Saturday, April 29, 2017

Steelers draft profiles: Southern Cal's Smith-Schuster, Tennessee's Sutton, Pitt's Conner

By Chris Harlan
April 29, 2017

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Player: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Position: wide receiver
College: Southern Cal
Height: 6-1
Weight: 215
Pros: Smith-Schuster is valued as a physical receiver with strong hands, and should be expected to make catches in traffic. He's drawn comparisons to NFL veteran Anquan Boldin, a wideout Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley coached in Arizona.
Cons: Smith-Schuster doesn't have elite speed; he ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Good fit for Steelers?: Ben Roethlisberger prefers to throw to tall receivers, and at 6-foot-1, Smith-Schuster should fit expectation. However, his arrival adds another player to what already is a crowded position. He could battle for playing time with Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates, Justin Hunter, Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
College highlights: A three-year starter who made 39 starts, Smith-Schuster had 213 catches for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was named first-team All-Pac 12 as a sophomore and led the conference with 1,454 receiving yards that season. He led the Trojans with 89 receptions and 10 touchdown catches that season.
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Player: Cameron Sutton
Position: cornerback
College: Tennessee
Height: 5-11
Weight: 188
Pros: Sutton was a four-year starter at Tennessee with notable man-coverage skills. He made 45 starts and set a school record with 37 pass defenses. His career stats also include seven interceptions and 127 tackles. He also was a standout punt returner for the Volunteers; he returned 45 punts for 657 yards and three touchdowns.
Cons: Analysts labeled Sutton as “passive” in press coverage, and said he wasn't considered a physical tackler who'll contribute to run stopping. As a senior, Sutton sustained a fractured ankle and missed almost half of the season.
Good fit for Steelers?: Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said the Steelers valued Sutton's man-coverage skills, a technique the team may feature more.
College highlights: Sutton joined Tennessee's starting lineup as a true freshman, led the team with nine pass breakups and returned an interception for a touchdown. He led the nation in punt return average (18.7) as a junior, when he returned 25 punts for a school-record 467 yards and two touchdowns. He had an 84-yard punt-return touchdown that season and a 76-yard punt return score as a sophomore.
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Player: James Conner
Position: running back
College: Pitt
Height: 6-1
Weight: 233
Pros: Conner's battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma cast a national spotlight on the Erie native. Draft analysts praised his resilience, mental toughness and leadership skills. However, before his cancer diagnosis, Conner earned ACC Player of the Year honors when he had 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore. Conner returned as a senior and rushed for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns on 216 carries, earning first-team All-ACC honors. He's a physical runner who's tough to arm tackle.
Cons: Conner isn't a cut-back runner who'll make tacklers miss. At the NFL combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds. His health concerns (season-ending torn MCL in 2015 included) likely hurt his draft stock with some NFL teams.
Good fit for Steelers?: Conner's aggressive running style could pair well with Le'Veon Bell's patience and finesse. DeAngelo Williams is a free agent, so the Steelers were in the market for another running back. The other roster options are Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
College highlights: Conner finished second to Tony Dorsett on Pitt's all-time lists for rushing yards (3,733), total touchdowns (56) and rushing touchdowns (52).

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