Steelers finish draft on high note

Steelers finish draft on high note

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Coming into the weekend, the Steelers believed they'd find players deep into the second day of the draft. <br><br> Believing is seeing, though, and at every turn they saw a player they liked.

"It really broke well for us," said director of operations Kevin Colbert. "All the players we wanted really fell into place when it came time to pick."

"It was probably one of the cleanest drafts we've had," said coach Bill Cowher.

On Saturday the Steelers filled their weakest position - tight end - with the best player, by far, at the position. The Steelers then drafted a cornerback with a first-round grade and an offensive lineman who filled a dire need.

It was a productive first day, but on the second day the Steelers went on a roll. They landed wide receiver Fred Gibson in the fourth round, inside linebacker Rian Wallace in the fifth, powerful guard Chris Kemoeatu (key-moy-AH-too) in the sixth, defensive end Shaun Nua in the top of the seventh and 1,300-yard runner Noah Herron in the bottom of the seventh.

The Steelers went into post-draft free agency in search of linebackers, and will even follow up on a phone call to recently released linebacker Chad Brown, a former Steeler who refused to take a pay cut with the Seattle Seahawks.

Brown is expected to sign with his hometown Denver Broncos, but Colbert, riding the roll, said he'll "see where it goes."

Colbert felt lucky after landing the 6-foot-4, 196-pound Gibson at the bottom of the fourth round. The Steelers went into the day needing a wide receiver to fill a hole on their depth chart. They'd targeted Gibson, Jerome Mathis, Craphonso Thorpe and Chase Lyman, and Gibson was the only one left by the 30th pick.

"Like my grandma always says, things happen for a reason," said Gibson, who was elated to be chosen by the Steelers.

"Right now," he said, "I can't even really speak."

Wide receivers coach Bruce Arians felt the same way.

"This guy's talent is amazing," Arians said, who explained he likes Gibson's "height, jumping ability and his speed, and his upside.

"He was a basketball player early in his career so I think he missed some growth in his off-season program because of basketball, and his development kind of went down. It came back up. His senior year was very productive. He had outstanding one-on-ones against the best corners at the Senior Bowl. I thought he was one of the best players in the one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. He showed a lot of different catches and used his height and his jumping ability."

Arians spoke with reporters while watching a replay of Gibson catching a touchdown pass.

Arians was asked if Gibson looks like departed split end Plaxico Burress.

"He's got that type body," Arians said.

Gibson, of course, was peppered with questions about the obvious comparison to Burress.

"It's not about Plaxico right now," Gibson said. "Like I said, I'm going to play well."

Gibson played basketball at Georgia his freshman year, and in four years on the football field caught 161 passes for 2,884 yards (17.9 avg.) and 20 touchdowns. Last year he caught 49 passes for 801 yards and 7 touchdowns as the split end in a one-two punch along with Reggie Brown.

Arians breathed a sigh of relief after finding Gibson in the fourth round, considering the talented receivers the Steelers passed by picking a tight end in the first round.

"No doubt, but I'm a big Heath Miller fan," Arians said. "I like tight ends that can go deep also because now we have all areas of the field covered, as far stretching the field, and Heath is a very versatile guy. Having been a former coordinator, I would've taken that pick myself."

Wallace, nicknamed "Goo" after one particularly messy Easter as a child, is a 6-3, 243-pounder from Temple who'll line up behind Larry Foote as the Steelers' Mac linebacker.

After making 368 tackles, Wallace left Temple after his junior season because "it's hard for me to see my mother not have hot water" and to take care of his two-year-old son.

Wallace once was suspended for a game after punching a teammate who'd sucker-punched him.

The Steelers' next draft pick met a similar fate after kicking opponents in consecutive games.

Kemoeatu (6-3½, 344), the right guard at Utah who was called "the most powerful interior lineman in the draft" by one scout, kicked a UNLV player in the head and sent him to the hospital. The week before, during the 2003 season, he'd kicked a San Diego State player who was on the ground.

Kemoeatu was suspended for a game by coach Urban Meyer and ordered to attend anger management classes.

"The mean streak that I've got," said Kemoeatu, "I think I've overcome that problem."

Steelers line coach Russ Grimm didn't appear intimidated by the short fuse of the incoming Tongan.

"As long as it's not in the meeting room," Grimm said with a smile. "He'll be fine. He loves to play the game. He gets excited about it. We just got off the phone with him and he's excited to come here."

Did Grimm see the kick?

"I did not see that game," he said.

But, there were two.

"I did not see that one, either," Grimm said.

With the seventh-round pick gained from Carolina in the Todd Fordham deal last year, the Steelers chose the 6-5, 270-pound Nua, who becomes the third BYU defensive lineman on the roster. Nua led BUY in sacks last year with eight.

Herron, the final pick, is a 5-11, 224-pound halfback from Northwestern who'll begin with the Steelers as a fullback.

Herron rushed for 1,381 yards last season (5.0 avg.) and scored 14 touchdowns. He also caught 36 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown. Against Penn State last year, Herron rushed for 175 yards on 30 carries.

At the combine, Herron ran the 40 in a 4.68 seconds and his draft stock fell.

"You'd like to have a little more speed," said Steelers running backs coach Dick Hoak. "But outside of that, he's a good, solid football player."

The Steelers seemed to find quite a few this weekend.

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