When assessing the Pittsburgh Steelers many draft needs, it seems to be a constant debate between defensive line, safety and cornerback. All deserve their own stakes as the biggest deficiency on the Pittsburgh defense, but when the Steelers select 25th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, simply picking by which position they feel needs the most attention might not get them the player they want, or that they need.
In the latest mock draft by our friend Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com, he has the Steelers slated to take defensive tackle Vernon Butler from Louisiana Tech in the first round. Campbell isn't the first to have the Steelers interested in Butler, but would he be considered to be a quality first round pick? Here is what Campbell had to say about the selection:
Pittsburgh Steelers: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
The Steelers have a big need at cornerback, but could also use a nose tackle are losing Steve McLendon in free agency. The track record of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert has been to address the defensive front seven in Round 1 and address the secondary on Day 2. Unless the Steelers are sold on journeyman Cam Thomas as the answer, they could use a young nose tackle.
Butler was a bit of sleeper prospect, but that ended when he showed extremely well at the Senior Bowl. In the pass-rushing one-on-ones, Butler was too fast for the offensive lineman and showed nice strength to bull rush. Sources say that Butler has all the physical tools, but doesn't know how to play the game yet. They say his play doesn't match his potential, but they feel he has upside at a premium position.
In 2015, Butler recorded 50 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss and three sacks. As a junior, he totaled 55 tackles with 13 for a loss and one sack. Butler (6-3, 316) would be a nice fit as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. He also has experience playing elsewhere on the line so he could play in a 3-4 as a five-technique or as a nose tackle who moves to rush over guards in passing situations.
There is no question Butler is talented. Anyone who has watched his film while at Louisiana Tech knows just how athletics and disruptive he could be in the middle of a defense. He would not just add quality depth behind Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, but would also be able to fill in at the nose tackle position and is specific sub packages.
However, as most of you know, when looking at mock drafts I tend to see who the team could have selected, and then debate if one of those players could have, or should have, been the better pick.
In this scenario, CB Eli Apple was passed by the Steelers and taken by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 27th pick, DT Robert Nkemdiche went to the Arizona Cardinals with the 29th selection and CB Mackensie Alexander fell all the way to the second round.
So, with the situation unfolded, did the Steelers make the correct choice in this mock draft by taking Butler, or would Apple or Alexander be the better choice based on school, pedigree and overall value as a rookie on a team with a win-now mentality? Tough debate, but I would be just fine with Butler going to the Steelers defense to help solidify the defensive line.