Naturally, they like their picks and feel good about the players' chances to help the team. That's the case in every NFL city immediately following a draft. So yes, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert and Coach Mike Tomlin were happy about the seven players picked as their part of the 2011 NFL Draft, but what really tickled the Steelers about the whole thing was that they stayed true to themselves.
"We didn't feel like we reached for anything, which is important," said Colbert. "You have to stay true to your evaluations, and if it happens to meet positions that can help your team, great. We think it did. Only time will tell."
The Steelers final tally for this draft was: two cornerbacks, two offensive linemen, one linebacker, one running back and one defensive end. They picked the defensive end first, and one offensive lineman and one cornerback second and third, respectively, and then they completed their work with four picks on Saturday.
The events of this third and final day of the 2011 NFL Draft mean that Richard Korczynski and Cortez Allen forever will be linked in Steelers history. Korczynski, a Steelers season ticket holder since 1971, stood at the podium at Radio City Music Hall and announced the Steelers' fourth-round pick, and the name he read was Cortez Allen.
Allen, from The Citadel, was the second cornerback chosen by the Steelers in this draft, and he was attractive to the team because of his combination of measurables and inexperience. He's 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, and he also has a nice combination of quickness and speed. He only played one year of football in high school, and The Citadel competes at what used to be known as Division I-AA.
Allen started 28-of-39 games for the Bulldogs, and he finished with 121 tackles, 16 passes defensed and five interceptions that he returned for a total of 130 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake believes this portfolio will serve as a nice foundation for what he believes Allen can become in the NFL.
"I don't want to speak for the other teams in what they say or didn't see in him, but we've noticed that with limited experience he looks pretty natural at cornerback," said Lake. "He plays off-coverage well and bump-and-run well. In our defensive scheme you want somebody who can do both, and his reaction and vision are really good. With his size he'll be able to better compete with some of the receivers out there, especially the receivers that the other teams in our division have been drafting. I see him as a very versatile player who is not afraid of contact. With a little more experience I think he is going to do really well."
Allen's football experience was limited by the fact that an extracurricular activity such as football falls behind both academics and military training at The Citadel.
"The Citadel is not a 'football factory,'" said Lake. "A lot of the work that he gets is very limited in terms of football. I asked him when he came to visit us, 'How much time do you get to work on your craft?' He said, 'I don't get a lot of time because I have to do The Citadel stuff.' So I thought, this guy is really playing well, and he's not working on his craft that much because of his limited time. If he can spend a lot of time working on his craft I see a lot of upside for him. I think that is one of the reasons why we selected him."
Carter (6-1, 248), the fifth-round pick, was a rush end during his time at Fresno State, and he was productive when it came to getting the opposing quarterback on the ground. As a high school senior, Carter posted 21 sacks, and he became an immediate starter at Fresno State. In four years there, Carter posted 19.5 sacks, 11 in 2010 as a 21-year-old senior.
"He has a good motor and a lot of speed off the edge," said linebackers coach Keith Butler about Carter. "He's been mainly in a three-point stance most of his career and (Fresno State) stuck him outside or wide outside and brought him off the edge. Teams have had problems dealing with him. His biggest asset is as a speed rusher off the edge. He did stand up a little bit and play in a two-point stance, but that's awkward for him right now, and it's something we'll have to deal with in his transition to play outside linebacker."
Some teams might consider Carter short, but he has long arms, was strong enough to do 27 repetitions of 225-pounds at the Combine and he also posted a 36-inch vertical jump.
"Most people see him as a 4-3 defensive end, but we think he can stand up and be as effective in a two-point stance," said Butler. "We'll see when we get him to training camp. Hopefully this CBA thing gets done and we can get him in here and start making the transition a little bit easier for him."
After adding some competition at offensive tackle with the pick of Marcus Gilbert in the second round, the Steelers added a guard in the sixth round when they chose Nebraska's Keith Williams (6-4, 318).
"Keith is a very physical player," said offensive line coach Sean Kugler. "He likes to mix it up, he has nasty to him. He's an aggressive player. He has pulling skills. They utilize that at Nebraska and that shows up on film. We had Keith in the building, and we brought him up here because we wanted to get an even closer look at him. We liked what we saw on film. We wanted to get him on the board to see how he handles the learning, and he was excellent. He is a smart kid, and I think he's going to be a quality guard for us."
During his final three seasons in college, Williams started 33 games at left guard, and he comes to the NFL with a reputation as a better run-blocker than he is in pass protection.
"Sometimes with guys who are over-aggressive and physical that's the tendency with them – they get over-aggressive in pass protection," said Kugler. "That shows up every once in awhile, but it's something that can be corrected. He's a willing worker. He's in good shape and a tough kid. The thing we like the most about Keith is his toughness, and that's a good quality in a lineman."
The team's final pick of the draft was Texas Tech running back Baron Batch (5-9, 200), who spent his college career in Lubbock operating as a de facto third-down back, which will be his role with the Steelers. Because the Red Raiders operate a wide-open spread offense, their running back is a guy who does on every down what the NFL asks backs to do on third downs.
Batch finished his college career with 2,501 rushing yards and 140 catches, and he scored a combined 32 touchdowns.
"Baron Batch has been an excellent running back in the Texas Tech offense, which is really like a third-down offense in the NFL," said Colbert. "His ability to receive or catch the ball was impressive for us."
And there it is, the Steelers Class of 2011. How it is to be remembered will be up to the seven players who comprise it.