Enemy Intel: How'd the Steelers do in the draft?


Enemy Intel: How'd the Steelers do in the draft?

By Tom E. Curran

The Patriots turned their nose up to Ohio State defensive end Cam Heyward, preferring instead to deal the 28th pick to the New Orleans Saints. Two picks later, the Steelers grabbed Heyward. But while people will see "DE" and think the Pats passed on a pass-rusher, that's not really the case. The feeling is that Heyward will be more of an anchoring 3-4 end in the NFL and his pass-rush ability is low. But the Steelers - with James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley - aren't hurting for pass rushers. They needed depth and successors for ends Brett Kiesel and Aaron Smith. And in Heyward - 6-5, 295-pounds and a treasure in terms of intangibles - they got that. Pittsburgh followed up Heyward by taking the 6-6, 330-pound tackle Marcus Gilbert from Florida in the second round. The Steelers' offensive line is a perennial question mark.Not sure if Gilbert is an answer, though. Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrockisaid Gilbert's a 25 cab ride to get around but described his temperament as that of a "chardonnay drinker." (He calls tough hombres "glass eaters"). The Steelers then went after two long, lean corners who aren't exceptionally physical but are very athletic. They took Texas' Curtis Brown in the third round then Cortez Allen from The Citadel in the fourth. They are 6-foo and 6-foot-1 respectively and are going to provide immediate special teams boosts in addition to being able to sic on bigger receivers (in theory). Chris Carter, an outside linebacker from Fresno State, seems like a great value pick in the fifth round. He was a defensive end at Fresno and is a terrific pass rusher (11 sacks, four forced fumbles) and you wonder why the Patriots didn't take a run at this kid more-so than with Heyward. He's got to make the DE to OLB conversion in the pros. The Steelers rounded it out with offensive lineman Keith Williams from Nebraska and RB Baron Batch from Texas Tech, a change-up back, in the seventh. SUMMARY: No stars, just solid. The Pittsburgh offensive line is a major shortcoming and was not really addressed unless Gilbert comes on really strongly, but the combo of Heyward, Brown, and Carter is a real winner. (Other AFC elite reviews: Colts. )
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Gronk: 'Can't wait to compete again and play ball'

Gronk: 'Can't wait to compete again and play ball'

Rob Gronkowski's been having more than his share of fun this offseason, based off what we've seen on social media, but he sent out a Tweet Sunday night that makes it sound as if he can't wait for training camp to begin.

Gronkowski played in only eight games in 2016 because of back issues that eventually required surgery, and missed all of the Patriots' run to the Super Bowl championship.

Of course, if you check Gronk's timeline beneath his 'I-can't-wait-to-start-playing-again' Tweet, you'll find a) a couple of hypes for his new show MVP, b) a re-Tweet in which he's helping Mojo Rawley get ready for Wrestlemania, and c) quasi-ads for the various products he endorses.

Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick may not be speaking with the media here this week, but there will be plenty for us to examine at the annual league meetings. 

Reporters were informed via a team spokesperson that the Patriots coach would not be in attendance at the AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday morning -- where in the past orange juice has been sipped and tape recorders have been bulldozed -- due to a scouting conflict. 

The breakfast is not mandatory for coaches so for Belichick to use his time at a college pro day (Florida, Texas and Iowa State all have theirs scheduled for Tuesday) or a private workout comes as little surprise. He's been busy on the Trail of Due Diligence in recent weeks, making visits to Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Michigan in order to get a closer look at prospects.

Five weeks behind, remember? No days off. 

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is planning to meet with reporters on Monday so we'll have an opportunity to hear from him on a variety of topics when that comes to pass. 

Here are some of the other Patriots-related stories we'll be doing some digging on this week as we keep you updated with blog posts, occasional television hits, tweets (@PhilAPerry), Instagram shots (@PhilAPerry), and maybe even a podcast or two.

-- What does the rest of the league think when it sees the way the Patriots have attacked this offseason? How will the new pieces fit? Do other coaches and executives see it as Belichick going all in on 2017? Or is this just a case of a team adhering to its motto of doing "what's best for the football team" -- both in the short and long-term?

-- What's next for the Patriots? They're not done building the roster, so where might they turn next? Will they add other lower-level free agents? Will they be looking to trade back into the first and second rounds? Which positions seem to be of interest to them in the draft, and how might that signal the direction this roster is headed?

-- What is the feeling on the future at the quarterback position in New England? We know the Patriots aren't looking to give away Jimmy Garoppolo, but do people around the league really feel as though a haul of draft picks won't get the Patriots to think twice about trading him? Is it possible that in this rare scenario -- where the franchise quarterback is playing at an MVP-level but headed into his 40-year-old season -- people could see the Patriots paying two passers a starter's salary?

-- Will anything happen with Malcolm Butler before the meetings are out? Some have speculated that if his status as a restricted free agent (with an unsigned first-round tender) is to change anytime soon, it could happen here, where presumably his agent will be able to hear offers from one or more clubs in person. Will Butler find a team willing to give him an offer sheet and relinquish its first-round pick to the Patriots? Or will he sign his tender -- whether it's with the intent to play for the Patriots in 2017, or to be traded?

-- Rules changes are coming. We just don't know which ones. Will the linebacker leap (executed by Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin under Belichick) be eliminated? Will Stephen Gostkowski soon be looking to blast kickoffs through the uprights due to the passing of a rule that would place the ball at the 20 as opposed to the 25 for such a feat? Will real-time replay decisions suddenly shift from the officials on the field to the NFL offices at 345 Park Avenue? We'll let you know which proposals are held up, which fall flat, and how the Patriots might be impacted. Belichick and his staff did not submit any proposals for the second consecutive year.