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Comparing the pass rusher and cornerback classes from a Steelers perspective

A side-to-side comparison of the available prospects using the BTSC Big Board grades.

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Most of us assume the Steelers will draft a pass rusher and a cornerback in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. Those are clearly the team's two positions of greatest need, and they happily coincide with this draft's areas of greatest strength. To be sure the edge rushers are more top-heavy with elite talent and the corners have more weight in the late-fist to early-second range, but there is little doubt that a decent-value player can be found at both positions in the first two rounds. Here is a brief table for the sake of easy reference:



HV 1:01 - Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson (Interviewed)

HV 1:01 - Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Florida

HV 1:05 - Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska (Interview & Visit)

HV 1:05 - Shane Ray, OLB, Missouri (Interview & Visit)

HV 1:10 - Owamagbe Odighizuwa, OLB, UCLA (Interviewed)

HV 1:10 - Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan St. (Interviewed)

HV 1:15 - Alvin "Bud" Dupree, OLB, Kentucky (Interviewed)

HV 1:15 - Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest (Interviewed)

HV 1:20 - Jalen Collins, CB, LSU (Interviewed & dined with Tomlin)

HV 1:20 - Marcus Peters, CB, Washington (Interviewed)


HV 1:25 - Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia (Interviewed)

HV 1:25 - Byron Jones, CB/S, Connecticut

HV 1:25 - Danielle ("da-NEEL") Hunter, OLB, LSU (Interviewed & dined with Tomlin)

HV 2:01 (33) - Nate Orchard, OLB, Utah

HV 2:01 (33) - Alex Carter, CB/S, Stanford

HV 2:01 (33) - Ronald Darby, CB, Florida St.

HV 2:01 (33) - Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon [FN]

HV 2:01 (33) - P.J. Williams, CB, Florida St.

HV 2:12 (44) - Hauoli Kikaha, OLB, Washington (Interviewed)

HV 2:12 (44) - Quinten Rollins, CB/S, Miami (Ohio) (Interviewed)

HV 2:12 (44) - Eric Rowe, CB/S, Utah (Interviewed)


[FN] Yes, most people project that Ekpre-Olomu will fall into the 3rd Round and possibly even the 4th. BTSC has continuously rejected the idea that his knee injury deserves a downgrade that severe. Make the change if you want to: dropping IEO to a 3rd-Rounder would only strengthen this article's point that solid options at Cornerback will almost certainly be available in Round 3 while all the comparable Edge Rushers may well be gone.

The tipping points are easy to see and the overall message is clear. Any of the Big 6 pass rushers would be the BPA at 1:22 (unless only Dupree is available and Trae Waynes falls that far), but after that there is a run of good cornerbacks and in some ways it doesn't matter. There are 11 "worthy" cornerbacks and 10 "worthy" edge rushers, but those are high enough numbers to be fairly confident that whichever way the team goes in Round 1, the other position of greatest need will have a solid-value prospect available in Round 2.

There's been some recent discussion that touched on the question of what might happen if the Steelers chose to wait on either an Edge Rusher or a Corner until Round 3. There would obviously be a decline in talent of some kind - otherwise the prospects would have a higher grade - but would it be more along the lines of a constant dip or a sudden plunge?

According to the BTSC Big Board the answer is a "dip" for the cornerbacks and a "plunge" when it comes to the available pass rushers. Here is the comparison table:



HV 3:01 (65) - Markus Golden, OLB, Missouri (Interviewed Over Dinner)

HV 3:01 (65) - Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville (Interviewed)

HV 3:01 (65) - Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB, Louisville (Interviewed)

HV 3:01 (65) - Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss (Interviewed)

HV 3:01 (65) - Davis Tull, OLB, Tennessee-Chattanooga

HV 3:01 (65) - Doran Grant, CB/S, Ohio St. (Tomlin at pro day)


HV 3:01 (65) - Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon St.

HV 3:01 (65) - Damarious Randall, S/CB, Arizona St.

HV 3:01 (65) - D'Joun Smith, CB, Florida Atlantic

HV 3:01 (65) - Kevin White, CB, TCU (Interviewed)

HV 3:12 (76) - Lorenzo Doss, CB, Tulane

HV 3:12 (76) - Jacoby Glenn, CB, UCF

HV 3:12 (76) - Anthony Harris, S/CB, Virginia


HV 3:24 (88) - Geneo Grissom, OLB, Oklahoma

HV 3:24 (88) - Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas (Interviewed)

HV 3:24 (88) - Max Valles, OLB, Virginia

HV 3:24 (88) - Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami (Fla.)

HV 3:24 (88) - JaCorey Shepherd, CB, Kansas

[FN] The Board also grades Trey Flowers, Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith as 3:01 talents. They are not included here because they are actually 4-3 Defensive Ends who deserve a Round 2-3 grade but are discounted on the Board for their lack of fit to Pittsburgh's system. In reality they are very unlikely to drop anywhere close to the Steelers pick at 3:23, and accordingly do not meet the standards for this discussion.

I will publish a follow up article later on if time allows, but go and consult the Board if you want more details on any of the particular players right now. A fair shorthand description would be that most of the cornerbacks we've put in the 3rd are 2nd-Round talents who are downgraded because they are 5'9" mighty-mites (Gaines, Golson, Nelson, White, Glenn [weight not height] & Diggs). Grant has questions about his athleticism, and the others have questions about their skill-set in a true coverage situation. The edge rushers are down here because of athletic deficits (Golden), a raw skill set (Mauldin), and a combination of T-Rex arms with a small-school background (Tull).

In other words, there are only three (3) new edge rushers versus ten (10) new cornerbacks who would be 'worthy' of Pittsburgh's 3rd-Round pick, with another two (2) pass rushers and three (3) cornerbacks who come close. It's easy to imagine such a limited number of pass rushers going before 3:23, but hard to believe a weird enough draft scenario for all of the Corners to be gone that early. For what it's worth this pattern repeats itself with the Round 4 grades as well:

HV 4:01 (100) - Lynden Trail, OLB, Norfolk St. (transfer from Florida)

HV 4:01 (100) - Justin Coleman, CB, Tennessee

HV 4:01 (100) - Tony Washington, OLB, Oregon

HV 4:01 (100) - Craig Mager, CB, Texas St.

HV 4:01 (100) - Cody Riggs, CB, Notre Dame

HV 4:01 (100) - Damian Swann, CB, Georgia

HV 4:16 (115) - Frank Clark, OLB, Michigan

HV 4:16 (115) - Bobby McCain, CB, Memphis

HV 4:16 (115) - Josh Shaw, CB/S, USC


[FN] The Board also grades Anthony Chickillo of Miami as a 4:01 talent. He is another downgraded 4-3 guy who ought to go to a 4-3 team in the 3rd, or at latest the early 4th.

The 5th Round is more equal, with eight (8) edge rushers and nine (9) cornerbacks meeting that cut - though by now all the prospects carry so much more risk that they are harder to compare to anyone available in Round 2.

The bottom line is this: If the Pittsburgh Steelers choose to pick some position other than a cornerback and an edge rusher in either Round 1 or Round 2, we should desperately hope it's the cornerback they choose to wait on. The odds are superb that a solid Corner will be available in Round 3 and/or Round 4. If the team chooses to wait on an edge rusher the odds are stacked against us. There's a chance that someone "worthy" might fall to 3:23 or 4:22 but it's not a risk we'd want the team to bet on.