The Pittsburgh Steelers enter approach the 2013 NFL Draft at a crossroads as they are right in the middle of the NFL coming off an 8-8 record with a chance to reload and get back to their playoff ways or fall behind the rest of the division. The Steelers have some stars who are starting to age out of the league but a nice combination of young players to build around if they can continue to add talent. The problem is the Steelers have uncharacteristically come away with little if anything some recent drafts, so they have some sizable holes gaps to fill behind these aging players. If they are able, the Steelers do what they normally do, this past season was a blip on the radar and they are right back in the playoffs with a chance to win the Super Bowl or they will fall back in the always competitive AFC North.
17. Jesse Williams, DT Alabama – The Steelers defense has been so stout for so long because of their consistent play against the run. They have been consistent against the run because of the contributions of Casey Hampton for just a little over a decade. Hampton’s coming to the end of a great career and the Steelers know they need to find his replacement. They tried last year when they drafted Alameda Ta’amu to develop behind him, but off the field issues forced the Steelers to release him. This year, they take the best pure 2-gap nose tackle in the draft in Jesse Williams, who could come in and be an immediate contributor and continue the proud tradition the Steelers have had.
Kenny Vaccaro, S Texas – Pittsburgh has had great contributions from Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark but both are coming to the end of their careers with no obvious answers in sight to replace them. Vacarro, should he make it to this pick, fits the profile of safety the Steelers have liked to use and would give them a lot of flexibility.
Jarvis Jones, OLB Georgia – For all the pass rushing success the Steelers have had over the years, they do not use first-round picks on outside linebackers. That could change this year if Jones is sitting there and the Steelers pass him medically as he fits the type of player they like to come off the edge.
Johnathan Hankins, DT Ohio State – The Steelers have had an ongoing connection with Ohio State over the past several years drafting players like Cameron Heyward, Thaddeus Gibson, Santonio Holmes, and Mike Adams. Hankins is not quite the natural anchor in the middle of the line Jesse Williams is, but he also offers more athleticism and the ability to rush the passer.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee – Investing in weapons for Ben Roethlisberger has been a wise investment in the past and while the Steelers normally wait to add receivers, they could be tempted to add an athlete like Patterson to make up for some of the losses they have endured this year. Patterson has a ton of athleticism and natural ability but he is extremely raw in terms of technique and will take some time to develop.
48. Quinton Patton, WR Louisiana Tech – The Steelers were prepared for the loss of Mike Wallace but the potential loss of Emmanuel Sanders could leave them looking for immediate help. Quinton Patton is the most well-rounded receiver in the entire draft in the same way as Hines Ward was when he was in Pittsburgh. Patton does everything from running precise routes to catching the ball to running after the catch to putting a lot of effort into blocking. Patton profiles as someone they can put in immediately to help Roethlisberger right now.
Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama – The Steelers have a gaping hole at the running back position after having an inconsistent output from Rashard Mendenall, now with the Cardinals, and waived Chris Rainey, after an off field situation. The Steelers have signed Chris Wells, but he has never had luck staying healthy and has not been stellar when he was, so the Steelers will likely try to add a better, more permanent solution to support Ben Roethlisberger. Lacy profiles as that north and south power runner the Steelers were known for in the 90’s.
Jamie Collins, DE/OLB Southern Miss – If the Steelers opt to attack the hole left by James Harrison, they could bring in Jamie Collins, who still needs some technical work and consistency, but offers some of the best measurables in the entire draft. If he can play up to his physical tools, he could end up as one of the best players in the entire draft.
Jamar Taylor, CB Boise State – Cornerback is another position the Steelers tend not to value early in the draft, but if they want to address it, Jamar Taylor, is the physical, man coverage corner who is not afraid to go hit someone in the running game and can lay the wood given the opportunity. He is a great fit from a scheme standpoint as well as his attitude and competitiveness.
79. Le’Veon Bell, RB Michigan State – Bell is a bull dozer of a bell cow who has incredible size and strength with more agility than people give him credit. He also can contribute as a receiver out of the backfield, but the big concern with Bell is how high he runs and how well he will be able to protect himself from shots to his ribs. Bell gives the Steelers a back that can consistently get yards with the ability to take over football games.
Stepfan Taylor, RB Stanford – People may focus on the 40 time and workouts but when he was on the field for Stanford, Taylor an impressive workhorse back who put a lot of effort into studying opposing defenses to understand how they were going to attack him and counter it. And for a guy who is supposed to be slow, he was not caught from behind when he broke it open. He is the best blocker in the draft at the running back position and will punish all who take try to attack him. Great fit for the power running game the Steelers say they want to run.
Sio Moore, OLB Connecticut – There might not be a pass rusher in this draft that profiles to what the Steelers like in their pass rushers more than Sio Moore. He is short, plays low to the ground, brings a lot of effort, and can get after the quarterback. Moore also fits the area where the Steelers like to draft their pass rushers as they tend to draft a guy, people forget about him because they have someone else playing well, and after that player leaves, the new guy steps right in and performs at a high level making outsiders ask where they found the guy.
Robert Alford, CB Southeastern Louisana – One of the best corners in the draft is Robert Alford, but concerns over his age (25) and the level of competition he played against could hold him back in the draft. He is a tenacious cover corner who is fantastic in man coverage, plays aggressively against the run, and can return punts. Alford is a guy that can come in immediately contribute either in the slot or on the outside.
115. Phillip Thomas, S Fresno State – Thomas is a better prospect than the fourth round but might fall due to the overwhelming depth of the position. He is a great fit for what the Steelers like to do and he actually plays in a similar style as Polamalu. Polamalu has had problems staying on the field the past two years and Thomas not only can develop behind him, but could allow them to use him and keep Polamalu fresher to continue bringing his unique brand of chaos.
