The following mock draft fills the Steelers needs, focusing on positions that need to be replaced in the next year or two. I’ve used round projections from NFLDraftScouts and McShay’s overall boards (which for some players are wildly different), and the players identified should be available where placed below (though we all know that there are risers and fallers and reaches). I’ve strongly considered players who visited the Steelers, especially in later rounds, and character issues, and looked for upside wherever possible. I’ve passed on some higher rated players in earlier rounds because a close comparison at that position should be available in a later round.
1-Maurkice Pouncey (C), Florida
Center is a real position of need, and Pouncey was the only center prospect who visited. That the Steelers can get a center later is not an argument to me--that’s true for every position. Pouncey is the next great Steeler center who’ll be starting soon for 10 years.
2-Linval Joseph (NT), ECU
The only of the higher rated NTs brought in, Casey Hampton size. This is the deepest NT draft perhaps ever, and it makes no sense to take a late rounder to park on the practice squad in this circumstance. Joseph could be a 1st rounder in another year. The Steelers need to reload here now with two 30 year olds in the 2-deep NT position, as was done for DE last year with Ziggy Hood.
*** This pick is contingent on not trading up in the 2nd round. There is a perfect trade possibility with the Eagles--moving down in the first round (18 to 24), for up in the second (52 to 37). Per the trade value chart, this is a -160, +160 trade. Pouncey is likely to still be there at 24 (though not much lower), and at 37 the Steelers could well have a long shot at Earl Thomas, Kyle Wilson, or Kareem Jackson, and a real shot at Devin McCourty, who I think is the best Steeler-type CB because he’s clearly the best run supporter of the high rated CBs, which is particularly important in the Steelers defense.
3-Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (CB), IUP, or Brandon Ghee (CB/S), Wake Forest.
AOA didn’t visit, but the Steelers likely know a lot about him given how close IUP is, and I think I read that the Steelers team physician performed his recent surgery. He’s the pick for the upside--no drafted CB is going to play much this year anyway. Otherwise Ghee, who visited, is the pick--there’s some belief he could be moved to safety.
If a CB has already been taken, the pick here would be OLB, either Koa Misi, Utah, Navorro Bowman, PSU, or Eric Norwood, South Carolina, all of whom visited.
4-Arthur Moats (OLB), James Madison.
He did not visit, but I love this guy as Harrison’s eventual replacement. Only real knock on him is same as with Harrison, that he’s smaller than ideal, but he’s the exact same size as Harrison. Won the FCS (i.e. Div I-AA) defensive player of the year by widest margin ever. Is a DE to 4-3 OLB conversion, but can contribute on special teams immediately.
5-a-Darrell Stuckey, (S), Kansas
Stuckey, who visited, seems like a perfect Steeler hard-hitting safety.
Other possibilities, if available, are Morgan Burnett, GT, Kam Chancellor, VT, or Myron Rolle, FSU.
5-b (from Jets)-Antonio Brown (WR), Central Michigan
Brought in late for a visit, after other wide receivers, which says something (i.e., don‘t like who they brought in earlier at the projected round). The Steelers don’t have a high immediate need for a wide receiver, but need someone to eventually replace Hines Ward. Brown is a small slot receiver/return specialist with some upside.
The other possibility here is Joe Webb, the big, fast QB to WR conversion. This isn’t as risky as first appears as Webb played WR as a sophomore. Definite practice squad project but big potential upside.
5c-Sean Canfield (QB), Oregon State
It’s time to bring in a QB to develop and eventually replace Charlie Batch. One problem I have with Dixon is that you have to change the offense if he’s playing. Wouldn’t have to do that with Canfield, who almost as big as Ben (6’4”, 223#), good arm, very accurate. Lot’s of upside, just hope he’s available here.
5d-Clifton Geathers (DE) ,South Carolina
A raw project player with some bloodlines and upside. A 6’7” DE should be able to knock down a few passes.
I’d prefer Mike Neal from Purdue here (a DT who would convert to a DE in a 3-4 defense), but think he’ll already be gone.
6--Lonye Miller (RB), Fresno State
The Steelers obviously need a running back to replace FWP. The only one brought in was LeGarrette Blount, but I wouldn’t touch him as he had other issue besides the punching incident. I really like Charlie Scott and Anthony Dixon, SEC bangers who may be available here, but Frank Johnson was drafted for that role, and Redman has showed some promise, too. What the Steelers need is a replacement for Mendenhall if he’s out for an extended period. Miller (like FWP) was an underused back at Fresno because of how good Ryan Matthews was, so he has limited wear and tear. He’s similar in size to Mendenhall (6’, 221#), and like FWP in his early years has great speed and a demonstrated ability to break long TD runs.
Another late round back I really like is Keith Toston from Oklahoma State, not only from his stats but also from having seen him play a few times, he‘s a really good back.
7a-Chris DeGeare (OG), Wake Forest
Only because he was brought in for a visit. Also brought in Jacques McClendon (OG), 6-3, 324, from Tennessee.
7b-Brody Eldredge (TE), Oklahoma
Strong blocking tight end. Always have to draft a TE.