By John Harris
Monday, February 25, 2008

Here's how the NFL Scouting Combine impacted who the Steelers selected with their first-round pick in the 2007 draft.

The Steelers got their man -- linebacker Lawrence Timmons -- even though Timmons didn't run particularly fast at the Combine (4.66 seconds in the 40-yard dash), and he measured about 2 inches shorter than his listed height of 6-foot-3.

Timmons already was on the Steelers' radar. Short of breaking his leg at the Combine, he was home free.

This year, everyone believes the Steelers will take an offensive lineman with their first-round pick (No. 23 overall). Makes sense.

The Steelers are going to lose Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca to free agency.

They're unsettled at tackle, with veteran Marvel Smith recovering from back surgery and entering the final year of his contract, and Max Starks is being made a transition player as an insurance policy for Smith.

By most accounts, Sean Mahan was a disappointment in his first year as a starting center.

Call it a hunch, but expect the Steelers to do the unexpected with their first-round pick.

So, what else is new?

There's NFL logic, and then there's Steelers' logic.

Regarding the draft and free agency, the Steelers make their own rules.

Maybe it was director of football operations Kevin Colbert calling this year's draft the best he's seen for offensive tackles in more than two decades. Translation: Good tackles will be available after the first round.

Maybe it was the Steelers going against the grain and overlooking Timmons' faults and still taking him in the first round a year ago.

Maybe it was Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin going out of their way not to mention Timmons' name prior to last year's draft.

Maybe it was the explanation Colbert gave for the Steelers designating Starks as their transition player, instead of giving him the more traditional franchise tag.

"The (financial) difference was roughly $560,000, which if you translate, that could be two minimum salary players," Colbert said.

The Steelers don't waste money, and they don't waste draft picks.

So, in a draft deep with tackles, why not select a tackle in the second round? Why not address another need -- aging defensive line -- in the first round?

Defensive line prospects aren't as plentiful, so taking one in the first round doesn't seem far-fetched.

As for who the Steelers will draft in the first round, that's for another column.

Just know that the Steelers already know who they want to draft in the first round, and that his performance at the Combine won't change the Steelers' opinion about him.

The Steelers are usually pretty good at not tipping their hat on who they are going after especially in the early rounds. They love to send up smoke screens or just stay tight lipped and keep everybody guessing until it's their time to pick. No problem there, it's good draft strategy to keep people guessing and Im sure the team knows full well who they want in the 1st round and who their other options are if that player is taken.

So help me God if this team goes anything other than OL or DL in the first round Im going to throw a fit..I mean comon how much more obvious does it have to be here...drafting well is a science but it doesn't take a rocket one to realize where the needs are on this team plain and simple and it starts up front on both sides.