Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Uncertainty of the Steelers Draft

With less than 24 hours until the first round of the NFL Draft begins, the rumor mill is aflame. Depending on who you are listening to, every team loves or hates every prospect right now. This might be the worst draft in ten years. Or this draft might be one of the deepest in recent memory. Here's what we do know: the top of the draft does not have many skill position players, which means that offensive and defensive linemen will account for the majority of picks in the first half of the draft. Depending on which mock drafts you read, the Steelers could be taking any number of players at the 17th pick. Given their needs, it's highly unlikely that the Steelers will move up in the draft but it's very possible they could trade back and add additional picks in the 3rd or 4th round. Rather than trying to sort through all the mess that's out there and tell you who the Steelers will definitely pick, I take a look at some of the most popular names and tell you why the Steelers would or would not pick them.

Jarvis Jones
OLB - Georgia

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Jones led the nation in sacks last season and would give the Steelers depth at outside linebacker should the Jason Worlids experiment fail. Jones has a high motor and is fast off the edge.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Kevin Colbert generally prefers to draft younger players and let them develop in the Steelers system. Jones is 23 years old after having to redshirt a year because of his transfer from USC. There's also the issue of spinal stenosis that sidelined him with the Trojans and ultimately caused him to transfer to Georgia.

Cornellius Carradine
DE - Florida State

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Carradine tore his ACL in November and wasn't able to work out at the Combine but recently ran an incredible 4.75 40-yard dash at Florida State's Pro Day. His workout seemed to alleviate any concerns there were about his rehab and the highly productive Florida State prospect should be a first round lock.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: The Steelers may be unsure about his ability to transition from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB and may be wary of using a first round pick on someone recovering from major knee surgery.

Ezekial Ansah

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: It will be a huge coup for the Steelers if Ansah is still on the board at 17. He is incredibly raw with only one year as a starter at BYU but has all the tools to develop into a dominant pass rusher. Think Jason Pierre-Paul redux.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Ansah will likely be a Top 10 pick, if not picked in the Top 15. He has rare athletic ability that teams covet. History isn't working for Ansah and the Steelers who have only chosen a player from a non-power conference once during the Kevin Colbert era.

Barkevious Mingo

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Great athleticism, able to get to the quarterback, played for a winning team in a major conference.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Mingo will likely be one of the first pass rushers off the board and it's unlikely he makes it to the Steelers at 17. There are some concerns about his size and strength, but his ability to collapse the pocket is without question.

Arthur Brown
ILB - Kansas State

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Possibly the best interior linebacker prospect, Brown has quick instincts and is always around the ball.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: The Steelers don't need an inside linebacker in the first round. With Timmons and Foote the starters for this season, there are other needs more important than inside linebacker to address in the first round.

Alec Ogletree
ILB - Georgia

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Ogletree is a unique talent who lined up at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and safety. He has a linebacker's size and strength but the speed and range of a safety. He could play all over the field for Dick LeBeau.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Look at his arrest record. Suspended a game in 2011. Suspended multiple games in 2012 for failing a drug test. Had a DUI the week before the Combine.

Manti Te'o
ILB - Notre Dame

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: An impact inside linebacker that can take over for Larry Foote. He has great instincts and is a thumper against the run, even if his pass defense is a bit of a liability.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Kevin Colbert has never drafted a player from Notre Dame. Also, the Alabama game.

Kenny Vacarro
S - Texas

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: A versatile player who lined up all over the field for Texas. He played man coverage against slot receivers, down in the box against the run, and as a single high safety.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: They watched his game against Oklahoma State.

Eric Reid

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Mike Tomlin promised Ryan Clark last year the Steelers would take a safety this year, and Clark reportedly attended LSU Pro Day with Tomlin and the Steelers brass. Reid has the size and athleticism to be an elite NFL safety.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Reid has a propensity for taking back-breaking penalties at the worst possible times, like in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl this year.

Jonathan Cyprien
S - Florida International

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him:
 Cyprien is every draftnik's dream. A super-athletic player that absolutely flies around the field. He is a good enough tackler for a safety and isn't afraid to stick his nose in against running backs and is a ballhawk against the pass.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: History is not in Cyprien's corner. The Steelers have only gone outside the five power conferences (B1G, ACC, SEC, Big XII, Pac 12) once during the Kevin Colbert era, and that was to take Big Ben. Also, if they somehow didn't watch his game against Louisville.

