Tonight the Pittsburgh Steelers will make their first of seven selections in the 2016 NFL draft. While it is heavily speculated that the first round will be utilized to improve the secondary, how the remainder of the draft will pan out remains debatable.
Most fair weather fans are quick to make the comment that Thursday and Friday, the first three rounds of the draft, are the most important days of the draft, and the only selections that truly matter. For a moment let’s say that were true, and let it be known that since the inception of the Mike Tomlin era only 14 of the 27 athletes drafted in the first three rounds dating back to 2007 remain on the team.
Duds such as Limas Sweed, Bruce Davis, Curtis Brown, and Dri Archer stand as examples of the Steelers selecting absolute flops during the draft selection process. It is not guaranteed that college athletes will transition well into the professional level, and expectations have to be tempered at times when household names in the NCAA make to the NFL.
What makes Saturday, the third and final day of the draft, so exciting is having the chance to select an extremely talented player that could be passed over due to many instances that remove him from team’s draft boards. The success story that is Antonio Brown is a prime example of the Steelers’ ability to land athletes in the later rounds of the draft that develop into superstars.
As was covered in Still Curtain’s review of potential linebacker prospect, Tyrone Holmes, the Steelers’ future at outside linebacker is unclear. Even with the addition of first-round selections at the position in 2013 and 2015, the Steelers must yet again make sure their future along their defensive front is secure.
A potential day three candidate to shore up the linebacker position is a former second team All-SEC award recipient that has shown he has a knack for finding the ball carrier. While setbacks sidelined him for much of his collegiate career, he may be worth a dice roll when it comes to his commanding presence on the football field.
Curt Maggitt, linebacker, University of Tennessee.
Maggitt, whose name is pronounced Muh-Jit, is an amazing example of an athlete with exceptional skills as a pass rusher. Relentless, destructive, powerful..the adjectives are plenty when describing what this young man has the capability of bringing to the table for a defense.
The 6’3″, 247 lbs linebacker ended his career with the Tennessee Volunteers with 141 tackles (83 solo), 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 28.5 tackles for loss. These numbers, and his draft stock, had the potential to be much higher had he not suffered two season ending injuries during his five years in college.
A knee injury granted Maggitt a medical redshirt in 2013 before the season started, and a chipped hip bone suffered in the Volunteers’ second game of the season in 2015 once again forced Maggitt to the sidelines. Maggitt also faces a pending lawsuit from a former Vol’s teammate that claimed Maggitt assaulted him in the team’s locker room in 2014.
The severity of Maggitt’s injuries in the past and the pending lawsuit would be enough to drop him into the final two rounds, or even undrafted, by many team’s in the NFL, but the Steelers’ risk at selecting him would be justifiable. If they were comfortable with easily cutting Anthony Chickillo, who would later be added to the active roster, and Gerod Holliman when they were required to reduce their roster to 53 players, why not take a risk on him being able to play as he advertised in Tennessee?
Relying on game film from his 2014 campaign, it can be seen that Maggitt was well on his way to backing up his All-SEC honors before his untimely injury. During the Tax Slayer.com Bowl in early 2015, he put his impressive pass rushing skills on display for the whole nation to see.
With a great burst of speed off the snap, Maggitt pulls off a perfect spin move on Iowa Hawkeyes’ offensive lineman Andrew Donnal (78). Catching Donnal completely off guard and shrugging off opposition from Sean Welsh (79), Maggitt is unopposed as he closes in on quarterback C.J. Beathard.
Maggitt’s great ability to break down pocket protection was shown once again against the Georgia Bulldogs earlier that year. In a third and extremely long situation, quarterback Hutson Mason was all but forced to attempt a deep pass. Offensive lineman John Theus (71) would prove no match for Maggitt’s ability to pursue the ball carrier, and easily broke off his defender as Mason attempted to step up in the pocket, and was met with a thunderous crash to the turf.
A final example of his ability to beat his man at the point of the snap, Maggitt made short work of 6’7″, 313 lbs. offensive lineman, William Holden, who could barely lay a hand on the dominant rusher. Vanderbilt quarterback John Webb’s attempt to scramble out of the pocket would be all for not, as Maggitt easily ended his pursuit of the signal caller with a sack.
The biggest question surrounding Maggitt, which will largely determine if he is drafted, is if he will be able to repeat this same style of play after the hip injury suffered in 2015. His knee injury from 2013 should be of no concern, as it is apparent that the healing process went well.
Even with the supposed red flags that come with drafting Curt Maggitt, the Steelers would do well to select him if he is available in the final two rounds of the draft. Their need for aid in their linebacker corps is apparent, and it is high time they made a move to select another blockbuster athlete in the later rounds of the draft.