It is no secret which direction the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base wants the team to look in the 2016 NFL Draft. It seems a long ways off, but with the NCAA football regular season over, and the majority of NFL teams playing for bragging rights heading into Week 15, the mock draft season is officially upon us.
In a pair of mock drafts which were released this week, both experts who made selections see the Steelers bolstering their secondary in the first round, but at different positions. The experts are Todd McShay of ESPN, and Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus.
Before talking about the experts individual projections, it should be noted where they have the Steelers drafting. Pro Football Focus has the Steelers selecting 20th overall, where ESPN has them slotted in the 24th position. Most would think 4 spots in the draft isn't that big of a deal, but the reality of the situation is it could be a huge deal. It could be the difference between having someone like Bud Dupree fall to your team, or watching a Marcus Peters be nabbed off the board before you even get a chance to think about trading up.
Looking at McShay's prediction first, he has the Steelers taking a cornerback in the first round. His selection is Cameron Sutton of Tennessee. See what McShay had to say about the pick:
Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee Volunteers
The Steelers will need to address the cornerback position somehow this offseason. Sutton would be a good option if they want to pick one early. At 5-11, 196 pounds, he's at his best in press-man coverage. His closing burst has helped him rack up six interceptions and 26 pass breakups over the past three seasons.
The Steelers will desperately need cornerback help next season, especially with William Gay, Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin all destined to become free agents at the end of the 2015 season. If all were to leave for another team, the Steelers would be looking at Senquez Golson, Ross Cockrell and Doran Grant as the only defensive backs who have experience at the position. Going cornerback in Round 1 is not Pittsburgh's normal tendency on draft day, but you can't say the position doesn't need addressed.
Looking at Palazzolo' selection, he has Su'a Cravens, the safety from USC, going to Pittsburgh with the No. 20 pick. See what he had to say about the selection:
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Su'a Cravens, S/LB, USC
The comparisons to Troy Polamalu will be inevitable, but this pick goes beyond just the two players' USC connection. Cravens is a versatile defender, capable of adding a physical presence in run support while showing the instincts to make plays in coverage.
Safety is another position the Steelers should have high on their draft board. With Will Allen not getting any younger, Robert Golden set to be a free agent at the end of the season and Shamarko Thomas being a very disappointing player at safety, they have little-to-no depth at the position. Cravens would likely walk into the facility and be a starter from Day 1.
The speculation will never end in regards to who the team might select in the 1st round of the next NFL Draft, but luckily for Steelers fans, their favorite team still has a lot to play for in 2015 before talking about the 2016 Draft.