Xavier Rhodes
CB - Florida State

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Rhodes has all the makings of a talented NFL corner and should be a first round pick. The Steelers brought him in for a pre-draft workout and may be looking to fill a hole in their secondary left when Keenan Lewis departed for New Orleans. Ike Taylor only has two years left on his contract, so adding another young corner would make sense.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Ike Taylor has two years left, Cortez Allen is coming into his own and the Steelers just signed William Gay to a 3-year deal. It will be a crowded defensive backfield if Rhodes is added to the mix.

Cordarelle Patterson
WR - Tennessee

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Aside from Tavon Austin, Patterson might be the most electric playmaker in the draft. He has the speed to take it the distance any time he gets his hands on the ball and is a skilled returner as well as receiver.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Patterson is a body-catcher with questionable hands. He dropped some passes last year and is not a very good route-runner.

DeAndre Hopkins
WR - Clemson

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: They watched him tear up LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Hopkins might be the best of the first round receivers. He extends his hands away from his body to snag the ball and isn't afraid to go across the middle of the field and take a hit to make a play.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: The Rams brought in Hopkins twice in the last week and seem to be targeting him if Tavon Austin isn't available.

Tavon Austin
WR - West Virginia

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Austin is an explosive playmaker that is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. He would give the Steelers offense what they hoped Chris Rainey would - someone they could line up anywhere on the field and create mismatches.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Austin is the skill position player in highest demand in this draft. He could go as high as in the top 10 and certainly won't make it past St Louis at #16.

Tyler Eifert
TE - Notre Dame

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: The Steelers need a play-maker on offense and Eifert fits the bill. With Heath Miller not expected back for the start of the regular season, Eifert could step in right away then combine to form a 1-2 punch at tight end to rival New England.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Todd Haley uses some two-tight end sets but usually the second tight end is a blocker. Eifert isn't a great blocker and neither is Matt Spaeth. With the signing of Spaeth, the Steelers may feel they have enough on the roster between Spaeth, Johnson and Paulson to get by until Heath returns.

Eddie Lacy
RB - Alabama

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Lacy is the best back in the draft and would fill a huge need in the Steelers lineup. He could immediately be a three-down back and would give the Steelers a back with power and speed the likes of which they have not had for a long time.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: The Steelers seem to be high on Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell after spending time with him at the combine and taking him out to dinner before his Pro Day. Lacy is the best back in the draft but the Steelers may think they can get a comparable player in a later round.

Chance Warmack
OG - Alabama

Why the Steelers Will Pick Him: Would the Steelers really take their third interior offensive lineman in the last four years? For a guy like Warmack, sure. He is a mammoth of a human who could step in right away at left guard and fill out the Steelers line for the foreseeable future.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Him: Ramon Foster just signed a 3-year deal and reports are that Kelvin Beachum is being groomed as a guard rather than a tackle. The Steelers may feel set in their offensive line.

Trade Down

Why the Steelers Will Trade Down: They are picking 17th. At least 10 players I didn't name will be picked before them. I named 17 players they could take. They could easily trade down to the mid-20s or even early 30s and still land one of the players on this list while picking up extra picks in the middle rounds of this draft, where the draft is stocked with talent.

Why the Steelers Won't Trade Down: The teams with a lot of ammo to move up (Minnesota, Atlanta, San Francisco, Baltimore) will likely be targeting teams like New Orleans, Carolina and Chicago who only have 5 draft picks and will be looking to add more. The Steelers won't trade with the Ravens so if Atlanta and San Francisco find partners to trade up, the Steelers could be short on options to trade back.

Someone Else
Any Position - Any School

Why the Steelers Will Pick Somebody Else: This draft is ridiculous. No one has any idea what is going to happen. If one of the top guys like Dee Milliner, DJ Fluker or Jonathan Cooper are available they could be the pick. I only profiled 3 WRs, but Justin Hunter, Robert Woods or Keenan Allen could garner consideration. If the Steelers aren't comfortable with Steve McLendon at Nose Tackle they could give Jesse Williams or Jonathan Hankins a look.

Why the Steelers Won't Pick Somebody Else: I just named 17 players the Steelers could draft, and that's not including Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson, DJ Fluker, Dion Jordan, Dee Milliner or any of the three DTs that figure to be picked before the Steelers choice. Odds are that one of the guys I've highlighted will be the pick.

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