For the next two months just about everyone with the ability to punch keys on a keyboard will become draft experts and publish their very own mock draft. The Steelers enter the 2010 draft season with more question marks than normal and certainly their needs will be more clearly defined once the status of players like Casey Hampton, Ryan Clark and Willie Parker are resolved, but for now here's what the mockers are mocking.....
Draft Countdown: CJ Spiller (RB-Clemson) - One of the benefits of being a strong organization and consistent winner is that you can always have one eye on the future. Sure the Steelers have a need or two but for the most part their roster is in great shape and their rookies aren't forced to step into the starting lineup from day one. Lawrence Timmons, who is finally getting a chance to start this season after serving a two year apprenticeship, is a perfect example. A couple of years ago Pittsburgh used their first round pick on Rashard Mendenhall and it wouldn't hurt to bring in someone like Clemson's C.J. Spiller to replace the aging and injury-prone Willie Parker as the "Lightning" to Mendenhall's "Thunder". A versatile player with blazing speed who is capable of making an impact as a runner, receiver and return man, Spiller isn't an every down workhorse but he is an explosive playmaker that defenses must account for at all times. It's not an exaggeration to say that Spiller is a threat to take it the distance at any time from anywhere on the field and the success that fellow speed demon Chris Johnson is having in the NFL will surely work in Spiller's favor on Draft Day. Free safety might also be a need if Ryan Clark bolts as a free agent and don't be shocked if the Steelers follow their recent M.O. and just throw everyone another curve ball in the first round.
Scout (2 Rounds): Bryan Bulaga (OT-Iowa) - The Steelers had a down year and it's obvious they need help on the offensive line. Bulaga's athleticism will help and he'll start from day one.
Round 2: Dominique Franks (CB-Oklahoma) - The Steelers secondary was woeful in '09 and it's evident that they need an upgrade. Franks has great size and cover skills and will add relief in '10.
NFL.com (Brooks): Patrick Robinson (CB-FSU) - The Steelers' suspect secondary repeatedly cost them down the stretch, so Mike Tomlin shores up one side of the field.
Walter Football (3 rounds): Earl Thomas (FS-Texas) - Safety will be a big need for the Steelers this offseason. Both Ryan Clark (30) and Tyrone Carter (34) will be free agents in March, so Pittsburgh will need a new starter across from Troy Polamalu and some depth as well.
- Round 2: Trevard Lindley (CB-Kentucky) - The Steelers continue to upgrade a secondary that couldn't stop Bruce Gradkowski in a must-win December game. I'll be shocked if they don't really try to repair their defensive backfield this offseason.
- Round 3: Sergio Kindle (DE/OLB-Texas) - The Steelers have two great pass-rushing linebackers, but they don't exactly have the best depth at the position. Also, don't forget that James Harrison turns 32 in May. Sergio Kindle slips a bit here, so Pittsburgh is getting great value.
Draft Tek (5 Round Simulator): Patrick Robinson (CB-Florida State) - Robinson is a potent combination of size, instincts, and athleticism. The Steelers will heavily consider top corner talent. They'll also look for reassurances that Robinson's head is on straight after involvement in the cheating scandal at FSU. -Patrick (Drafttek Steelers Analyst)
- Round 2: Darrell Stuckey (SS-Kansas State) - This is a great pick of a top player at a position of need. The Steelers desperately need an upgrade over Tyrone Carter with Polamalu missing so many games. FS Ryan Clark is also an UFA doubling the need in the defensive backfield.-Patrick (Drafttek Steelers Analyst)
- Round 3: Kam Chancellor (FS-Virginia Tech)
- Round 4: Mike Neal (DE-Purdue)
- Round 5: Cliff Matthews (OLB34-South Carolina)
Draft Daddy: Perrish Cox (CB-Oklahoma State) - The Steelers may be targeting CBs, Cox is a strong man-to-man player with ball skills.
New Sport Draft: Terrence Cody (DT-Alabama) - Cody is a monster in the middle. He would fit perfect in the Steelers defense. I know they already have a great D-line but they get much younger and get a run-stopper to help their D-line.
- Round 2: Anthony McCoy (TE-USC) - McCoy is one of the top rated TEs in my 2010 NFL mock draft. At 6'5, 250 pounds, McCoy should be able to help an NFL team in the passing game.
- Round 3: Anderson Russell (FS-Ohio State)
- Round 4: Ryan D'Imperio (ILB-Rutgers)
- Round 5: Aaron Webster (S-Cincinnati)
NFL Draft King: Earl Thomas (FS-Texas) - The Troy Polamolu loss crushed the defending Super Bowl champs any chance of a repeat. The Steelers gave up a league most 5 leads in the 4th quarter this past season which was the main reason they were on the outside looking in on the post season tournament. With the possibility of Ryan Clark leaving via free agency, look for Pitt to select this ballhawk out of Texas who has the ability to stop the run, with the ability to capitalize on the oppositions mistakes through the air with the ability to take it back to the house. The Steelers could also go with C.J. Spiller here to work with Mendenhall, or possibly a Receiver as Hines Ward is on his last legs.
Football Expert: Mike Iupati (G-Idaho) - The Steelers build their team on the offensive line and defensive front seven. They also think long term meaning just because their front five is a weakness does not necessarily make them rush out and draft a player in the first round to "solve" that problem. Championship rosters are not built on plugging rookies in immediately all the time. In this case it appears the tackle class is deep enough for them to take a shot, but I'm looking for them to get back to their roots. The Steelers I know run the football and the guard position drives it. Roethlisberger can't keep throwing the ball 500 times per season and expect to have a long career. It's not the nearly 3 sacks per game he absorbs, it's the countless hits. Iupati is showing signs of being an elite interior blocker. If he shows up big at every step of the draft process it is likely for him to sneak into the middle of the first round. A lot of the early interior linemen taken in recent seasons have been successful which makes this choice less outrageous than it seems.
Draft Matters: Donovan Warren (CB-Michigan) - Troy Polamalu's injury has really exposed the secondary of the Steelers. His return will be a big help, but the Steelers need another defensive back to shoulder some of the load. Ike Taylor hasn't been playing at a very high level and is being targeted too often. Donovan Warren is the third best corner in this draft and fits nicely at 18.
NFL Draft Dog: Terrence Cody (NT-Alabama) - Cody (6' 5" 365 lbs) is a monster on the inside and can dunk a basketball at his current weight. Yes I know Cody is a little one dimensional, but as a two-down run stuffing nose tackle he is incredible.
Clearly there doesn't seem to be a consensus choice out there for the Steelers just yet. If we can come to one conclusion based on these eleven mocks it's that the biggest need on this team appears to be on the defensive side of the ball. Four mocks have the Steelers taking a cornerback, while free safety and nose tackle are the only other positions that appear more than once.