PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers moved to improve their dreadful short-yardage run game by making Wisconsin guard Kraig Urbik their first pick of the second day of the draft.
Urbik is a 6-5 ¼, 328 pounder who was a four-year starter at Wisconsin, where he played right tackle as a redshirt freshman before moving to right guard. He made 45 consecutive starts and was going for the school record of 50 when he injured his knee last season against Penn State and missed two games.
Urbik finished the season by being named second team All-Big Ten Conference for the second time. He’s an alert, strong, durable, versatile and hard-working player. He’s not considered a mobile, get-to-the-second-level player, but Urbik will add necessary muscle up front.
“I love him,” said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. “Big, tough, nasty. If you watch him play one-on-one, you’re not going to pick him on your team. But it’s about playing together and this kid understands football.”
Arians said that Urbik will also learn the center position to give him the versatility of playing four positions, but Arians also said that Urbik will compete for the starting right guard position this season.
With the second pick of the third round, the Steelers drafted a more exciting player in Ole Miss wide receiver/return specialist Mike Wallace, a 6-0 3/8, 199-pounder with 4.31 speed and a vertical jump of 40 inches.
“He’s a burner,” Arians said. “He’s not gone over the middle a lot but he’s an outside-speed guy who’s an excellent return guy. We really, really like him.”
Arians said that he wrote down the two names – Urbik and Wallace – three weeks ago, “and I just watched them drop,” he said.
Wallace comes from a tough upbringing in New Orleans and landed at Ole Miss where he spent the last two seasons as one of the top kickoff return men in the SEC, as well as one of the top receiving deep threats. He led the SEC with a yards-per-reception average of 18.8 in 2007, and improved to 20.1 last year. He caught 101 passes for 1,910 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career and averaged 23.2 yards per kickoff return and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
“He’ll work on his punt returning but he’s primarily a kickoff returner,” Arians said. “We’re looking for someone to replace Nate (Washington) outside and he’s a candidate. Inside, that takes time.”
With their final pick of the third round, the Steelers selected cornerback Keenan Lewis of Oregon State. Lewis, a 6-1, 198-pound cover guy, was actually a high school teammate of Wallace. The Steelers compare him favorably to Ike Taylor.
"He's 6-0, 200 pounds and runs a 4.55 and we envision him doing some good things," said defensive backs coach Ray Horton. "Get up and bump and run the field with men just like Ike and it will allow us to do a lot more with our safeties and free up some guys."
The Steelers did not have a pick in the fourth round, but had back-to-back selections in the fifth and went for value, taking Central Florida cornerback/return man Joe Burnett and UNLV running back/fullback Frank "The Tank" Summers.
The Steelers had Burnett rated as a third-round prospect and didn't pass on him despite selecting a cornerback and a return man with two of their three third-round selections.
Summers, meanwhile, could push Carey Davis off the roster by filling the hybrid running back/fullback position Davis has held the past two years.
In the sixth round, the Steelers took Oregon defensive tackle Ra'Shon "Sonny" Harris, a 6-4, 300-pounder who could be used at end or on the nose in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense.
Harris is more of a potential pick after starting just one year for the Ducks. He was limited early in his career by a biceps tear.
Penn State center A.Q. Shipley was taken by the Steelers with their first of two seventh-round selections.
The graduate of Moon High School in suburban Pittsburgh is a solid center, but has short arms, which will probably limit him from playing guard in the NFL.
"It's never been a problem," said Shipley of his 29-inch arms. "It's just made me work harder."
Pittsburgh finished off its draft by selection tight end D.J. Johnson of Arkansas State.
The 6-2, 260-pound Johnson is considered a strong blocker and could also play some fullback.
(To be updated throughout the day.)