ESPN and Scouts Inc., draft analyst Todd McShay pushed Steelers-related draft speculation into an increasingly familiar direction with the release of his most recent mock draft.
Despite concerns for the narrowing of his spinal column (called spinal stenosis), McShay predicts the Steelers will draft Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones with the No. 17 overall pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Selecting Jones would buck two trends the Steelers have had in recent years, dating all the way back to former coach Bill Cowher. On one hand, he would be the oldest first round pick (23, and he'll turn 24 in October) made under head coach Mike Tomlin since he took over for Cowher in 2007. Also, he'd be the highest drafted pass-rushing outside linebacker the Steelers have taken in generations. Dating back to Jason Gildon, the Steelers have developed the outside linebacker position in their 3-4 defensive front with either later round picks or undrafted free agents.
James Harrison, a likely candidate for the unofficial crown of best pass-rushing OLB in team history, wasn't drafted. Another candidate, Joey Porter, was a third round pick. Current OLB LaMarr Woodley was taken in the second. Others, such as Greg Lloyd (sixth), Carlos Emmons (seventh) and Clark Haggans (fifth) had a wide range of success, either with the Steelers or elsewhere, and were all developed early in their careers by the Steelers.
Pittsburgh selected OLBs Jason Worilds in the second round in 2010 and Chris Carter in the fifth round in 2011.
Jones was among the leaders in college football with 14.5 sacks, but his medical condition has allegedly raised red flags about his ability to have an extended career. Talent-wise, he's thought to be a top 10 pick because, while he's shown the ability to get after the passer, he's excellent in coverage as well, and could very easily turn into an outstanding player in the NFL.
It's a high-risk high-reward scenario for Pittsburgh, and after the Combine likely elevated the freakish outside linebackers well out of the Steelers' range, if they want a pass rusher, Jones may be the best one there.
If they feel the risk is worth a certain potential reward.