Steelers Player Preview: Gerod Holliman


All around, the Steelers have gotten high grades for their recent haul from the NFL Draft, but how do high grades in May translate to production in September?

I’ve already looked at the roles that Bud Dupree, Senquez Golson, Sammie Coates, Doran Grant, Jesse James, Leterrius Walton, and Anthony Chickillo will have in 2015. In the last installment of this series, we look at seventh round pick Gerod Holliman.

This pick received a decent amount of criticism on draft day and the days following. The biggest reason for that is Holliman’s ability (or lack thereof) to tackle. As a safety and a last line of defense, it is concerning that the Louisville product had an unusually high percentage of missed tackles.

So why do you draft a safety that is almost as likely to miss a tackle as make a tackle? Because he intercepted 14 passes. Holliman was in the right place at the right time in 2014–enough times to win the Thorpe Award and All-American honors. His uncanny ability to take the ball away from the opposing team allowed him to be drafted despite some poor fundamentals.

It is always good to have a defense full of players that can make a splash play on any down and distance. However, you hate to have players on defense that give you the sense they could make a mistake at any moment. It seems Holliman could be both.

This is the kind of player that you pick up because 14 interceptions is pretty ridiculous. You give him to defensive backs coach Carnell Lake and see what he can do with the player.

A hurdle for Holliman could be special teams. A theme these past few weeks of “Player Previews” has been special teams. There is no better way for a rookie or free agent to make an impact and cut out a roster spot than showing up big on special teams.

From first round pick Troy Polamalu to the undrafted James Harrison, an impression on special teams can often lead to job security or immediate involvement. On the current roster, players like Robert Golden and Terence Garvin have proved invaluable for their contribution in the third phase.

So what is the issue? Well, special teams is all about discipline, angles, and lanes. Maintaining contain responsibilities on kicks and tracking the returner way downfield while negotiating blockers might not be Holliman’s strength.

That being said, maybe special teams is where Holliman can hone his skills. Holliman was a one year starter at Louisville and didn’t get the chance to develop like some other players. If he can show that he belongs and puts in the effort to improve his shortcomings he will far out-value his draft position.

His ability to find the football leads me to believe that he does have good anticipation and the knack to find the path to the ball. He needs to translate those skills to the more fundamental aspect of playing safety for the Steelers–tackling.

This one is a boom or bust prospect, but a bust in the seventh isn’t really a bust–this is a player on the fringe between drafted and undrafted. If he translates to the NFL he is a steal. If he doesn’t, Holliman is just another seventh round pick.

Fun fact: the three defensive backs drafted by the Steelers combined for 29 interceptions in 2014! Read that again: 29 interceptions.

Next: Morning Huddle

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