Who is Gerod Holliman? The Steelers Next Darren Perry… Or Scott Shields?

NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah earned bragging rights during the 2015 NFL Draft. He had the Steelers picking Gerod Holliman and the Steelers drafted him. The problem is that Pittsburgh picked the Louisville safety in the 7th round and not in the first as Jeremiah projected.

  • The life and times of 7th round picks should normally remain ho-hum affairs. If the said 7th round pick is lucky fans will recognize his name when it appears on the list of final cuts.

Not so with Holliman, he’s one 7th round pick who’ll arrive at St. Vincents with notoriety. As Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell observed Holliman “…can take credit for making the first and last interceptions of the spring for the team” (including one of Ben Roethlisberger‘s passes) even though he didn’t get many reps.

  • Who is Gerod Holliman? Have the Steelers EVER had a 7th round picks whose generated such a buzz before training camp has even started?

The answer to the question is “No.” Steelers 7th round picks simply don’t generate this kind of attention. When Gerod Holliman arrives at St. Vincents all eyes will await the answer to two questions – can he hit and can he tackle?

  • The Steelers demand two things of their safeties – they need to be ball hawks and they must hit hard.

Hoillman’s 14 interceptions provide ample proof that he meets the first criteria, but the knock on him is that he shies away from contact. Gerrod Holliman “Write his own story” as Mike Tomlin would be wont to say, but history suggests two interesting if divergent parallels for Holliman’s development – that of Darren Perry or that of Scott Shields.

Darren Perry Under Spoken Upstart of the Steelers 1992 Draft

Darren Perry didn’t arrive at St. Vincent’s college in the summer of 1992 with fans and the press doubting his hitting and ball hawking skills. That’s because, as Tony Defeo has pointed out, internet profiles and YouTube video collages didn’t exist back then.

What Darren Perry did do is something that none of the “studs” from the Steelers 1992 draft classLeon Searcy, Levon Kirkland and Joel Steed – earn a starting spot.

Perry was an 8th round pick, meaning he would have even been drafted today, who showed up at camp, button his chin strap, and went on to win the free safety spot, making incumbent hold out Thomas Everett irrelevant in the process. (Although in all fairness to Everett, he was traded to Dallas and started in 3 Super Bowls for them.)

  • Darren Perry didn’t have lot of the measurable, standing at less than six foot and weighing less than 200 pounds.

But Perry was a professional ball hawk. The man had a knack for being around the ball which allowed him to haul down 32 interceptions in 126 starts with the Steelers from 1992 to 1998. In fact, Perry started every game he played with the Steelers, until Bill Cowher benched him in favor of Bo Orlando at the close of the 1998 season.

IF there’s such a thing as a Steelers patron saint of underdog safeties, Donnie Shell should probably win, but Darren Perry would be a close second.

Holliman can look to Perry’s example for inspiration, if need be, but he would also be wise to look just as closely at the story of the man who the Steelers drafted to replace Perry.

Scott Shields the Steelers “Inexplicable” Second Round Safety

While Perry played 7 strong season for the Steelers, his performance began to decline when his age crossed the big 3-0 threshold. The Steelers looked to the 1999 NFL Draft for his replacement, and picked Scott Shields.

  • While the internet was in full bloom by 1999, there still wasn’t as much detailed information out there on draft picks as there is today.

So, like many other Steelers expats living in the Washington DC area, yours truly looked to WTEM’s Ken Beatrice for insight on who the Steelers picked. Beatrice, who generally lauded the Steelers drafting in the 1990’s, labeled the Steelers decision to pick Shields in the second round of the 1999 draft as “inexplicable.”

  • As it turns out, Shields got labeled as one of the biggest draft busts of the last 20 years by Pittsburgh Sporting News.

IT didn’t start out that way for Shields however. While Jamain Stephens gassing out during the Steelers run test grabbed all of the headlines as the Steelers opened 1999 training camp, Scott Shields quietly led the team Cowher’s annual run test.

As an athlete, Shields had everything a coach could want. He was big, he was fast, he had the measurables, and he was versatile – word was he was good enough to function as a stand in place kicker if need be. Heck, the Steelers even issued him Mel Blount’s no 47….

And Shields rookies season was promising too. He sealed both the Steelers road victory over San Francisco and the Steelers post-Christmas win over Carolina with interceptions. In fact, he tied Dewayne Washington for the interception lead while only starting one game.

Shields started in the opening day shut out vs. Baltimore. He found himself relegated to the nickel, and after Tim Couch and Steve McNair both lead their teams down the field for late go ahead touchdowns, the Steelers benched Shields all together.

For all of his athletic prowess, Shields couldn’t tackle and struggled in coverage. He only appeared in ten games that in 2000, and was cut before 2001. If memory serves, Tom Donahoe gave him a shot in Buffalo, but Shields never made the roster. He played in 2002 for NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores and spent time on the Kansas City Chiefs roster in 2004.

Holliman’s Opportunity Approaches

The Steelers defense is a unit in desperate need of turnovers, and Gerod Holliman would seem to offer Keith Butler and Carnell Lake that skill. As he prepares to go to St. Vincents, Holliman should do so secure in the knowledge that the Steelers will give him the fair shake just as they gave to Perry, but he should also know that they’ll also cut him loose just as they did with Scott Shields.

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