04/30/2012 - A closer look at the Steelers' picks: Round 4/109 - Alameda Ta'Amu, NT, 6-2 1/2, 348, Washington...Steelers traded No. 6 pick to move up 10 spots in the fourth round to get what they hope is the successor to Casey Hampton. - The Sports Xchange
The Washington Huskies used to routinely churn out NFL-caliber offensive and defensive linemen. The highlight was Steve Emtman, the No. 1 overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1992, but several other notables -- Lincoln Kennedy, Olin Kreutz, Larry Tripplett and Tank Johnson -- have come through the program since.
With Tripplett (2001) their last all-conference defensive lineman, the Huskies have fallen on hard times up front. In Ta'Amu, they have a potentially dominating run-plugger capable of earning such recognition.
Despite coming to camp out of shape due to a broken foot suffered during his senior year of high school, Ta'Amu contributed as a true freshman, starting five games and posting 21 tackles. A year later, he started 11 contests, but saw his tackle numbers drop. He posted 19 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Ta'Amu took his game to another level as a junior, starting all 13 games and more than doubling the previous season's tackle numbers. He finished with 39 tackles, including five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. It was when Ta'Amu made his plays, however, that changed most noticeably for the Huskies. Ta'Amu appeared to get better as the season went on, enjoying some of his best performances against the best competition, including a memorable evening against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl in which he recorded a 10-yard sack, had a 14-yard fumble return to set up an early Washington score and drew a holding penalty in the end zone that led to a Nebraska safety.
With a dominant showing against a physically tough Nebraska team, the expectations were sky high for Ta'Amu in 2011. To his credit Ta'Amu boosted his sack production in 2011, collecting a career-high 3.5 during the regular season. His tackles numbers (28, including seven for loss) dropped as a whole, however, and concerns about his snap to snap effort continued to dog him.
A massive man, Ta'Amu is tough to move and can surprise his opponents with his athleticism. He remains raw as a pass rusher and doesn't have the foot speed to chase down ballcarriers. His ability to clog running lanes, however, is a talent highly coveted in the NFL.
The top 50 pick that seemed possible after his breakout junior season may not come to fruition as Ta'Amu wasn't able to maintain the momentum he'd earned late in 2010. Teams operating out of the three-man front will certainly recognize Ta'Amu's potential as a run-plugging nose guard.
Pass rush: Surprising initial quickness off the snap. Wide-bodied frame makes it difficult for him to split gaps, but shows a burst when he has a lane. Developing swim move. Relies mostly on a simple bull rush at this point, which is quite effective in collapsing the pocket. Only phone booth quickness. Gives good effort in chasing down the quarterback, but tires quickly.
Run defense: Strong, stout interior presence who often requires double-team blocks to keep him from clogging running lanes. Short, thick legs and thick trunk which aid him in anchoring. Inconsistent in his effort pursuing laterally and downfield, but surprises opponents with his quickness for such a large man. Short arms could lead to problems against NFL-caliber offensive linemen with longer arms able to get into his chest.
Explosion: Flashes an explosive initial burst off the snap to split gaps, especially when guards vacate the hole to pull. Has the upper-body strength to rock his opponent back onto his heels. Quicker and more athletic than his body would lead you to believe, flashing startling explosiveness as a tackler when he gains momentum.
Strength: Powerful man who often requires double-teams. Excellent strength in his upper and lower body, though his short limbs limit his effectiveness at times. Relies heavily on his bull rush to pressure the quarterback. Often is at his most effective as a run-stuffer by simply creating a pile in the middle due to his ability to anchor.
Tackling: Makes most of his tackles by simply bludgeoning the ballcarrier. Lacks the quick-twitch muscles and lateral agility to break down in space, but has such great strength that he often is able to grab the ballcarrier with one arm, slow his momentum and grab on with his other arm to pull the ballcarrier to the ground. Inconsistent effort in pursuit, but generates impressive momentum when he's moving at full speed and can rock the ballcarrier with an explosive hit.
Intangibles: Struggled with his weight early in his career. Has weighed as much as 390 pounds and played at 360 at times. Committed himself to extra conditioning and taking rice -- a staple of the Samoan culture -- out of his diet. Weighed in at 337 pounds for the 2011 Holiday Bowl. Suffered a broken foot during his senior year of high school. Voted a team captain in 2011, although the reputation for laziness continued to dog him.