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Steelers fill line and secondary needs on day two

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The Pittsburgh Steelers addressed two crucial needs on the second day of the NFL Draft, fortifying the trenches in the second round with their selection of offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert of Florida; and drafting Texas cornerback Curtis Brown in the third.

Maurkice Pouncey’s dream of reuniting with twin brother Mike Pouncey on Pittsburgh’s offensive line may have been dashed on Thursday, but the reigning Steelers rookie of the year did receive a consolation prize in offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert joins Pouncey in the trenches as the Steelers drafted a Florida offensive lineman for the second time in as many years.

The incumbent Gator may have had a hand in that.

“Maurkice was a big advocate for Marcus along with [Mike Pouncey],” said offensive line coach Sean Kugler. “He is going to tell you how it is and, of course, I’ll take his advice because I respect him as a player… and he’ll give you the right advice. He shoots it straight.”

Marcus himself is just as thrilled to be pairing up with an old teammate. “It’s great. It’s a blessing,” Gilbert exclaimed. “Just to go to a team with a former Gator and a former offensive lineman that I played next to is a blessing. I can learn a lot from him.”

The 6’6”, 330 lb. Gilbert will get a chance to show off some positional flexibility for second-year coach Kugler, who plans on trying out the rookie lineman at every position except center.

“Like all our players we are going to train them on both sides and at two positions so they are able to do that on gameday,” the coach explained. “At some point, his best position will come out.”

Once again, Pittsburgh remained quiet on the trade front, sticking with the 31st selection in each round. That doesn’t mean the trade market didn’t affect the inactive Steelers, though. Cornerback Brandon Harris, once thought to be a candidate for the team’s first-round selection, nearly fell into Pittsburgh’s lap at the end of the second round before Houston traded its way into position to snatch him up.

That doesn’t mean the team came up empty at the cornerback position, though.

Pittsburgh drafted its newest cover man with their third-round selection:  Texas CB Curtis Brown, a self-described “country-dude” who was cooking up some crawfish with the family when the Steelers picked him. Brown knew he was a fit philosophically with the Steelers when he visited with the team prior to the draft.

“When I went up there, I felt a family atmosphere,” Brown explained. I’m a real country-dude; I’m a family-type person. And when I went up there, I felt welcome. I felt at home…”

Brown, who stands 6’0”, was the second Texas defensive back off the board after Aaron Williams, who was selected by the Bills with the second pick of the second round, but is sure that he’s the best cover man coming out of the Longhorns secondary.

“We have our talents,” opined Brown. “I’m better at some things just as he’s better than me at some things. Covering-wise, I’m gonna take that and say I was the best cover corner at Texas because I haven’t been scored on in a long time.”

While it appears he’s not lacking in self-confidence, the one knock on Brown has been his strength, arriving with the team at a rather slim 185 lbs. First-year defensive backs coach Carnell Lake believes it won’t be much of an issue.

“When you look at him on film… He won’t shy away from contact and he’s scrappy,” said Lake. “He throws his body around and I think that will serve him well, especially if he has to contribute on special teams.”

The Steelers own four selections on Day 3 of the draft, which begins at Noon on Saturday and have already addressed their three primary needs: defensive line, offensive line, and cornerback.

STEELERS 2011 DRAFT
1. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
2. Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida
3. Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

Kenneth Torgent is the Steelers beat writer for the Pittsburgh Sports Report. Follow him on twitter at @ktorgent.

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