There must be something in the water at ESPN. Earlier today, ESPN's expert Mel Kiper Jr. projected the Pittsburgh Steelers to select a safety in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Recently, fellow draft expert Todd McShay released his own final mock draft and has the Steelers also taking a safety in the first round, but a different player all together.
McShay has the Steelers taking Alabama safety Landon Collins with the 22nd overall pick in the draft, and here is why:
22. Landon Collins - Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
COLLEGE: Alabama Class: Jr HT: 6-0 WT: 228 POS: S
Analysis: The Steelers really need to improve their secondary, and Collins could be an effective in-the-box safety for them who excels against the run and is athletic enough to hold up in coverage against many running backs and tight ends.
McShay isn't the first draft guru to project the Steelers to take Collins in the first round, but if this situation comes to fruition it certainly would speak volumes about the team's safeties currently on the roster. Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas are both hard-hitting safeties who specialize in run support. If they have weaknesses (and we know they do) it is in pass coverage. This is why adding a safety who is almost a duplicate of Thomas and Mitchell is a bit of a head-scratcher.
It could be the team doesn't feel Thomas is the answer to step in the safety spot vacated by retired Troy Polamalu, but selecting Collins would not be a vote of confidence for either safety currently on the team's roster. Will the Steelers address the safety position in this year's draft? They very well could. Will they do so in the first round? Tough to say, but if I had to bet, I would bet against it.
This isn't a cut on Collins. He is a tremendous athlete and could be a great safety in the NFL. If the Steelers do select him it is a clear cut sign the team is looking for him to be a playmaker in the back end they don't feel the currently have on the roster.
Things could get interesting tonight in Chicago when the picks start rolling in.