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Bringing back the steel with a throwback draft

The week after the draft is much like the day after Christmas. The wrapping has been ripped away and we have all these shiny new toys, but now we have to read the directions to find out how they work. Some of the new toys break right away, but a few special ones can last for years.

Continuing with the Christmas theme, Mike Tomlin usually treats the rookie class much like my parents did with presents on our limited budget…on layaway so maybe I’d get to ride that bike next year. Even the late round picks have attributes that the organization looks for when deciding what makes a Steeler, regardless if they end up with a helmet on game day. What’s exciting about the first four picks, or the Effing Wilsons, as Dave Schofield labeled them so fantastically during the marathon live coverage SCN provided, is that they actually have a chance to see significant playing time this season.

There are many knowledgeable and talented people here at SCN that will do detailed film breakdowns on the Steelers draft class. I am not that guy, but I do know when I like what I see, and I like this group of new young men soon to don the best uniform in football. The highest praise anyone that steps on the field for the Steelers is “That guy could have played here during the 70’s.”  None of us know how this new class of draft picks will work out, but there seems to be a common theme that runs deep in all of them. Call it a rich deposit of iron ore, if you will, that is ready to be mined and turned into Pittsburgh steel.

Troy Fautanu grew up loving the Steelers and the emotions he displayed getting the call that he was a Steeler were genuine. Mike Tomlin spoke of how Fautanu has a true passion for the game that matches his playing ability. His play is described as a physical mauler with power and strength. Jon Kolb brought those qualities to the forefront of being an offensive lineman to the Steelers for over a decade. and Troy looks primed to continue the tradition. I’m sure Kolb would be clapping in enthusiasm if he weren’t squatting 700 lbs right now.

Zach Frazier’s highlight reel looks wrong in crystal clear HD. It would be more appropriate in grainy, half blurred footage with the voice of NFL Films narrator John Facenda booming over it. Steeler fans love old school down in the dirt players, and Frazier fits that bill. When asked to describe himself, Zach said the Steelers are getting a hard worker that is going to give everything he has to the organization to win football games. He also mentioned how special the tradition is in Pittsburgh of having great offensive lines. Somewhere, Mike Webster is nodding in approval.

Roman Wilson is a slightly undersized receiver that plays to the whistle and blocks just as hard as he runs routes. Where have Steeler fans seen that before? Perhaps a certain number 86 that left defenders looking out of their ear holes and got up from every hard hit with a giant smile on his face? When asked to describe what he brings, Roman said someone that is hungry and wants to make the most out of every opportunity, and that he’s been doubted and wants to prove everyone wrong. We’ve seen receivers of late that didn’t want to block or play hard when the ball wasn’t coming their way. Wilson is bringing a different mindset, and if it even approaches what Hines Ward did on the field, the team will be all the better for it. I know the analogy stumbles a bit here as Ward wasn’t of the 70’s era, but if there is one receiver from recent times that could have played in that hard hitting era, there’s no doubt it would be him.

A look at Payton Wilson and visions of those speedy yet aggressive linebackers from years past will go dancing though your head. He can crash down in the box, but he can drop in coverage and run with receivers and tight ends as well, which has been missing from the defense ever since the tragic injury of Ryan Shazier. When Cam Heyward asked Payton what the Steelers were getting, Payton said that if there are 75 downs played, he wants out there for all 75, and he’s going to be looking to rip someone’s head off on every one of them. It’s as if Jack Lambert were speaking through the young linebacker, and Steeler fans will always sign up for that all week long and twice on Sunday.

I know I just compared these kids to legends, but don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying they will be those players or produce the same amazing results. What I am saying is it feels like the theme of this draft was to find high character kids with high running motors to match. Their game film and statements show a team first attitude, while also wanting to dominate their one on one matchups. Will it be the 70’s all over again? We won’t know until they get on the field and show what they have. I can’t wait to see it. If this new group does meet their potential, I might have to break out the rabbit ears and watch the game on an old school low definition tube tv set just to set the mood. I mean…I definitely won’t, but I’ll picture it that way in my mind.


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