As the 2016 NFL Draft rapidly approaches, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue their search for defensive players who will help elevate their sagging defense into a championship caliber squad. It is well known the Steelers largest questions lie on the defensive half of the football field, but which position the team addresses in the first round with the 25th overall pick remains a mystery.
Fans turn to "experts" who provide mock drafts to help shine the light on what might be on the horizon for any particular NFL team. One of the more trusted names in the NFL Draft analysis game is ESPN's Todd McShay. McShay just released his "Grade A" 3-round mock draft, and he certainly had the Steelers taking care of business in the first three rounds.
Before getting into his selections, take a look at how he approached creating this mock draft:
Please read the ground rules:
1. At each slot, I make a pick in the best interest of only the team with the pick. I won't pass on a player at No. 4 just because I like the team better at No. 5.
2. No trades unless they're already done. I try to address team needs, but like the draft, value can supersede need.
3. Again: I'm not projecting. It's more a look at where I see value up and down the board.
So, McShay put his GM hat on for 32 NFL teams and rattled off three rounds of selections based on his knowledge of prospects, team needs and overall value at the position. Take a look at who he projected to the Steelers in all 3-rounds:
Round 1 (25): William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Round 2 (58): Darian Thompson, S, Boise State
Round 3 (89): Adam Gotsis, DE, Georgia Tech
Analysis: The Steelers' pass defense needs a major upgrade after allowing 272 yards per game last season (30th overall). Jackson has a good frame (6-0, 189 pounds) and elite speed (4.37 40). He thrives off the challenge of facing the opposing team's No. 1 WR, while Thompson finished his Boise State career with 19 interceptions. Gotsis shows terrific toughness on tape and would provide a boost to Pittsburgh's run defense as he continues to develop.
Say what you want about McShay and his projections, but if the Steelers draft were to work out in a similar fashion, there shouldn't be much complaining from the fan base. Drafting a top tier cornerback in the first round, a hard-hitting and versatile safety in the second and a defensive end with a ton of upside to add depth behind Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward in the third would be tremendous.
Sure, the names could change. It could be Mackensie Alexander at No. 25 rather than Jackson, Karl Joseph might hang around at No. 58 and there is a myriad of defensive linemen who could fill the need for depth in the third round. However you slice it, if the Steelers are able to address their three biggest areas of need -- cornerback, safety and defensive line -- in the first 3 rounds, I would think most would agree the team has done their part in helping shape what should be a championship product in 2016, and beyond.