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Kaboly: 6 non-draft questions and 6 non-draft answers by 6 Steelers’ assistants


ButlerThe Steelers finished up their draft on Saturday and then added nine undrafted free agents to their roster not long after.

While the weekend was focused on the new additions to the Steelers’ roster, it wasn’t void of other information.

If you are not familiar on how the draft process works when it comes to covering it, I’ll map it out for you.

After the pick is announced, the position coach of that draft pick speaks to the media. While the majority of the questions are about that pick, other topics are also covered mostly because none of the coaches have been available to the media since the end of the season.

So, here are some non-draft nuggets that came out of this weekend.

* Dick LeBeau (defensive coordinator)  LeBeau surprised a lot of us when he said that he’s comfortable with the depth at cornerback despite not having much in the way of experience behind Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay.

“I feel good about the cornerbacks that we have and we have more numbers there than people realize. At these other positions, we have people that I at least know about, let’s put it that way. We may have great players in the building already; they just haven’t had the chance to show us that they are great. I guess you can’t take a defensive guy every pick but maybe we’ll get a corner with the next pick.”


* John Mitchell (defensive line) – There has been a lot of question surrounding nose tackle Steve McLendon and if he can be an effective player when it comes to playing the position and especially stopping the run.

“I do. Steve was here for a long time. He played behind Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke. He is a guy who made himself and worked real hard. I’m pleased where he is. I’ve watched a lot of tape, reviewing a lot of things from last season and he is a guy who knows what he needs to do, and I think he is going to improve. He is going to get better and better. This was the first time he has played in the NFL as a starter. It’s not easy, and I’m sure he had a lot of weight on his shoulders knowing how Casey and Chris played, and I’m sure he wanted to do well. I told him you can’t be Casey and you can’t be Chris, just be Steve McLendon. I think we are going to see Steve McLendon rather than Steve trying to be Casey or Chris. He has put in the time. He is very diligent about watching tape and being on time. You have to be yourself and not worry about what you can’t do. What he can do is run to the ball. He has to learn to get off blocks and keep his pad level down. He is not going to be as strong as Casey. Chris was very intelligent, and Steve is also. He has to be able to take things from the classroom to the field. If he can be Steve and not Casey or Chris, he will be okay. I’m not worried about him at this time.”


* Richard Mann (wide receivers) – We didn’t see much of Markus Wheaton last year, but it appears that the second-year man out of Oregon State will be expected to make great strides this year with the loss of Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.

“What I found out about Markus last year was that he has good toughness. We all know he hurt his finger and we played him towards the end of the season because we didn’t have anybody else due to injuries. He never complained about it and I know it was hurting, so I found out something about him. I think some of the things that I saw him do in the preseason, up until he hurt that finger against Minnesota over in London, he went downhill a little after that, but up until that point, he was doing very well.”


* Carnell Lake (defensive backs) – Like LeBeau, Lake also isn’t too concerned with his defensive backfield despite not getting much help in the draft.

“It’s fortunate that we’ve had some players that we picked up as free agents. Antwon Blake is one, very fast, quick, aggressive corner that I liked coming out of last year. We were fortunate to grab him in free agency, and he’s turned out to be very productive for us especially on special teams. We got Brice McCain in the offseason, who I’ve been working with on the field the last couple of weeks. I’m really impressed with the way he moves. I think these guys are just getting started. They have the ability to cover and stay close to receivers. So for guys that we’ve picked up in free agency that may have been overlooked in the past, I’m pretty excited about. I think we’ve had the ability to plug and play some of these players that we’ve picked up.”


* Mike Munchak (offensive line) – Munchak has been on the job for only a couple months, but has gotten a glimpse into what Maurkice Pouncey is all about. Pouncey was lost for the season a dozen plays into the season last year with knee injury.

“He’s doing well. He’s a guy that when you’re as competitive of a player as he is and get hurt in the opener, you can’t wait to play the first game. The biggest, probably hardest part for him is going to be relaxing and realizing we don’t play until September. We’ll have plenty of opportunity to get him ready to play and get his confidence back and all of that stuff that you face coming off of an injury. He looks good and I’m looking forward to going into the next phase with the OTAs in a few weeks, letting him get closer to the game and he’s a guy that I’m looking forward to working with.”


* Keith Butler (linebackers) – The Steelers added former player Joey Porter as a defensive assistant during the offseason and Butler said that he will help last year’s first-round pick Jarvis Jones immensely.

“He and Jarvis are probably the same guy. Their style of play, Jarvis might be a little different than Joey, but not much. Joey has always had an attitude when he played and we need some of that. I’ve already told the story of him going out to the bus to try to pull everybody off the bus. I want that type of attitude in that room. Joey, that’s the way he played. A lot of people say that he was a loud mouth and maybe he was but he backed that mess up. If you don’t back it up, it’s hollow. He was a good player for us not only when he was young, but when he got older too. I think he has a passion for coaching. He loves it. He loves to be on the field working with those guys. He has a really good knowledge base to do it.”





Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as four Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa, XLV in Dallas and 50 in San Francisco. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

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