PITTSBURGH STEELERS 2009 SIXTH-ROUND DRAFT PICK RA'SHON 'SONNY' HARRIS DEFENSIVE END 205th Overall Defensive Line Coach John Mitchell
RE: RA'SHON HARRIS
Defensive Tackle, Oregon
6th Round – 205th Overall
We just took Ra'Shon Harris – he goes by the name Sonny. Here is a young man from Oregon who started this past year. The thing I like about this guy is that, for a defensive line coach in the defense we play, you get a guy like this who is versatile. At Oregon, he played the 4-3 inside at a tackle – we are going to look at him inside as a tackle. This guy can run. He is still learning how to play football. He only started one year. In the past, as a junior and as a sophomore; he played in 12 games his junior year and six or seven games his sophomore year. Here is a guy who has been as heavy as 310 when we brought him in here but played last year at around 298. He uses his hands well and stays on his feet and can run. For a guy in our defense, if he can't use his hands and stay on his feet, he doesn't have a chance to play. He gives me something to work with. I am excited to have this guy. I think we got him where we thought we would get him.
*You got a lot to work with:
We will wait to see. We got some good football players. With this draft, we were really successful getting the guys that we wanted to get.
Do you consider Harris a nose tackle?
Yeah, we are going to play him at both. In the 4-3, he was an inside tackle. He always played over the guard to the split end side. They always moved him. This guy, he has the speed and quickness. I would like for him to get a stronger. This guy can run. This is a very mature guy who has a kid. He is going to come in with the attitude that this is going to be a job with the chance to make some money and start my career. I am excited about him.
What are your thoughts on the guys on your roster right now?
It has been written that I have a lot of guys who are getting old. Aaron Smith is going to be 33; Brett (Keisel) is going to be 31; Casey (Hampton) is 31. I said this earlier, chronologically, they may be old, but when you look at these guys, Brett was here for four years before he played. Aaron Smith was here two years before he played. Since I have been here, Casey is the only guy who has come in here as a rookie and played. He split some time with (Kendrick) Clancy the first six or seven games before it became clear that he was the better player. Those guys, chronologically are old, but football-wise, they are not. You look at the two injuries Brett had and also Aaron Smith, they didn't have an injury because their athletic ability had diminished. Both of these guys were running to the ball when they got nicked up by one of their own players. I think these guys have a lot of wear and tear on them. I think they can be around for the next three, four or five years. Brett takes good care of himself, and so does Aaron. Casey, I think he was embarrassed when he came back with the weight situation, but these guys have a lot of football in them. You can look at Chris Hoke. He is 33, but he was here for three years before he made the team. So football-wise, these guys don't have a lot of wear and tear on them.
What do you like about Hood?
When I did Ziggy on tape, this is the thing I liked. They played a 4-3 and they did some of the things that we do at time. Here is a guy who can run and plays with a good motor. A lot of times when scouts go out and look at a guy, you say 'well this guy plays high and he doesn't use his hands.' Well, that is what you pay me to do. I am not concerned about that. This guy stays on his feet, he is going to give you 60 minutes of football, he is a strong guy, he is very intelligent, he is not going to have any problems coming in here learning our scheme because in our scheme we ask our defensive ends to do a lot. It is easy to play nose tackle because we do a lot of things with them, but it is simple. When you get a defensive end in our scheme, with the things we ask them to do, he is going to have to be a guy that can pick up things. This guy already graduated and is very intelligent. The things that he has done at Missouri are very similar to the things that we are going to ask him to do here.
Are you pleased with the depth on your line now?
Yes. You look at the way Travis Kirschke played last year when Brett Keisel missed a couple of games. Travis has a little age on him, but he is a good football player. We didn't miss a beat. If you look at some of the numbers from this past year, I think we played very well defensively. Nick Eason stepped in and played well. Even when we had Orpheus Roye, he played well. We have some pretty good depth. I have said this to Coach Tomlin – it is good to have a first-round draft choice, but Ziggy is light-years from playing right now. He is not going to come in tomorrow or next week or next month and play. He is going to have a learning curve. It is not going to be easy. Here is a guy who is going to work really hard. He knows that, and that is one thing we are really excited about. Right now, I have some good football players, so it is going to be tough for anybody to come in and uproot them. It is good to have some depth and have a young guy who I am going to have time to bring along slowly. He is not going to come in here and get thrown out there because he is a first-round draft choice.
Help to have veterans with you?
It has made my job very easy here. Aaron Smith is in his 10th season, Casey (Hampton) eight, Keisel has been here, so it makes my coaching easy when you have guys like that here year in and year out. It's easy to coach them. They play well because they have been in this scheme a long time. I've said this a long time, those guys make my job easy and bringing a guy like Ziggy, we don't have to play him tomorrow, next week or next month, we will give him time to develop and he is going to add to that mix
*Will you sit him down with Aaron Smith and have Ziggy follow him?
I'm not going to have to do that, they will do that. They know that if we took a guy in the first round he must be a pretty good football player. They are going to do everything in their power to help this guy be a good football player. But you just look at the success of the guys that we have had coming in here, Aaron Smith two years, Brett Keisel four years because Kimo (von Oelhoffen) was there. Like I said, this is my 16th year and Casey is the only guy that has come in here and played as a draft choice and that played consistently for us his first year. It's a learning curve for a guy to come here and play in our scheme.
*Was Hood an automatic first pick for you?
I don't make that decision. You have to ask Mike (Tomlin) and Kevin Colbert that. There were some guys that were on the board that we liked and Ziggy was probably the highest rated guy we had on the board, so we took him. There were some other good football players on the board but he was the guy that we wanted. He is the guy that I wanted from day one.