Tharold Simon, CB LSU – Simon could have used another year in college to continue refining his technique in coverage and waste less motion, but he has tremendous size and athleticism to play corner in the NFL and is a great run defender who thrives on hitting the opponent. He is a slight project but even at 6’2” 200lbs, he can play nickel or on the outside in Pittsburgh’s scheme.
William Gholston, DE Michigan State – Gholston has a tremendous size and athleticism with a ton of strength to contribute as a 5-technique defensive end in the Steelers scheme. He has all the physical tools to succeed, but needs to improve his technique, especially when it comes to block shedding. The Steelers can always use more depth along their defensive line.
Marquise Goodwin, WR Texas – Goodwin never did much at Texas but he had a great week at the Senior Bowl and has a ton of speed. The reality is with Roethlisberger at quarterback, he is not going to be asked to do a ton early in his career and would be used as a guy who can stretch the field deep the way Wallace did last year. It should not come as any kind of shock if the Steelers add more than one receiver and specifically look for a deeper threat. Teams have to defend him and even if he is covered, he opens up opportunities for teammates.
150. Trevardo Williams, DE/OLB Connecticut – The Steelers add another pass rusher into the pipeline and add someone who can help them in coverage now. He fits the type of pass rusher they like and has a good amount of upside in the pros. He is the type of guy they will stash a few years and then come out with a bang. With Harrison gone, the pass rushing answer across from LaMarr Woodley is a question mark, but the Steelers have a ‘next man up’ mentality and a few candidates they have been developing.
Denard Robinson, QB Michigan – The Steelers have had as much success as any team when it comes to taking and finding ways to use quarterbacks as wide receivers. Robinson possesses extraordinary athleticism that makes him a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. The Steelers are a team willing to find creative ways to let him make plays for them as they work with him on becoming a receiver.
Chris Faulk, OT LSU – When healthy, the Steelers have the making of a talented offensive line. The problem is they have had a real problem staying healthy, but there are also lingering questions about Mike Adams and his future at right tackle. It is unlikely they give up on him, but they might add a player like Faulk who can be a backup at both guard spots and right tackle just in case. Faulk is somewhat of a wild card as he was highly thought of last year but suffered a season ending ACL injury and opted to declare for the draft anyway. So scouts are forced to evaluate his tape from last year along with his health and try to project him to a spot on their board.
Joseph Fauria, TE UCLA – Fauria has the talent to be one of the best tight ends in this class. There is really nothing he cannot do for a team, but especially when it comes to blocking, it is all about effort. Heath Miller is a Steelers mainstay but the Steelers may simply want another tight end weapon for Roethlisberger and if Fauria blocks for them, he goes from a primary red zone threat and joker to a complete tight end a huge threat.
186. Tavarres King, WR Georgia – If the Steelers want to bring in a player who can bring a similar deep threat as Mike Wallace did, King proved he could do it in his time at Georgia. While he has some issues getting in and out of breaks, he has the height and long speed that will enable him to test opposing defenses deep. He also comes in with a ton of experience from his time at Georgia and should be able to prove he is worth a roster spot and some playing time immediately.
206. Vince Williams, ILB Florida State – With the loss of Larry Foote, the Steelers have some guys they have been developing to step in at inside linebacker like Sean Spence, but if one of them steps in, the Steelers will have another spot for depth to develop. Williams can come in as a player who can come in and be a 2-down thumper and perhaps develop into more allowing Spence to focus on what he is better at which is pass coverage.
Zac Stacy, RB Vanderbilt – It is usually a worthwhile gamble to take a late round flyer on an SEC running back as they have a habit of working out in one form or another. Stacy has tremendous power and agility, but needs to do a better job of using them in his running style and needs to improve technically. If he can do that, he is n undersized power back who can lower his shoulder and punish people or make quick cuts in traffic.
Chad Bumphis, WR Mississippi State– Not only could the Steelers look to add another receiver, they are a team that could specifically look for guys with the potential to stretch the field deep in the way Mike Wallace did. Bumphis has become an underrated player and was a productive receiver for the Bulldogs. He comes in as a camp body competing for a job and if he makes it, great. If not, it was a reasonable gamble in the seventh round.
T.J. Barnes, DT Georgia Tech – The Steelers could look to add depth at the nose tackle position as well as have a long term potential project in the works. Barnes is huge and a surprisingly decent athlete who really needs to work on improving his technique. He could be a great candidate to stash on a practice squad if he cannot make the roster outright.
223. John Boyett, S Oregon – Coming into the season, Boyett was touted as a talented safety on the Oregon defense but an injury ended his season and he has fallen down the rankings as a result. A team like Pittsburgh who needs safeties for the future could opt to take him and stash him on their injured reserve list for a year for him to come in and compete for the following year.
Lamar Mady, OL Youngstown State – Mady is a borderline draftable player with big time measurables and could be worth developing. He fits the size and power the Steelers like and he is in their backyard just over the border in Youngstown.
Onterio McCalebb, RB Auburn – If not for off field concerns, the Steelers had an athlete with track speed at running back in Chris Rainey last year and could look to find someone else who can still give them that home run element. McCalebb is undersized but he has tremendous speed and quickness and can light up the score board. And like with Rainey, McCalebb is a low risk gamble at this point in the draft.
Tyrone Goard, WR Eastern Washington – If the Steelers can find talent at wide receiver, Roethlisberger will take advantage of it and Goard is a height, weight, speed prospect that might be worth a look for a team looking for a deep threat.
Greg Reid, CB Valdosta State - Reid was a talented, albeit undersized cornerback at Florida State back off the field problems forced him out and to Valdosta State. He could contribute as a nickel corner for the Steelers if he can make the team.
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