The Steelers pass rush has struggled in each of the past two seasons as injuries have ravaged James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley. Harrison seemed to improve as the year finished and he got healthier but he may be a cap casualty. Woodley was out of shape all season and had a bum hamstring because of it.
First Round Options:
Jarvis Jones, Georgia - The 6-foot-3, 240 pound outside linebacker was one of the more productive linebackers in the nation in each of the past two years. He is elite in terms of run defense and good to great as a pass rusher. He has above average but not elite athleticism and is above average in terms of coverage. He is a top ten prospect in terms of play on the field but their is a small chance he drops in round one because of a severe back condition that he has had since his early college days. If that proves to be a potential issue in the NFL, his stock could fall similarly to Da'Quan Bowers from two years ago.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU - At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Mingo possesses elite athleticism. Despite many critics, Mingo has a great work ethic and never quits on plays. He has unbelievable potential and finally showed it in LSU's bowl game. With his combination of athleticism and pass rushing ability, he will likely be a top 12 pick but after a season that did not feature much production before the bowl game, their is a chance that he is available at 17. He would be an unbelievable choice for the Steelers at 17.
Dion Jordan, Oregon - Jordan is unusually tall at 6-foot-7 but he is a great athlete. His biggest strength right now is in pass coverage but he has unbelievable potential as a pass rusher. If he is taught some moves, he could instantly become a dominant pass rusher. Unless he fills out his frame, he will probably never be great in run support but there is hope there. He is likely to be a top 15 pick but his rawness could cause him to fall.
Second Round Options:
Margus Hunt, SMU - Hunt, at 6-foot-8, 280 pounds is a total freak of an athlete. He could play 3-4 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker but either way, he will bring a pass rushing force. For the season he had 11.5 tackles for a loss and 8 sacks but that is without much coaching. If he is taught the true nuances of rushing the quarterback, he could become a J.J. Watt type of player. His rawness will keep him in the second round but this is a pick I would love to see.
Alex Okafor, Texas - Okafor had a huge season, totalling 16.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks. His stock is rising and their is a chance he is a late first round pick but I think he will be in the 40 to 50 range. He is a great pass rusher and is well coached. However, he is a bit of a tweener and he may be a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. I could see him falling similar to Lamarr Woodley did and if he is available to the Steelers when they are on the clock the second round, he would be a definite option.
Michael Buchanan, Illinois - Buchanan, at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, is a good but not great athlete who had a somewhat disappointing 2012 season. Coming off 13.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks in 2011, many expected Buchanan to explode onto the scene in 2012 but he struggled, getting just 7 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. His stock is somewhere in the third to fifth round range and I think he is a great option for the Steelers. He needs to be coached up and the Steelers have great coaches. I think he has the potential to be a major steal.
Trevardo Williams, Connecticut - Williams, at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, exploded onto the scene in 2012, amassing 13.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks a year after gaining 15 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks. With two years of elite production, one would figure he would be a first round prospect but his stock is currently in the third to fifth round range. He is well coached and knows the position and could come in and instantly make an impact.
Travis Long, Washington State - Long, at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, had 12 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks. He is projected as a third to fifth round pick and would be an intriguing option for the Steelers. He is still very raw and needs coaching but he certainly has the looks and athleticism of an NFL outside linebacker.
Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky - Smith had an incredible senior season, gaining 18.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks despite missing the teams last three games due to injury. Their is hope that he will be healthy enough to participate in the senior bowl. As of now, his stock is in the third to fifth round but he might just be the best pass rushing prospect in the draft in terms of current development. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, he has the size but he never played against elite competition. If he can participate in the senior bowl and he has a good game, his stock could rise to the second round.