taking an Ike Taylor-like corner of size and ability in Keenan Lewis of Oregon State. They hit that spot again in the fifth round with the selection of Joe Burnett of Central Florida.
BEST PICK: DE Ziggy Hood has "no holes" according to coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers have not failed with their first-round draft pick since Kevin Colbert took over as their personnel boss in 2002 and it looks as though he has another hit. The Steelers loved Hood from the start and he should be a perfect fit for their 3-4 and a starter by 2010 at defensive end.
COULD SURPRISE: RB Frank Summers is a 5-9 1/2, 242-pounder who runs low to the ground and has a nose for the goal line. That's something the Steelers have lacked for awhile and it's caused them problems inside the 5. That's why if Summers comes as advertised, the Tank can become the new Bus.
A closer look at the Steelers' picks:
Round 1/32 -- Evander "Ziggy" Hood, DE, 6-3, 300, Missouri
First defensive end drafted on the first round by the Steelers since Aaron Jones in 1988 and first defensive lineman drafted in the top three rounds since Casey Hampton. The Steelers needed to replenish their aging line.
Round 3/79 -- Kraig Urbik, G, 6-5 1/2, 330, Wisconsin
Thin at guard in terms of depth, talent and size, the Steelers needed to improve and Urbik likely will compete with Darnell Stapleton, who took over at right guard last season when Kendall Simmons was lost with an injury.
Round 3/84 -- Mike Wallace, WR/KR, 6-0, 195, Mississippi
Fills a need at both his position and the long-sought kick returner the Steelers have not had in a long time. Wallace has 4.3 speed and will compete for playing time at wide receiver, but really get his chance as a return man in 2009.
Round 3/96 -- Keenan Lewis, CB, 6-1, 205, Oregon State
Steelers coaches compared him to Ike Taylor. They love size. They were thin at the position with the loss of starter Bryant McFadden in free agency. The Steelers hope to use him in bump-and-run coverage. He was a high school teammate of their previous pick, Mike Wallace.
Round 5/168 -- Joe Burnett, CB/KR, 5-9, 194, Central Florida
He too will get a chance to return kickoffs and/or punts for the Steelers. He's been a playmaker in college and he'll get a chance to stick. William Gay, penciled in as the new starting left cornerback, also was a 5-9, fifth-round draft choice by the Steelers.
Round 5/169 -- Frank Summers, 5-9, 242, Nevada-Las Vegas
Frank "The Tank" will get a chance to become the first true short-yardage back the Steelers have had since Jerome Bettis retired. Summers can cat
ch and block so he can be used as a fullback if needed.
Round 6/205 -- Ra'Shon "Sonny" Harris, DL, 6-4, 303, Oregon
Harris will get a chance to play inside or out in the Steelers' 3-4 defense but with the first-round pick, the three starters and backup Chris Hoke at nose tackle, he more than likely will be headed for the practice squad.
Round 7/226 -- A.Q. Shipley, C, 6-1, 302, Penn State
People have compared him to Mike Webster because of his fanatical workouts and his single-minded devotion to football. He'll have a chance to stick with the Steelers because they have little in the line of backup centers.
Round 7/241 -- David Johnson, TE, 6-2, 270, Arkansas State
Johnson is more like an H-back, the way the Steelers use Sean McHugh, as both a tight end and fullback. If he can block, he'll have a shot because the Steelers always carry three tight ends.