ATHENS – Fred Gibson threw a draft party in his hometown of Waycross on Saturday, and everybody came…
Q&A with Pittsburgh Steelers OC Ken Whisenhunt
Why do you need a wide receiver?
I think it has more to do with the depth. I think there are a lot of quality receivers in the draft. We felt Heath Miller was a first-round talent, probably an early to middle of the first round talent, and at our pick, when he was there, we felt like we got a good pick, the best guy at the position at our pick. It's kind of the same philosophy with receivers. If there's a guy who's the best left on the board, certainly we're going to take him because he can bring that competition to the table and make us better.
When you're evaluating receivers, do you divide them along the lines of speed guys and possession guys, things like that, and do you try to have some of each different category?
I think you evaluate the receiver just as a receiver. As a sub-category of that - not to sound too smart because there's no way I'm as smart as coach (Dick) LeBeau - you say OK, he's a good receiver, but is he more of a possession receiver or a speed receiver? So that factors into the final grade you put on that receiver. That in turn gives you an overall perspective of where he fits in. We don't necessarily categorize a guy as a possession receiver. If he is a possession receiver, and he's very productive, he may rank a little higher than a speed receiver. Once we feel comfortable with how we have them ranked, that's how we look at them as they come off our board.
Do you need a variety?
Right now, on our roster, we're lucky because we have a couple of guys that can do both roles, like Hines (Ward). He's a very good receiver outside, but yet he's a very good possession type slot receiver inside. So we have a number of guys on our team right now who can do both of those roles. We have the luxury, if you call it that, of being able to pick either one.
When you have a dynamic quarterback, does making the receivers into what you need them to be fall on his shoulders?
What's become more apparent to me as I've been around this longer is the chemistry that evolves between the quarterback and those receivers, and when you develop that chemistry is this time of year. After being in the Pro Bowl, and having a chance to work with Peyton Manning and their receiver, you could see them talk about how they work together in the off-season and develop that chemistry. And I think that's what we can get done here. That's where you get an understanding of how they're going to break the route off, what they're going to see, how you anticipate the throws, how they feel comfortable with what they're doing. That's where I think we'll make the biggest strides.
Heath Miller is knocked for his blocking. Could you address that?
Nobody is the perfect blocker, especially from the standpoint that you're not always going to win. But I think the biggest factor that we look at, when you talk about guys that block, is tough guys, guys that have the want-to or the desire to become a good blocker. When I came here, we had Mark Bruener. The thing he did well was he was a very good blocker.
Was Bruener that good coming out?
No. He improved as a pro. But as he improved over the years, he helped develop the other guys. You develop into the system of which you're a part of. Because Mark had the desire to do what it took to be successful, he became a very good blocker. In turn, the same thing happened with Jerame (Tuman) and Matt Cushing. The reason they made the team and then became good blockers was they had the desire to block. They had the desire to be what it takes as a tight end in the Steelers' organization. That's how we look at Heath Miller. He has the desire to do whatever it takes to be a tight end in the Steelers' organization. If that means catching footballs, he can do that. If that means blocking, he can develop into, we think, a good blocker. He's a very powerful guy and he plays with great toughness and he wants to become a blocker. So he'll come in and hopefully learn from Jerame and Matt and some of these guys and he'll develop into a very good blocker.
Is there a chance Charlie Batch could come back?
I don't know that. Charlie last year did a wonderful job. He worked hard, he understood the offense and he's a very good team guy. I really like Charlie. He's been in here rehabbing and working out. But as far as whether he's going to be here, I don't know.
The opinions on Trai Essex vary so greatly, from third round to undraftable. When you watch him play, do you see why there's such great variance?
If you like the guy, there are things you can find that support what you like. If you don't like the guy, there are certainly things you can find that support that. We liked Trai, from what we saw on film. Like Heath, he's a physical player and he got after guys and he was versatile in what he could do. But I think another thing that factored into him was talking to him. He came in here and we interviewed him, interviewed him at the combine, and he was very impressive. A lot of times when you talk to a guy you get an idea of what he's going to be like and you can visualize him fitting in with the group. That's a big bonus for him. I think he'll come in with our group of linemen and I think he'll fit in. It's similar to what happened with Max (Starks) last year. Max came in and there were a lot of questions about Max, very similar questions with Max. He got in with those guys in the line - (Jeff) Hartings and (Alan) Faneca and Marvel Smith - those guys have a persona, an attitude, and it starts with our assistant head coach, Russell (Grimm). I think Trai will come in and fit right in and I think that will help him develop into a good player.
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