I did this earlier, but with the moves the Steelers have made recently and with Pre-Draft visits by prospects, I feel that an update on my projections is warranted before the Draft happens. Yes, I know I said my last Mock Draft was going to be my final one, but the one after the need breakdowns isn't going to be in-depth like my previous ones.
The signing of Bruce Gradkowski solidifies our backup QB spot at least for the 2013 season. However, with John Parker Wilson as the only other option at QB behind an oft-injured Ben Roethlisberger, something needs to be prepared for the future. Ben's actions off the field and his supposed willingness to give the media ammo against him could leave to an early exit from Pittsburgh when he becomes expendable. There are also the rumors that have been circulating for the past month or so that point to the Steelers possibly drafting a QB in the 3rd - 5th round. Players like Arizona's Matt Scott, Miami(OH)'s Zach Dysert, and Tennessee's Tyler Bray would be good project players for the Steelers to build up behind Ben and eventually replace Gradkowski as backup.
Draft Need Projection: 4th - 6th Round
For reasons best known to himself, Isaac Redman still hasn't signed his tender offer from the Steelers yet. With the new contract given to Steve McClendon, that leaves us pretty strapped for Cap Room and it was speculated here that Redman's tender being pulled could be an option for the Steelers. That leaves Jonathan Dwyer (who will be an UFA next season) and Baron Batch as the only Running Backs on the roster. That doesn't inspire much confidence, which makes Running Back an obvious Draft priority, especially when looking at the recent Pre-Draft visits by a plethora of Running Backs which include Alabama's Eddie Lacy, UCLA's Jonathan Franklin, and Texas A&M's Christine Michael. Unless we trade down in the 1st, it doesn't seem like the Steelers will Draft a RB in the 1st Round, but it seems almost certain that they will be looking at them from the 2nd Round and onward.
Draft Need Projection: 2nd - 4th Round
This particular positional need has been in a lot of flux recently over the uncertainty over Emmanuel Sanders' future with the Steelers. They were able to lock him up for the 2013 season, but onwards, it remains a question on whether he will be with us in the future, especially due to our Cap Room. WR has been another position that the Steelers have been looking at in Pre-Draft visits, but it seems they have been bringing in only relative unknowns with guys like TCU's Josh Boyce, Georgia's Tavarres King, and Oklahoma's Justin Brown. It seems that they aren't completely prepared to take a WR early (which really, they shouldn't). This is a deep Draft when it comes to WR, so the 3rd Round could produce a quality producer/starter.
Draft Need Projection: 3rd - 5th Round
Inexplicably, a select group of Steeler fans here on BTSC have been calling for the FO to Draft Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert in the 1st Round, all because Heath Miller suffered a Torn ACL late in the season last year. That just makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me, especially given our depth at the position. Paulson, DJ, and Spaeth are good enough to be a productive enough group to hold down the fort until Miller returns (likely around or before our Week 5 BYE). I don't think for a minute that the Steelers need to Draft a TE any higher than the 5th Round and even that could be a bit of a reach in my opinion.
Draft Need Projection: 5th - UDFA
Our OL is strong on paper when it comes to starters (Gilbert, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro, Adams), but it lacks depth with Kelvin Beachum and John Malecki as our only backups that will likely make the 53-man Roster. Given our previous injury concerns with the OL, it seems likely that we will either Draft at least one T or G, and maybe bring another in as an UDFA. We could either Draft high and make Foster a backup, or Draft in the middle-low rounds for depth. We likely won't go 1st unless Chance Warmack falls to us at 17.
Draft Need Projection: 3rd - UDFA
There aren't many (if any) immediate needs to be filled on DL at the moment, but the position should get some looks on Day 3 or with UDFAs due to our possible future needs. Lets look at that in depth. Brett Keisel has been one of our leaders on Defense the past few years, but he is 34 years old and will need replacing soon. Meanwhile, Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward haven't lived up to their 1st Round statuses. Hood has been given enough chances to prove himself, so he could be gone when his contract expires. Meanwhile, Cam Heyward has shown flashes as a rotational player, but his inability to usurp Hood brings some questions to light about his future value. As of now, I am still in a wait-and-see mode with this group and with our other positional needs, the Steelers cannot afford to use a high-mid pick on a Defensive Lineman.
Draft Need Projection: 6th - UDFA
James Harrison's defection to the Division Rival Cincinnati Bengals leaves a gaping hole at our starting OLB spot opposite LaMarr Woodley. This is an obvious need that the Steelers have clearly acknowledged when you look at the prospects they have brought in for Pre-Draft visits. These visits include Georgia LB Jarvis Jones, Ohio State's John Simon, Connecticut's Sio Moore, Clemson's Mallichiah Goodman, and Stanford LB Jamie Collins. While Jason Worilds finished off the 2012 season strong, he has very little starting experience and it doesn't seem like the Steelers are prepared to enter the 2013 season as their starter. This makes me believe that they are going to Draft an OLB in the 1st 3 Rounds.
Draft Need Projection: 1st - 3rd
Inside Linebacker has been a position that the Steelers have been looking at for the last couple of Drafts now. Last year in the 3rd Round, they Drafted Miami LB Sean Spence (who was injured all of last season). Reports also say that they would have Drafted Dont'a Hightower in the 1st Round if David DeCastro didn't fall to them at 24. They just resigned Stevenson Sylvester and Larry Foote, but Sylvester has never been more than a ST contributor and Larry Foote has been flirting with retirement the last few seasons and doesn't have more than 2 years left in him if that. The Steelers have brought in Khaseem Greene and Michael Mauti for visits, but I don't know how seriously they are looking at Inside Linebackers. It doesn't seem to be a 1st-3rd Round need at the moment, but you never know with the Steelers.
Draft Need Projection - 3rd - 5th
Keenan Lewis leaving as a Free Agent leaves a hole at their CB position. While the LCB spot opposite Ike Taylor will be filled by Cortez Allen and the Nickle filled by William Gay, the Steelers seem to be looking at Taylor's eventual replacement. Their Pre-Draft visits have been heavy on CBs with Xavier Rhodes, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, B.W. Webb, Tharold Simon, and Will Davis all making their way to Pittsburgh. Rhodes and Wreh-Wilson are considered 1st-2nd Round Prospects, while Webb, Simon and Davis could be taken on Day 3 of the Draft. While I don't think the Steelers should bother Drafting a CB early, it seems to be in their plans that they will indeed Draft one at some point if all goes well.
Draft Need Projection - 2nd - 5th
While the Steelers are set with their Starters (for now), future and depth for the position has been an obvious concern that Draft Guru Kevin Colbert has acknowledged publicly. Troy Polamalu has also had trouble staying healthy for a full season recently. Add that to the fact that backups Will Allen and Ryan Mundy have signed with the Cowboys and Giants respectively, there is a big hole for when it comes to our Safety position. It has been a need that the Steelers have been looking at heavily with Pre-Draft visits with players like Jonathan Meeks, Phillip Thomas, Duke Williams, and Shamarko Thomas. That makes me believe that they are looking at a Safety early.
Draft Need Projection - 2nd - 4th
And without further adieu, here is my Final (for real this time) 2013 Steelers Mock Draft.
Round 1 - OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Round 2 - FS Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
Round 3 - RB Jonathan Franklin, UCLA
Round 4 - CB B.W. Webb, William & Mary
Round 5 - WR Tavarres King, Georgia
Round 6 - OT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
Round 6 (Comp Pick) - QB Sean Renfree, Duke
Round 7 - ILB Michael Mauti, Penn State