This draft is deep. We have heard it a thousand times (or more) and, good for us, the Steelers have a lot of needs. The front office has done a nice job in FA limiting our immediate needs and pushing off the problem that is the huge void in the middle of our defense. If anything the FO has brought in a lot of competition to push young players to develop faster. That being said here is a list of possible rounds we could target each position.
Quarterback: Round 4-5 or UDFA
Before you angrily type in the comment section how we would never take a quarterback in round 4 after taking one last year, look into our offseason visits. We visited LSU, which is likely for O'dell Beckham Jr., but it could also be for Zach Mettenberger. He is 6'5" with a cannon arm and he just came off a big knee injury. He recovered well and performed exceptionally at his pro day.
We cannot always have Ben Roethlisberger at QB and the Steeler way is to have a replacement in line after the starter retires/leaves. If Mettenbergers stock rises more we should just let him go, but I would use a round 5 and maybe even a round 4 on him this year. Ron Jaworski has him ranked as the #2 QB in this year's draft.
There is also a chance we take one in the UDFA pool or wait til next year to develop one. Especially with Landry Jones still developing.
Running Back: Round 5-7 or UDFA
The Steelers have one of their best backfields in quite some time with Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. They are both very capable and very powerful. All thats missing from our backfield now is a change of pace, home run speed back. The Steelers courted the freakishly athletic, Lache Seastrunk for a while, but I would guess he is going to go too high for us and he doesn't have the skill set we need in a 3rd RB. The two I can think of off the top of my head would be Dri Archer who ran a ridiculous 4.26 - 40 time, and DeAnthony Thomas who ran the 40 in the 4.3 range. Both would be good change of pace backs and both would offer a threat in the return game.
A lot of us hoped that LaRod Stephens-Howling would pan out as this guy, but he suffered a knee injury and that was the end of that. If we do not draft an RB there is a decent chance we would take a speedy guy in UDFA to develop as a KR/change of pace back (kind of like Reggie Dunn last year)
Wide Receiver: Any Round (I wouldn't take one in 1st)
This years receiving class is very, very, very deep. I have seen around 8-10 receivers with a 1st round grade and a plethora of receivers in the round 2-4 category. Steelers have had lots of success with mid to late round receivers in the past and I wouldn't bet on breaking that trend. There are two scenarios where I would go with a WR in the first round.
1. Steelers trade down to get another pick in the 3rd/4th and select O'dell Beckham Jr. or Brandin Cooks. This is a semi likely scenario because some top end talent that the Steelers might not need could fall to us at pick 15 which would have teams calling for trades. Steelers have also shown significant interest in these late round WR.
2. By some miracle Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans falls to us. We run to the podium and select them immediately.
There are 20 or more WR that I could list off that I would be more than happy with the Steelers selecting in the middle rounds. Why waste the depth that this year offers and reach in round 1? We have Antonio Brown, a bona fide #1 WR and we have Markus Wheaton looking to make the 2nd year leap that Steelers WR often make. After that we have a couple of veterans looking to contribute in Darius H-B and Lance Moore. I simply don't see WR as a glaring need.
TE: Round 1 or 2, Round 4-7
I would not be particularly happy with the selection of Eric Ebron for the Steelers because I believe the Steelers have set themselves up rather nicely for a run first offense that we all love (and miss). Ebron almost looks the part of a tall receiver rather than a TE. If we were to trade down in the 1st or if he were to fall to us in the second, I would be very happy with the Austin Sefarian-Jenkins pick. He is a grown a** man who can block and can catch in traffic. He was a big reason why Washington had a good year or two.
Heath Miller has spoiled us a bit, but I believe we can find someone similar to him in the sense that they can block or catch in the middle to late rounds of this draft. I could see Xavier Grimble, Arthur Lynch, or Joe Don Duncan as good targets in the late rounds. They are all able blockers and are athletic enough to play as a receiving TE. Sounds like a raw Heath Miller to me.
OT: Round 5-7, UDFA
The Steelers line finally seems to be shaping up into something good. Some people would want the Steelers to take one of the top tackles if they fell to us, but I wouldn't see Taylor Lewan as a significant upgrade to our line (not to mention his pending legal troubles). Kelvin Beachum is performing at a high level and is only looking to improve with new OL coach, Mike Munchak. One of the top tackles falling to us would be a perfect trade down scenario. OT are a hot commodity in the NFL and some teams would want to trade up for someone like Taylor Lewan. If Jake Matthews were to fall to us we would have a much tougher decision to make. Steelers have some success with UDFA lineman and I would think we would continue to try some of them out. Last year's camp cult hero, Nik Embernate a.k.a Embernasty is coming off an injury looking to improve.
Interior Lineman: UDFA
The only thing that could change this is if the Pouncey trade actually happens. Pouncey is in a contract year and the Browns recent deal with Mack sets the Center market for Pouncey very high. If we could trade him for a 3rd round pick I would have a hard time saying no.
Besides that there isn't a huge need with Cody Wallace signed for the next couple years as a backup Center. Fernando Velasco could also be an option if he recovers from his ACL injury.
