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2015 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers go heavy on defense

It shouldn't be surprising to see, come April, the Steelers invest heavily on the defensive side of the ball. That pass rusher they need just may not be coming in Round 1.

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One must give Walter Football mock draft writer Charlie Campbell a break.

After such an outstanding athletic performance from so much of the outside linebackers group Sunday at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, it's understandable why one would put so much stock into that group's placement in the upcoming draft.

If Campbell was in charge of the Steelers, the'd walk away from this upcoming draft having addressed their sagging pass rush twice in their first four picks.

Not before taking care of the back end, though.

Campbell sent Alabama safety Landon Collins to the Steelers with the 22nd overall pick. His reasoning:

It always seems like a talented prospect falls to the Steelers every April, and that could be Landon Collins this year. Some are down on Collins, so he could slip. Pittsburgh will be happy if he does; Michael Mitchell proved to be a disappointment last year, while Troy Polamalu won't be with the team much longer.

While we don't agree Mitchell rough 2014 season is grounds on which to write off the remainder of his career, we do feel there is some value in the idea of getting a solid, angle-loving and hard-hitting free safety type while using Mitchell's athleticism in the box more often. This team has existed without using the traditional free and strong safety designations for a while, thanks in part to the instincts of Troy Polamalu, but looking more in their Cover 2 approach when Polamalu is not there, Mitchell could be effective as a strong safety with a heady player like Collins flanking the other side.

Shoring up the back end perhaps creates the notion of forcing a few more takeaways, but the Steelers absolutely will have to get more pressure on the passer. Considering the level of production expected from this offense (Football Outsiders revealed them to have the second most efficient offense in the NFL), the defense will need to force five or six in a combination of punts and takeaways in order to be in an ideal position to win. To do that, they will need players to get after the passer.

Perhaps that's why Campbell sends Missouri DE/OLB Markus Golden to the Steelers in the second round, and then adds Clemson DT Grady Jarrett in the third round.

The Golden pick makes sense. We love how Steel City Insider publisher Jim Wexell described him:

That sums it up well.

As for Grady, Campbell writes:

Pittsburgh wants to mix in some 4-3 sets. The Steelers have heavy nose tackles, but they need a speedy three-technique to pull off such a scheme, and there isn't one on the roster.

The 6-foot, 288-pound Jarrett had 43 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2014. He totaled 83 tackles with 11 for a loss, two sacks and 14 quarterback pressures the year before. In 2012, Jarrett had 49 tackles with two sacks.

We're not entirely sure we agree with the specifics of the pick, although we do appreciate the outside-the-box approach. It's not quite as simple as wanting to add 4-3 looks - the Steelers have alignments in sub packages that utilize interior linemen in spots typically played by 4-3 defenses - and they already have Cameron Heyward playing positions similar to that.

Interesting footnote at this point, Washington cornerback Marcus Peters goes to Arizona one pick before the Steelers select Jarrett, and Duke guard Laken Tomlinson goes one pick after him. We feel either player would have been a better fit at this point.

And wrapping it all up, the Steelers send waves of panic through their fanbase by again eschewing the idea of selecting a cornerback in the first four rounds, and lock up Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack.

It's a balanced haul of players, even if it's another odd third round pick in a defense-heavy draft (the third consecutive defensive player chosen in the first round). Perhaps the immediate and future need calls for it. We expect it to be a bit more balanced overall, but a pass rusher, like Golden, is a good bet.