From General Manager SoCalBroncosFan: It would seem that the Pittsburgh Steelers have more pressing needs in the secondary, sans Polamalu, and the large Steeler contingent at the Texas pro day forced me to strongly consider Aaron Williams. However, the Steelers traditionally draft "Best Player Available" in the first three rounds, and Liuget was just sitting there. He’s arguably the third best DT in this draft and is rated in the top 25 in most Top Draft Prospect rankings I’ve read. He’s tough, very strong, has surprisingly quick feet at 298lbs, and is extremely versatile, having experience with 5-technique, 3-technique, and NT. The Steelers also have a need, albeit less glaring, in their DL ranks, as NT’s Casey Hampton (33) and backup Chris Hoke(35) have contracts expiring in the next two years. Also, DE Aaron Smith (34) missed most of last season with a triceps injury and Brett Keisel will be 33 at the start of the season. The Steelers could use an infusion of talented youth in their front 3. He will likely sub in as a backup in year one, but the Steelers are not afraid to sit 1st round picks, ala Ziggy Hood or Rashard Mendenhall.
Analysis from CBSSports.com:
Pass rush: Tough for many college interior linemen to handle one-on-one in pass protection. Quick enough to beat lesser linemen off the snap at three-tech, uses his hands to free himself from block when there is enough space to do so. Gets his man on skates or pushes through a block (or double) to the quarterback to get pressure. Also strong and quick enough to play on the nose in obvious passing situations. Recovers from strong punch to run through a gap immediately. Does not have elite closing speed, but his hustle and ability to stay low make him difficult to escape within or outside the pocket.
Run defense: Stout defender who plays with a strong base. Penetrates into the backfield with quickness. Lines up at three and five-technique spots. Capable of stack-shed inside or outside. Gets past reach blocks on inside runs with quick feet and strength to keep blocker on his shoulder. Usually keeps his head up to find the ball. Lacks acceleration to keep outside containment as a five-technique. Not consistent defeating cut blocks with his hands.
Explosion: Not elite in his first step, but has enough to be a pass rush and penetrating run-stopper inside. Ball carriers feel every bit of his strength when he tackles them, and blockers are bruised up with his punching and swiping throughout the game.
Strength: His ability to play multiple positions not only comes from his quick feet, but also his strength. Lands a big punch into the chest of his man, swipes with aggression to move the blocker aside. Uses his low center of gravity to his advantage, getting leverage to stack one-on-one and shed to either direction when playing two-gap at nose tackle. Senses zone block, uses blocker's inertia against him with a strong push to get into the backfield. Usually anchors well against single and double blocks, but can get moved by NFL-caliber linemen.
Tackling: Strong upper body, hustle, and good length make him an excellent tackler. Engulfs running backs in the backfield when able to penetrate. Built low to the ground, displays excellent change of direction ability to stay in front of backs cutting against the grain. Hustles 10-15 yards downfield to make or help on tackles. Adds himself to piles when able. Lacks elite closing speed to chase down backs from behind. Tends to run out of steam when playing a lot at the end of games.
Intangibles: Coaches say Liuget is a leader in the locker and meetings rooms. Chose Illinois over southern schools because of head coach Ron Zook. Wished to transfer after two years in Champaign due to home sickness; mother said he would not be welcome home if he transferred.
Special thanks to Steelers and Seaton Hall, Alistar7, KiwiSteelerFan, Tkired, StillerGorrilar, Steeler_, and all the others over at Behind the Steel Curtain who gave great advice and insight. I definitely would have rather filled one of the greater needs at DB or RG, but with a talent like Liuget and the lack of equal talent falling to Pittsburgh, I feel good about this pick.