Posted Mar 14, 2007
In today's chapter of the Pittsburgh Steelers draft series, we examine cover corner Chris Houston, whose stock has skyrocketed of late. Some feel he could be a top 10 pick on draft day.
Clear eyes and a full heart can't lose, right?
Isn't that what the coach on TV says?
Well, then Chris Houston won't lose. The cornerback from Arkansas is bursting with optimism, enthusiasm. Whatever it is that makes a winner a winner, he's got it. He's got the clear eyes and a full heart.
Listen to him talk about the best receivers in the nation:
"Dwayne Jarrett is real long; Sidney Rice is the most athletic, a quick jumper; Robert Meachem, he's got the speed; (Dwayne) Bowe is real physical, REAL physical; and Courtney Taylor is a great route runner."
Houston covered them all.
Man to man?
Houston belted it out at the combine: Yes sir, no sir; as if we in the media really matter.
Have you heard the buzz about yourself coming into the combine?
"Yes, sir. I've heard it. I'm ready to go show what I can do."
What are you going to run?
"Probably 4.30, 4.31," he said without a hint of arrogance. "I was running 4.22, 4.23 on a track in Orlando recently."
Wow, that's Deion Sanders time. Do you know Deion?
"Yes, sir. He's my mentor. I've talked to Deion just about all the time. He's part owner of the (AFL) Austin Wranglers, so he comes to Austin and I live in Austin."
Do you want to play for the Wranglers?
"No," Houston said with all seriousness. "No, sir."
No, it's not likely that Chris Houston will be putting on a wranglers uniform any time soon, because his stock has skyrocketed.
Houston was the shutdown corner at the University of Arkansas last season. The aforementioned receivers were all his responsibility, almost to the point where it hurt his overall game. He's being knocked for his ability in run support, but, really, he hasn't had many opportunities.
"We were in man so much, and with the receivers running down the field the coaches told me to stick to my manunless it's cover two. Then I'd come up for the run," he said. "My run support can get a lot better."
That's what he told the sirs - the media - that day at the combine, that he wanted to prove he could play zone and stop the run as well as he can play man and stop the pass.
To that end, Houston did 27 reps on the bench to top all cornerbacks. He's only 5'9 7/8, 185, but he's strong enough to have shut down Dwayne Jarrett in the opener, which brought about a round of well-publicized jeers from another former USC receiver, Keyshawn Johnson.
There's also the matter of Houstn starting 27 games in three seasons and also playing the gunner position on the punt team on every punt. It became a passion of his.
Those last facts may endear him to a Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff that has in the past stayed away from cover corners. The team of Bill Cowher and Dick LeBeau preferred the big, physical corner who can "get the man down," as LeBeau likes to say.
But it's a new day, and new coach Mike Tomlin showed up at Arkansas' pro day Tuesday to check out Houston and defensive end Jamaal Anderson.
Maybe Tomlin prefers smallish, tiger-tough cornerbacks who can blanket receivers, cover punts and have the strength potential to "get the man down."
"I go heavy on film and they were good players in a very good league," Tomlin told reporters ar Arkansas. "What I saw today is that both of those guys really compete hard."
Said Houston: "I needed to show them some things since we played all press coverage this season. I needed to show them I could move in space and play the ball. I thought I did that and helped my stock."
Houston worked on his weakness that day, but he didn't run. He knows he can run -- ever since high school, when he claims to have run 4.34 in his street clothes.
He was in street clothes that day because he was sidelined with a twisted ankle.
A 4.34 on a bum ankle? Is that true, Chris?
With those clear eyes and that full heart, Chris Houston had to be telling the truth.