For the purposes of this Mock Draft, I am making a trade with the Miami Dolphins. I will only use players I believe will be available, and adequate value at that range.
The Dolphins are going to make a play to compete with their young QB, and I think they are the most likely destination for Mike Wallace. With a young QB and a #1 receiver in tow, the Dolphins will look to capitalize on their plethora of picks. The Steelers, who have need of replacing many departing players, will look to secure more picks, but also to draft lower, thereby reducing the cap hit of their younger players.
I propose the following trade, which slightly favors the Steelers on the draft value chart (950-1010):
Steelers receive: 2.10, 2.22, 3.20
Miami receives: 1.17
I believe 2012 will be the last year in a Steelers uniform for a number of players. The players I believe will be departing are:
I imagine there will be more players cut, restructured, or extended to meet salary cap demands, but the Steelers will have needs at many positions.
I believe the most important positions to draft will be (in no particular order) OG, DL, ILB, OLB, S, WR, RB, TE*. (*Tight End is not a big need, but cannot be ignored if BPA available in 3rd or later round is a TE).
*Based on WalterFootball and under the assumption the Steelers receive a 7.Comp for William Gay
2.10 - Eddie Lacy, RB
Lacy is a bruiser who has the speed to bounce to the outside, but the power to run inside the tackles. I believe Lacy will be a very good back in the NFL, and has the potential be put up 1000 yard seasons, while also giving the Steelers a bruising rushing attack to wear down defenses late in the game. Drafting Lacy would clear up some of the backlog at running back, and would allow the Steelers to let go of one of Dwyer or Redman, who will continue to be more expensive as they hit UFA after this year.
2.16 - Bacarri Rambo, FS
I have Rambo as a free safety for the Steelers, because as you will see in two picks, I have a strong safety coming up as well. Rambo really can play either position, and he is very strong inside the box, often looking like a linebacker. His ball skills are just too great an advantage for him to be in the box as much as a strong safety might be in LeBeau’s system. Rambo is a hard hitter, and has great coverage skills. He is a future Pro Bowler, and is a great fit for the Steelers.
2.22 - Justin Hunter, WR
Now we come to a player Big Ben has waited for throughout his career. Hunter is 6’4”, with great speed and solid hands. The reason he falls here is that he is still recovering from a serious knee injury and is still a very raw talent. Give Hunter some time, and he will regain some of his deep threat ability, but in the mean time, he will be able to create separation on underneath routes due to his speed and size.
3.17 - Philip Thomas, SS
Thomas is also a great ball-hawk, and he is not a great tackler at the moment, as he often misses a wrap up. He has some need for refinement, but Thomas and Rambo will make a very good safety duo, and have a chance to learn from Pro Bowlers for a year or two before stepping in.
3.20 - Khaseem Greene, ILB
Quick and a strong hitter. Could develop into a good cover-ILB and I think would be a great compliment to Timmons, while allowing Spence to stay in the nickel formation as the true coverage LB in 5-LB sets. I believe the Steelers should more to more 2-5 schemes to take advantage of the strength at LB, and Greene would allow them to do that.
4.18 - Zac Dysert, QB
The Steelers have been very happy with the last QB they took out of Miami (OH), and I think Dysert would make a great backup for Big Ben. The Steelers need to develop someone behind Roethlisberger who can take over if he gets hurt. I would like to see the Steelers keep one of their older backups for another year, but eventually a young guy needs to be groomed for the role. Dysert is that QB, and his arm strength, good decision-making skills, and the fact that he hasn’t hit his ceiling yet make him worth the 4th round pick.
5.17 - Kenjon Barner, RB
Sadly, this is nothing more than a re-pick for last year’s 5th rounder, Chris Rainey. The Steelers should be able to use this pick elsewhere, but Rainey’s off the field issues have forced the Steelers to cut him and search for a replacement. Luckily, Barner makes a very good candidate for the job. He can fill in just about any way Rainey could, and outside of a wasted 5th round pick in 2012, I don’t think the Steelers are losing much with this pick.
6.18 - Quanterus Smith, OLB
I love small-college players in the draft. Smith suffered an ACL injury that has hurt his stock, but he logged 12.5 sacks in a shortened season, including 3 against Alabama and D.J. Flucker. Smith doesn’t have an injury history, so if he gets back to form from this, he is not perpetually on the injured list. Smith is a pure pass rusher with good speed off the end and knows how to stick in his spot on run defense. This is a typical Steeler pick, and I think this could be a great steal.
7.17 - Joseph Fauria, TE
Might be a little low for Fauria, as I’ve seen him anywhere from 4-7 in mocks. This is a good position for a TE, and I think if the Steelers can get Fauria in this draft, they will have gotten a big target for Roethlisberger. His stock fell a bit this year, but he is still a great pass catcher and would help the Steelers for however long Heath Miller is sidelined to start the season.
7.Comp - Montori Hughes, NT
I’ll get the bad out first. Hughes has off the field issues that have pushed him down the list. Obviously the Steelers should avoid as many of these players as possible, but I don’t have a problem with the risk at this position in the draft. Hughes is 6’4” and 330, but can add some more strength in the NFL. He is a true NT and would fill the middle effectively. In my opinion, Hughes, Fangupo, and Ta’Amu can compete for two spots and hopefully push each other to get better this off-season.