Steelers Draft Preview: Draft Day Edition

The best day of the NFL offseason is finally upon us; the NFL draft has finally arrived!

As many observers have pointed out, there’s not a whole lot in the way of suspense surrounding the top five picks in the draft, but there’s certainly been a great deal of uncertainty about who the Steelers are targeting.

I previewed the draft very quickly last month, but, predictably, a lot has changed between then and now, so I’ll quickly revisit my expectations and what I’d like to see from the team’s draft this year.

First Round:

Although it seemed like a mortal lock that the Steelers were taking inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower with the 24th overall selection, insiders are now unsure. While Hightower still remains a distinct possibility as the logical successor to James Farrior on the inside, several other players have emerged as contenders for the spot. Dontari Poe, who had previously shot up draft boards after his incredible combine, has started to fall back to earth a little and could be within range for Pittsburgh. He may not be the dominant DT everyone thought he was after the combine right away, but he would be in a good position to sit behind Hampton for a year or two and learn. However, some other team may very well take a chance on him earlier, and his draft position will undoubtedly be affected by how quickly Fletcher Cox, the premier DT in the draft, is selected.

It’s a yearly concern for the Steelers, but offensive line is also somewhere the team could turn. Previously considered prospects like Mike Adams or Jonathan Martin have started to slip, but a versatile G/T like Georgia’s Cordy Glenn could absolutely be an option for the team. However, there are concerns about how his technique measures up to his athleticism, and the team may wait to look at the line until later in the draft. Hightower still seems the likeliest best of all of them, but it’s still pretty wide open just a few hours before the draft.

Second Round:

Pittsburgh holds the 56th pick in the draft, and I would be very surprised if they didn’t use it on a running back. There’s not a lot of first round talent at the position, but it is fairly deep in this range of the draft. As much as I like Isaac Redman, I find it hard to believe that they’d be willing to go into the year with him and Jonathan Dwyer as their options at RB. Instead, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them grab either Virginia Tech’s very own David Wilson or Miami’s Lamar Miller, both of whom should be able to contribute right away in a platoon with Redman, and might make Rashard Mendenhall’s eventual departure sting a little less. However, it would never surprise me to see Kevin Colbert value defense over offense, and given the large number of OLBs and CBs ranked in this range, names like Bruce Irvin, Josh Robinson and Casey Heyward are distinct possibilities here.

Third Round and Beyond:

I suspect that the third round is where the team will really start to address the offensive line. They’ve traditionally been able to grab serviceable guys that they can groom to be effective later in the draft, and guys like Zebrie Sanders and Donald Stephenson are big, physical tackles that could be productive with some tutoring.

As the draft progresses, the secondary will be a big concern, and wide receiver could even be something the team looks at as a form of contingency plan in case they can’t keep the duo of Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown together. Finally, I would be shocked if the team doesn’t pick up a QB at some point in the draft given the state of their backups. Charlie Batch is a great guy, but also not really a viable option with the frequency with which Ben gets hurt. I’d love to see them go after a guy like Russell Wilson, who is vaguely similar to Dennis Dixon and even Roethlisberger himself, and would be pretty cheap to acquire.

I think that about covers it. All that’s left now is to enjoy every last minute of the draft itself, and pray that whoever is selected inspires Wallace to sign a long-term deal as he’s overcome with Steeler pride.

Enjoy the draft everyone.

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