By Scott Brown
Sunday, April 22, 2007
The last time the Steelers had the 15th pick in the NFL Draft, they took a pass-rushing outside linebacker who tormented opposing quarterbacks in college.
As for Huey Richardson working out in Pittsburgh, well, not so much.
He lasted about as long as a "Huey Lewis & the News" concert, and the Steelers haven't used their top draft pick on a linebacker since they made that colossal mistake with Richardson in 1991.
It would be heresy to Steelers fans to suggest that history will repeat itself Saturday. The Steelers taking a player like Richardson -- with the emphasis being on player -- at No. 15 overall would make sense, since they could use a pass-rushing, outside linebacker in the wake of Joey Porter's release.
What may take precedence for the Steelers is getting a versatile playmaker, outside linebacker or not, that will allow them to transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense.
That is why the Steelers have been linked with players such as Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons and Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker, to name a few, in mock drafts.
Timmons appears capable of playing outside linebacker in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense, and draft analysts have said the 6-foot-1, 234-pounder could also line up at defensive end in a 4-3 alignment.
Carriker, meanwhile, could line up at tackle in a 4-3 and end in a 3-4. He could possibly play outside linebacker in a 4-3, though speed would be a concern.
"He's big, he comes hard every play and to me, any defensive structure you want, Adam Carriker is going to fit into it," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said.
What structure the Steelers will have is nothing more than an educated guess at this point.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, a 4-3 disciple, has said the Steelers will stick with the 3-4 at least through next season because their personnel is best suited for it.
Tomlin has dismissed the importance of base formations -- he also hasn't ruled out using both a 3-4 and a 4-3 as situations dictate -- but who the Steelers draft, particularly in the first round, could give more than a glimpse into what shape the defense will take in future years.
"I think they'll be a team like New England where x-amount of time they're 3-4 and x-amount of time they're 4-3," said Gil Brandt, NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys director of player personnel. "I think you're going to see more and more of that where (teams) have multiple fronts, so that instead of spending an hour practicing against the 3-4, you've got to spend your time against both of them, and either have a longer practice or not be as thorough as you were if you were just (preparing) for one."