Veteran scout IDs perfect fit for Steelers
Anthony Spencer By Jim Wexell
Posted Feb 24, 2007
INDIANAPOLIS – The best offensive tackles in the country became repetitive when the question of pass-rushers was put before them.
“Guys like Anthony Spencer,” said big Joe Thomas.
“Mathias Kiwanuka was pretty good last year,” said Ryan Harris. “Anthony Spencer was pretty good this year.”
“Anthony Spencer from PURDUE,” Levi Brown said, finishing with a crescendo.
Brown went on, moving his mouth closer to the microphone to make sure he was heard clearly.
“Without question he has a lot of speed and power,” Brown said. “He’s the best defensive end in this draft. You all should draft him.”
All of those elite left tackles believe that to be true. Spencer gave Thomas his first, and perhaps only, good battle of the season. Against Harris and Notre Dame, Spencer made a career-high 15 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Against Brown, the Penn State left tackle, Spencer provided the scouts with a tremendous back-and-forth showcase all through Senior Bowl week.
Brown is adamant that Spencer, the 6-foot-2½, 262-pound defensive end, can pressure NFL quarterbacks. So is 35-year veteran scout Tom Marino, who watched Spencer closely this season. Marino, of Scout.com, believes Spencer falls right in line as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a position at which the Steelers have a need.
“I think Anthony Spencer is a perfect fit for the Steelers,” said Marino. “He can run, and he really surprised me by how explosive he is. He’s got a chance to be a real pass-rusher.”
But at pick 15? Even Marino, in his pre-combine rankings, has Spencer rated as the No. 32 athlete in this draft.
“Yeah, I think it’s a little high for him,” Marino said. “He may not be there for their second pick, though. That’s the thing about it. You want to see maybe if you can trade down. Trade down to 23, 24 and pick up a third or a fourth or something like that and get the guy you want.”
Marino suspects the Steelers will stick with their 3-4 scheme and continue to search for the athletes that have made Dick LeBeau’s defense so strong over the years.
“I think you modify some things,” Marino said. “But Dick LeBeau is a great coach. I don’t think you retain him if you’re going to run something totally different than he’s accustomed to running.”
The only other “tweener” type Marino ranks in his first round is Florida junior Jarvis Moss (estimated 6-5½, 255), who had 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss last season. Spencer had 10.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss. The latter statistic led the nation.
“Moss can run,” said Marino. “But to be real honest with you I did not study him, but I did see him and I know one thing he can do is he can run. I couldn’t tell you as much about him as I could Spencer. Right now I feel comfortable talking about Spencer. He has the ability to do all those things. I don’t know if Spencer’s hips are tight, whether he can do all those drops and stuff that a linebacker has to do, but he’s really just maturing into his body right now. He’s a power guy, a powerful, explosive guy. All I can tell you about Moss is he’s bigger, taller, a lean-looking guy, and he looks very, very linear to me on tape, but he can run. He can run.”
Moss sits 26th on Marino’s board, but even though he has Spencer rated lower, the more he watches him on tape the more he likes him.
“The guy’s got a chance to be a real big-time pass-rusher. He’s got a real chance of being special,” Marino said. “Prior to this year they say he was not a full-time guy. He wouldn’t chase backside. But this year, somebody got to him and told him he’s got to be a football player, that you have to do this thing here year-around and you have to be something special. And I think he showed some real stuff to me. He’s a perfect fit for them. He’s their kind of guy. He’s got their kind of mentality and he’s a Dick LeBeau type of guy. He’s a perfect fit in their system.”
Marino doesn’t have to sell him to the Steelers, an organization he respects.
“They’ll do all the work they have to do,” he said. “That’s a real good staff. I’ve been around those guys and know them. They have guys like Ronnie Hughes, who’s been doing that for a long time, and young Danny (Rooney, Jr.) and Mark Gorscak and guys like that. They have guys who do a good job. Another advantage they have is the GM. Kevin Colbert was a scout first. That’s a big plus. When you have guys coming from the other end, who were maybe numbers-crunchers and things like that, you may not have that, but Kevin understands it and I think that puts him ahead of the game.
“The Steelers won’t be thinking in terms of ‘Well, we took him earlier than we wanted to.’ If they feel the guy’s a fit for them, they’ll take him. They won’t worry about what other people think. They’ll worry about their football team. If most of the league rates Spencer 30th, and they think he can help them and upgrade them, they’ll take him. I feel strongly about that.”