I’ve read a lot of mock drafts lately and now that all the major talent evaluation events such as the Combine and pro days are over I thought I’d add my two cents to the melee by offering this seven round mock draft for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
Let the other teams fawn over work out warriors. The Steelers value substance over style and game tape over Combine stats. They will draft the player that best fits their scheme. Thompson is not a flashy player that will generate lots of stats but that is not what the Steelers need from their nose tackle. In the Steelers defensive scheme the nose tackle has one job – occupy blockers and stuff the run. Ok that’s two things but Thompson is a powerful (35 reps on the bench press), nose-to-the-grindstone player that has been an immovable object in the center of the line for Clemson. The Steelers 3-4 scheme is a perfect fit for this underrated player.
We are all well aware of the Steelers need for help at defensive tackle after the injury to Hampton and the retirement of Hoke. Because the Steelers do an excellent job of drafting then developing players (Brett Kiesel, Aaron Smith were both late round picks) they will not be forced into a need pick if the right player does not fall to them. After all they have Al Woods who they thought enough of to keep on the inactive roster last year rather than allow another team to poach him.
2. Bobbie Massie, OT, Ole Miss
I often hear pundits pleading with the Steelers to draft a right tackle then move Willie Colon inside to guard. There is one major flaw in that plan: Colon is one of the best right tackles in the game (when not on IR). Why mess with a good thing? Rather than moving the best right tackle out of position, why not draft a big body like Massie who can be taught to play guard and serve as a back-up to Colon on the right side. While the biggest need for the Steelers along the offensive line is at both guard positions, I believe higher rated guards like Zeitler and Osemele will not be available at this point in the second round. Therefore, do Big Ben a favor by taking the best available O-lineman.
3. Lucas Nix, G, Pittsburgh
During the off-season, Dan Rooney stressed the need to do a better job protecting Roethlisberger. The Steelers ability to take pressure off Roethlisberger by reestablishing the run and slowing down the pass rush will be essential to reclaiming the AFC North crown. I’ve seen Nix’ demeanor described as nasty and mean, as someone who just wants to hit somebody. Not exactly how you would want someone to describe your blind date but that is exactly what you want in the trenches.
4. Tank Carder, ILB, TCU
Since the release of Farrior many mock drafts have slotted an inside linebacker to the Steelers in the first round. I believe that is a luxury pick which the Steelers cannot afford because they have more pressing needs. The Steelers have Stevenson Sylvester and Morty Ivy backing-up Timmons and Foote providing some, mostly unproven, depth. Adding Carder to the mix as a special teams player will pay dividends immediately while allowing him the time to learn the defensive scheme. While Carder is smaller than your typical Steeler linebacker, he was a tacking machine at TCU thanks to his high football IQ and his freakish (for a linebacker) speed.
5. Trumaine Johnson, CB/S, Montana
Johnson is a tall, fast cover corner that is not afraid to tackle. He was a productive player at the lower level and has experience in both press and zone coverage. Johnson has been receiving a lot of attention lately so he may be off the board by the fifth round but Johnson, or someone like him, makes sense for two reasons. First, with the departure of Arnaz Battle and Anthony Madison, the Steelers must begin drafting guys who can fill the void on special teams. Second, Will Allen and Ryan Mundy are both in the last year of their contracts. Drafting Johnson to play special teams while serving an apprenticeship at the safety position will ease the transition next year. While I like Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith a lot, he is more of an in-the-box type safety. Grooming Johnson to play free safety will be a good complement to Cromartie-Smith’s physical style. There is an unquestionable need for talent and depth in the defensive back field. It is not clear whether Johnson will fit best as a corner or a safety in the NFL but, either way, draft for talent then coach ‘em up!
6. Devon Wylie, WR, Fresno State
I do not share the belief that the Steelers need to panic and draft a wide receiver in the early rounds (if by some miracle Blackmon falls to 24 then don’t panic just take him). In addition to Wallace, Brown, Sanders, and Cotchery, Tyler Grisham has had two years on the practice squad. A very tall Wes Lyons has been invited back to training camp for the second year and Derrick Williams, a productive Penn State receiver who was on the Lions roster in ’09 and ‘10, was invited to camp. Grisham, Lyons, and Williams will be given an opportunity to excel. Of course, it never hurts to reload. Quicker than fast, Wylie delivers yards after the catch. On the small side (5-9, 185 lbs.), Wylie is the type of versatile player that is so valuable in today’s NFL.
7. George Bryan, TE, NC State
Given the unknowns surrounding Weslye Saunders and the fact that David Johnson is nearing the end of his contract, it’s starting to look like a ghost town at Tight End Manor. Bryan is an excellent blocking tight end who can catch the ball in traffic.
7a. Donald Barclay, OT, WVU
In order to make sure the best 8 to 10 lineman are on next year’s roster, competition all along the line is crucial. Barclay is an athletic tackle who can provide that competition.
7b. William Vlachos, C, Alabama
Vlachos paid his dues against the elite athletes of the SEC. It is worth taking a shot at this developmental player.
7c. Emil Igwenagu, FB, Massachusetts
We’ve all heard Bruce Arian’s famous line that his offense didn’t need a fullback. Well, it’s a new day. Maybe the new offensive coordinator will have noticed how the running game suffered without a fullback. It’s beyond time to provide an option at the fullback position.