Heading into Week 14, the Steelers are drafting 10th, with five other teams sitting at 5-7, so they could be anywhere from the 10-16 range right now. Obviously that will all depend on how things shake out.
We're hoping to cast a wide net here, but flash the names of a few prospects who may be available in that range come May.
Maybe instead of a Big Board, we'll go with a Short List of players who will likely be associated with the Steelers when Draft Hype 2014 kicks into full gear.
We're gonna throw some early names out here, get the conversation going. Nominate others, tell me how stupid I am about the ones on here, and we'll whittle it down to something a bit more manageable.
In no particular order...
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
You have to love the combination of playmaking skill and aggression in the run game. No, the Steelers don't routinely go after cornerbacks in the first round, but the Steelers have had the luxury of having one cornerback start for the last seven years. Ike Taylor's cap number is $11 million next year, which could be a cap savings of around $7 million. That means he's either getting cut (not likely) or extended for a short term. Either way, the Steelers do not have depth at the position, and the cornerback position will almost certainly be addressed in the draft. Ekpre-Olomu is a Steelers kind of cornerback - size may hold him back from being a 10-16 area selection.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
He's currently the size of one of today's big wide receivers, but he has the hands of a good receiver too. Very athletic, and he could probably add weight. He has long arms, which is attractive in any area of the offense. He's only 20 years old right now, and considering most tight ends don't learn how to block effectively until they've been in the league for a few years, he may be more of a project initially. With Heath Miller in a similar position to Taylor as far as cap number and age, and an uncertain future for Matt Spaeth, this also may be a position the Steelers want to address.
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
It's as if he was physically molded by Dick LeBeau. Great size and length, and while he has playmaking ability, Gilbert wants to hit. That's the part of him that really stands out. He's physical more than flashy. He can also return kicks, making him a great all-around prospect.
Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
The value of a dominant nose tackle in this defense can't be explained any better than by watching the Steelers' defense when Casey Hampton was in his prime. Dominant and unmovable at the point of attack, Hampton gave the team an immediate advantage on the line because it took two interior offensive linemen to stop him. It freed everything else up. Nix may be more athletic than Hampton was - but he doesn't seem to be as strong.
Marquise Lee, WR, USC
Players in college don't typically show the level of fluidity in route-running as Lee does. At the risk of being too dramatic, he looks like a bigger version of Antonio Brown. Catches well, runs nice routes (and he'll only improve in that area) but he looks as fast running straight ahead as he does coming immediately out of a break. Not a tree-topping mega-freak athlete, but Lee is going to be a very solid-to-outstanding receiver. I may even be downplaying him a little bit. Lee playing the wide receiver position looks as natural as a duck in water. Impressive for a 23-year-old. High school and college teammate of Robert Woods, a guy the Steelers were said to really want in the 2013 NFL Draft. Similarities exist between the two.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
He could be one of the most talented players in this draft, and assuming the Steelers don't collapse in their last four games, he's likely well out of reach. He's an incredibly quick and large lineman who could probably play a three-technique defensive tackle spot as well as a 5-technique defensive end. His versatility makes him so attractive - look at what Cincinnati did with pre-ACL tear Geno Atkins. Guys like that can open up so many other things on a defense, it becomes a nightmare preparing to handle them. Tuitt is that kind of player.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
There's a difference between "fast" and "explosive" as far as scouting cliches go. Watkins isn't going to leave scorched turf after his feet hit the ground, but he has such a powerful stride, he becomes a tough cover for weak cornerbacks. He's aggressive and competitive with the ball in the air, but he can still get himself open. His development as a player will be very interesting; seems like a great fit in a Ben Roethlisberger-led offense.
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
So what if he borrowed a few bucks from a coach? Does that even matter anymore? It certainly might for the Steelers, and for the sake of bracketing the realistic areas of the Steelers' first round pick, a four-game winning streak would put them into the low-20s area. That's probably the earliest Clinton-Dix would merit consideration, but he's a talented deep center field kind of safety - the type that might actually make the Steelers' single-high coverage an option instead of a weakness. He's a willing hitter, and he can make plays on the ball in coverage.
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