DL: Round 1,2 or 5,6
The defensive end depth is not very big in this draft. With Ziggy Hood and Will Allen being signed elsewhere and Brett Keisel possibly retiring, we have only Cam Heyward and two unproven DE in Brian Arnfelt and Nic Williams. We also just signed Cam Thomas as a DE/DT. This doesn't solve the problem completely however. DE is one of the most important positions in our 3-4 defense. They are the unsung heroes who free up the OLB to rack up sacks and make plays. They also set the edge and are a big part of shutting down the run. Cam Heyward is looking like a future All-Pro DE but we need someone opposite him. Ra'Shede Hageman, Aaron Donald, DaQuan Jones, and Stephon Tuitt are a few players that we could look to get in rounds 1 or 2. Hageman Jones and Donald are all capable of playing either NT/DE which is a big plus in our defense.
Some late targets for us include Brent Urban, Josh Mauro, Ben Gardner, and Jeoffrey Pagan (DE/NT)
As for NT Louis Nix III could fall to us in the 2nd but it is unlikely and Ryan Carrethers is a decent option in the 5th/6th
Versatility is huge in our defense so I see us going with some of the more versatile guys.
ILB: Round 1 or 2
The ILB position is pretty crowded for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have stud, Lawrence Timmons, and then a bunch of mediocrity. Tarrence Garvin made a name for himself on special teams last year when he fractured a Bungals punter's jaw. He is said to be athletic, but hasn't showed much else yet. Sean Spence looked like a future starter in preseason a couple years back but suffered a nasty injury. He is said to have recovered, but who knows if he will be the same player he was. Vince Williams started most of last year after Larry Foote got hurt, but looked lost and was a big part of our decline in run defense. Williams started to figure it out a little more by the end of the season, but still looks to be only a run stuffer with little upside in coverage.
So then comes the question, do we need a ILB in the first round?
C.J. Mosley looks like a reliable guy who can be the quarterback of our defense. He is intelligent, high character, and moderately athletic. Some mock drafts have him gone before we even pick. Would you take him at 1.15? I would have to think long and hard about that one.
Then there is Ryan Shazier the incredibly athletic ILB from OSU. Could we trade down for him in the first? Is he worth 1.15? Could he possibly fall to us in the second. If he fell to us in the second I would take him. His only big downside was size and he came to his pro day 15 pounds heavier, still running the insane 4.37 40 yard dash that he ran before.
There is also Kyle Van Noy who can play either ILB or OLB. He is a fringe 1st rounder that could be a steal if he fell to us in the 2nd.
Outside Linebackers: Any round.
If one of the top prospects fell to us in the 1st (like Jarvis Jones did last year) it would be hard to pass up on them. Steelers defense lives and dies by the pass rush and we have been lacking in that department recently. Jason Worilds had a good year, but it was in his contract year and he has been injury prone (like a certain other OLB we used to love). Jarvis Jones is still looking to develop into the pass rushing menace we hoped he would be when we selecting him. I still have high hopes for Jarvis Jones, but he needs to add some strength and work on some of his pass rush moves. If Anthony Barr fell to us would we take him? It would be really hard to say no, but we have a lot invested into our two OLBs right now. Is there room for another first rounder?
Some other targets we could look into are Dee Ford, Jeremiah Attaochu, or Demarcus Lawrence in the 2nd, Jackson Jeffcoat or Carl Bradford in the 3rd, or Ronald Powell/Shaquil Barrett in the 5/6th.
I would be more inclined to look into some of these later round picks for help at OLB because of our huge investment into our current starting OLBs (1st rounder J. Jones and 2nd rounder transition tagged J. Worilds)
Safeties: (Round 2,4) or none
If we were to look for safety help it would either be earlier than expected or not at all. With the signing of Mike Mitchell, the high level (but declining) play of Troy Polamalu, and the development of 4th round trade up 2013 draft pick Shamarko Thomas. Mitchell should be a great addition, and Shamarko has promise, but is not yet a sure thing. With the amount of time Steelers spend out of their base packages and in their nickel/dime packages more safeties can never hurt.
I don't know if it is worth investing a high draft pick in, but Calvin Pryor (round 2) or Tarrence Brooks (Round 3) look too good to pass up on. They all around sound safeties that could be great additions.
Cornerback: Any Round
The depth of the CBs, much like the WR, is extraordinary this year. There are great CB options well into the 5th round that we could look to select. I envision the Steelers double dipping in the CB category this draft. Ike Taylor has clearly lost a step and was one of the worst starting CB in the league last year. Cortez Allen had a bit of a disappointing year and he is in a pivotal moment of his career this year. The only other option outside of that is William Gay. Steelers fans love to hate on William Gay from his first tour with Pittsburgh a few years back, but he actually had a solid year this year.
Bottom line is we need CB and there are plenty good prospects in this draft. The two that have been linked to our team the most are Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert. Dennard looks like the most NFL ready, but he also seems to have a lower ceiling than most. Gilbert probably won't fall to us, but if he did would we take him? He has the highest ceiling of anyone with his freakish athleticism, but he has questionable footwork and is not the best instinctually.
I am not sure if I would take a corner in the first round at all. There is so much depth in the later rounds that it might be best to take something that is a bit shallower in depth this draft and double dip on CBs later. I could see the Steelers taking one in the second round (Bradley Robyy, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett, Pierre Desir) and possibly the 3-4th rounds (Bashaud Breeland, Ross Cockrell, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Rashaad Reynolds, Phillip Gaines)
We could even get a decent one later in the draft. There are so many options that could potentially fall into the 5th round. Should we take one of the "top talents"? Are they really "top talents"? Only time will tell, but the Steelers need a CB and expect 1 or 2 to be selected.