Steelers' Draft Preview, 1st Edition

It’s taken me awhile to cope with the Broncos loss, but with the combine having just ended, I’m starting to feel in the NFL spirit once more.

The draft is coming up, so I wanted to take a look at some of the players that the Steelers should be targeted in April’s draft.

This will probably change several times leading up to the event itself, but I’ll try to update this at least once prior to then.

With that being said, here we go:

Dontari Poe:

Poe was a guy I had my eye on as the perfect replacement for Casey Hampton as the nose tackle in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense before the combine, but after turning in what Todd McShay called the most impressive combine in history, he’s probably out of range for the team now. With 44 reps in the bench press, Poe led all entrants at the combine, and he ran a 4.98 40 at 346 pounds, which seems downright physically impossible. He had already earned rave reviews as a run stopper that can occupy multiple blockers and create havoc in the pocket, and his freakish workout only sent him rocketing farther up draft boards. Experts have ranked him as high as the 11th best player in draft, with some as  “low” as 16th, so it seems as if the Steelers will have to pray for him to slip a little. If he does, they would be wise to snap him up as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the team can target fellow DTs like Jerel Worthy or Devon Still.

Mike Adams/ Jonathan Martin:

I’m not going to pretend to know enough about either of these offensive linemen to separate them here, but they are both tackles that the team could be looking at it. Martin was at the top of draft boards early this year, but a recent illness has prevented him from working out recently, and he’s taken a bit of tumble down to where the Steelers could grab him. He’s still an excellent run blocker, and while he has a little to be desired in terms of pass blocking, he’s got great size for the next level. Adams is another tackle with some great size at 6’7”, but his skill needs some serious work. He could definitely develop into good player in the NFL, but like Martin he may need a little time. Playing with the Steelers may force them into playing sooner rather than later if the proposed duo of Gilbert and Colon don’t work out, but they are definitely solid values here.

Andre Branch:

Branch is the type of player that the Steelers have historically loved over the course of the years, as he fits the classic mold of a player that could stand up as a 3-4 outside linebacker or play with his hand on the ground as a defensive end. Pittsburgh is definitely hurting more for an end than an OLB at this point on the heels of cutting DE Aaron Smith, but they have a history of stockpiling these types of players whether they need them or not. I’m not saying I’m in favor of it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened. There is the possibility that he could play some snaps at DE, or him moving to OLB would enable Timmons to stay at MLB if Woodley or Harrison go down again.

Dont’a Hightower:

As of this writing, the team hasn’t officially cut James Farrior, but according to his agent, it’s just a matter of time before they make that move. The team will be in the market for middle linebacking help, as Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester don’t exactly have my full confidence, and Hightower could fill that role. His workouts have started to push him up draft boards, and by the time the draft rolls around he could be in the perfect range for the Steelers to grab him. Scouts say he has good mobility for his size, and he certainly produced well at Alabama. The position isn’t necessarily a huge need for the team, but if no one else is around, then he would be a good addition.

Harrison Smith

It’s a weak class in the secondary in this year’s draft, and while Mark Barron will probably be off the board by this point, and Janoris Jenkins seems to have too many character issues for the team to take a chance on him, so Smith seems like the best bet if they want o upgrade the back end. Safety isn’t an extremely pressing need for the team either, but Clark and Polamalu have had their fair share of injury issues, and it couldn’t hurt to add depth here. Smith is especially good at defending the run, which is a must for the Steelers’ defense, so if they do take him, he should fit in well.

That about wraps it up for now. We’ll check in at the start of April to see if things are the same.

Before I go, one final shout out to the dearly departed veterans including Smith, Chris Kemoeatu, and of course Hines Ward.

Ward probably won’t retire, so it will hurt to see him playing in another uniform, but we know that he’ll always bleed black and gold, and we’ll always think of him that way. Thanks for treating us to 14 years of greatness.

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