Hello all, as you might recall I've done a few posts at different points this season keeping you updated on what in my opinion are some important things to consider when looking at the upcoming 2011 draft. I did a preseason look here, and a midseason look here, which I encourage you to look at if you are interested in how things have developed over the season. As always I'll go through position by position and offer the name of a potential college player that I think we should consider drafting, taking into account any and all variables regarding our team that I can think of. This is primarily based on my opinions, and is meant only to promote discussion.
OB: Hopefully we can resign Dennis Dixon and he can compete with Leftwich for the #2 spot behind Big Ben. Provided Ben stays out of trouble, we shouldn't spend more than a (very) late round pick on a QB. Pick: Greg MacElroy, Alabama. Any late round pick is going to be a major project, so I like getting a proven winner and seeing if he can improve his skills rather than a guy with slightly better skills who hasn't won anything.
HB: If Mewelde Moore isn't resigned I could see us looking for a late-round, speedy back who excels in the passing game to complement Mendenhall and Redman/Dwyer. Pick: Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State. Darren Sproles-type back who can open up things as an underneath threat. I think a 4th or 5th round pick could be great value for him.
WR: The development of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown has been nothing short of amazing to me. Even if Ward retires, I kinda like our chances. Pick: Austin Pettis, Boise State. Pettis has great size and has done nothing but produce since coming to Boise. Would love to see him join Wallace and Sanders as a great 3rd round Steeler receiver.
TE: If you need more evidence as to how good Heath Miller is, look at how well our offense has been doing after getting him more involved the last 2 weeks. I'm fine with Spaeth and David Johnson as backups, but wouldn't mind a late-round guy being brought in to compete. Pick: Mike McNeill, Nebraska. Great versatility at the TE position, McNeill would be a dream come true for Bruce Arians. Good blocker, good receiver, and even has experience as an H-Back.
OT: So much uncertainty at this position after losing both Starks and Colon for the season. Would love seeing Flozell Adams brought back as insurance, but I also want a high draft pick brought in to compete with Starks and Colon. Pick: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin. Everyone loves to admire Nate Solder's 6'9" 305 lbs frame, but I'd rather look at production than potential. Carimi's frame (6'7", 327lbs) is much more to my liking, and proved himself against some of college's best pass-rushing prospects.
OG/C: We have a Probowl Offensive Lineman everyone! Maurkice Pouncey has been a tremendous success and pretty much the only bright spot on an otherwise bad OL. Would love to see us get a strong Guard to play next to him. Pick: Mike Pouncey, Florida. If we're getting a first round Guard, how could we not take Pouncey 2.0? Mike has adapted to playing Center and has improved as the season went on, but he is still better suited to play Guard which works for us anyway. Unfortunately for us though, that means he probably wont drop into the second round.
DE: Many of you in Steeler Nation were already writing Ziggy Hood off as a bust, but he has 3 sacks in his last 5 games (pretty good for a 34 DE) and we still finished the year with a franchise record breaking run defense even without Aaron Smith. Well, I highly doubt Smith put in all his work to get back from injury just to play at most 3 games, so I expect he'll be back next season. We still could draft a DE early, but I see us addressing another position unless we get a bargain. Pick: Cameron Jordan, California. Assuming we're drafting #32 overall :), this could be a bargain. Jordan already plays 3-4 DE at Cal, and has the versatility to be used in a lot of different places on the line to confuse opposing offenses.
NT: We need to start thinking about Casey Hampton's replacement. But Casey has played lights out this season, so maybe this isn't as pressing a need as we might think. Pick: Jerrell Powe, Mississippi. Powe's stock has taken a tumble this season, but there aren't many options for a NT behind him. Still, it would be hard to argue against taking him late in the second round.
ILB: You just gotta love seeing Farrior tear it up at his age dont you? He and Timmons make a great team, but we still have to account for the possibility of Farrior retiring. If the Front Office and coaches decide they think Foote, Fox, or Sylvester can take over for him though, they might look elsewhere in the draft. Pick: Ross Homan, Ohio State. Better against the run than the pass but adequate in most areas. I think of him as a cross between Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester. Could be worth a mid-round pick.
OLB: If Woodley leaves in Free Agency this obviously becomes a much bigger need. I like what I've seen from Jason Worilds though. I'll put a first round talent here until we know more about Woodley's future. Pick: Akeem Ayers, UCLA. With so many teams running the 3-4 now, Ayers might not make it to us, but he's a damn good rush linebacker who would either backup James Harrison or fill Woodley's spot if he can beat out Worilds.
CB: Dont get me wrong, I would LOVE a first round cornerback to help out our secondary and let Troy freelance a little more. But we still have the best defense in football without one, and as long as Ike Taylor is resigned, we have bigger needs along the OL. Pick: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia. I've said for a while now that I expect Dowling to fall into the second or even third round. His talent rivals some of the best corners in this class (which is incredibly deep), but he had a bad year due to injury and has lost all his hype. He's a perfect corner for what the Steelers do though, so grabbing him in round 2 could be huge.
S: I feel pretty much the same way about our Safety position as I do our corners. Would I like a great talent to develop behind Troy and eventually take over for Ryan Clark? Absolutely. But our defense is doing great with what we have. We'll see if I change my mind if/when we play Brady, Manning, or Brees in the playoffs. Pick: Mark Barron, Alabama. Like Dowling, if we could get Barron in the second round I say go for it. He has great instincts and excels both in the run game and reading the QB's eyes to make the pick. If he develops quickly enough, he and Troy could make a truly amazing Safety team.
Special Teams: Shaun Suisham is money? Who saw that coming? Swish has kicked well enough so far to warrant an invite back next year, but not having much power on Kickoffs is still going to irritate me. Sepulveda is out for the season for the second time in 3 years, so we might have to consider another punter who is more durable. Pick: Alex Henery, Nebraska. Henery is great because he can kick and punt. If the coaches want to trust him with both, it would free up another roster spot for an extra special teams gunner to help out our kickoff coverage.
Instead of a poll, I'll leave you with a quick mock draft for the Steelers using some of these names.
Round 1. Gabe Carimi OT.
Round 2. Ras-I Dowling CB.
Round 3. Jared Crick DE.
Round 4. Jacquizz Rogers HB.
Round 5. Zach Hurd OG.
Round 6. Anthony Gray NT.
Round 7. Jermale Hines S.