The Pittsburgh Steelers need defensive backs. There is no way around such a simple fact and truth heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. You know it, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin know it, your buddy next door knows it and anyone else who witnessed the 30th ranked pass defense take the field in 2015 certainly knows the team will be in the market for defensive backs.
After just one week of pre-draft visits in Pittsburgh, the team has brought in more safeties and cornerbacks than all other positions combined. So, when NFL Network's Mike Mayock released his third positional rankings leading up to the NFL Draft, it is natural for Steelers fans to scan immediately to the defensive backs to see who he has topping his rankings at both Safety and Cornerback.
When it comes to analyzing these athletes, you can argue who should be first, second and third until you are blue in the face, but what I look for is who the team has shown interest in by attending Pro Days, meeting with them at the NFL Scouting Combine and especially pre-draft visits in Pittsburgh.
Let's take a look at the Cornerback rankings:
1. Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
2. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
3. Eli Apple, Ohio State
4. Artie Burns, Miami (Fla.)
5. William Jackson III, Houston
Fall: Hargreaves (1), Apple (2), Burns (3), Jackson (4), Mackensie Alexander, Clemson (5)
Note: Ramsey moves from safety
It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that every cornerback ranked fell a spot when he moved Florida State's Jalen Ramsey from safety to cornerback. However, if there are NFL teams who have a similar board when looking at defensive backs, the team could have their pick of the crop with the 25th overall selection. It is assumed Ramsey and Hargreaves will be long gone, but Apple, Burns, Jackson III and Alexander are all very capable defensive backs. The Steelers have shown interest in almost all of these prospects to date.
1. Karl Joseph, West Virginia
2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State
3. KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame
4. Keanu Neal, Florida
5. Justin Simmons, Boston College
Rise: Joseph (2), Bell (3), Russell (NR), Neal (NR), Simmons (NR)
Fall: Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah (4), K.J. Dillon, West Virginia (5)
Note: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (1), moves to cornerback
Again, Ramsey leaving the rankings certainly shakes things up, but the Steelers have been very interested in safeties throughout the pre-draft visit process. As of Thursday, the team has already brought in Keanu Neal and Vonn Bell, while meeting with several other prospects, like Karl Joseph, at their Pro Days.
No one knows for certain what the Steelers will do on draft day, but the fact their meetings and interviews jive with the rankings laid out by Mayock shows the team is not just searching for defensive backs, but they are looking for some of the cream of the crop.