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Character Remains Key on Day Three

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The Steelers filled out their 2011 draft with cornerback Cortez Allen from the Citadel, linebacker Chris Carter out of Fresno State, guard Keith Williams of Nebraska and Texas Tech running back Baron Batch.

The operating word for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 NFL Draft? Character.

After last year’s offseason, which featured the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger and the trade of Santonio Holmes – both for character reasons – the Pittsburgh Steelers set the tone by drafting the high-character Cameron Heyward in the first round. That tone was carried all the way through Day 3, up to and including the 29th pick of the seventh round.

It was evident on Saturday as early as the fourth round, when the team added its second cornerback of the draft with the selection of Cortez Allen of The Citadel, or rather, The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. Allen said he chose the school over others like Cincinnati or SIU because it would prepare him for life.

“I thought the opportunity granted me unlike any other school, and that’s the choice I went with,” Allen said. “I felt that if I worked hard enough I would get noticed playing football, and that’s what happened.”

Allen, who boasts good size for the position at 6’1” and 197 lbs, went on to describe himself as very coachable, which is a good trait to have for a corner that could use a bit more experience, having only picked up football in his senior year of high school. That inexperience didn’t scare off defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, though.

“I asked him when he came to visit us, ‘How much time do you get to work on your craft.’ He said, ‘I don’t get a lot of time because I have to do The Citadel stuff.’ So I said this guy is really playing well, and he’s not working on his craft that much because of his limited time,” explained Lake. “If he can spend a lot of time working on his craft I see a lot of upside for him. I think that is one of the reasons why we selected him.”

Pittsburgh was able to add another player it wanted in the fifth round in Chris Carter out of Fresno State. The college defensive end will be making the transition to outside linebacker at the pro level, like so many Steelers backers before him.

“He’s a hard fit,” said linebackers coach Keith Butler, answering why Carter was still available late in the fifth round. “In terms of most, people see him as a 4-3 defensive end. We think he can stand up and be as effective in a two-point stance.”

The 6’1”, 248 lb. Carter hopes to model himself after another short, stocky tweener who turned out to be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh: outside linebacker and former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison.

“It’s an honor to be in the same locker room as that guy. It’s an honor,” said Carter of Harrison. “I watch him all the time. In college, all I used to do was sit at home and watch NFL Network to watch this guy. He plays with passion. To be a player of that caliber is something I dream about and I definitely plan of making that dream come true.”

Pittsburgh addressed the offensive side of the ball in the sixth round with the selection of Keith Williams out of Nebraska, who at 6’5” and 310 lbs. projects to be a guard at the next level.

“Keith is a very physical player. He likes to mix it up, he has nasty to him,” offered offensive line coach Sean Kugler. “He’s an aggressive player. He has pulling skills. They utilize that at Nebraska and that shows up on film. We had Keith in the building. We brought him up here because we wanted to get an even closer look at him. We liked what we saw on film. We wanted to get him on the board to see how he handles learning things and he was excellent. He is a smart kid, and I think he’s going to be a quality guard for us.”

The sixth-round pick agrees that he has a little “nasty” to use when he plays, though admits he isn’t finished learning.

“Yes, my run game, I’m very aggressive,” explained Williams. “I like to finish. I like to get after it. When it comes to passing I need a little work there. I’m ready to go.”

Pittsburgh wrapped up the draft with one more character pick, Texas Tech running back Baron Batch. Batch, who wrote for several local papers in his college area, used his blog as a means to finance schooling for several children in Haiti. The back also once wrote a column that led a reader to approach the young man and inform him that his words stopped him from committing suicide, saving his life.

On the field, the 5’10” 210 lb. Batch brings a well-rounded arsenal of skills, including solid hands and blitz awareness. One thing’s for sure, he’s not fretting over being a seventh-rounder.

“I have the same mentality I would if I would have gotten picked mid-round or early on,” said Batch. “I’m going to have to come in and prove myself and more importantly I’m going to have to better myself and better whatever team I’m on and the people around me.”

At the end of the day, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert was very pleased to be able to get Batch, as well as the team’s other six selections from Thursday through Saturday.

“This draft really broke well for us getting good players that we feel fit and have a good chance to contribute,” explained Colbert in his draft wrap-up press conference. “The other day when we did our press conference we said there were about 100 guys that we think could help this team and fortunately we got seven of them over the course of the last three days.  Hopefully they are what we think they are.  We’re pleased.”

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

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