Only the Psychic Friends Network knows for sure whom the Steelers will draft in the first round. Until April 28, all the rest of us can do is guess. Last year, fans hoped the Steelers would draft a cornerback in the first round, only to have the Steelers second-round choice, cornerback Senquez Golson, sidelined by injury. Is 2016 the year the Steelers will draft a game-changing defensive back?
Though defensive backs have generated the most buzz among Steelers fans, a much less glamorous position has largely been ignored in pre-draft speculation and discussions. BTSC contributor Dani Bostick and Steel City Blitz co-owner and writer Marc Ulhmann take a look at the defensive line. Will the Steelers draft a nose tackle in the first round?
Marc Uhlmann: No, the Steelers will not draft a nose tackle
When Pittsburgh Steelers' General Manager Kevin Colbert spoke to the press a few weeks ago he made it clear that the upcoming NFL Draft was "heavy on defense." That's a good thing for the Steelers who need help on that side of the ball and one area in particular is on the defensive line.
With Steve McLendon a 31-year old free agent, do the Steelers use the 25th pick of the first round to select the Steelers' next nose tackle? I say "no" for a couple of reasons.
While there will be a number of very talented players like Andrew Billings of Baylor and Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech available in the first round, the Steelers cannot afford to waste such a high pick on a guy who may only be on the field one out of every four plays.
That's right - the Steelers only spent about 25% of their defensive snaps in a traditional base defense - which means why spend a first round pick on a nose tackle who just isn't on the field much? Now if either Billings or Butler can prove that he can play up and down the line then that's another discussion.
Another reason I'm against a nose tackle in round one is that Colbert, Mike Tomlin and crew need to finally acknowledge that it's time to spend a high pick on a defensive back. As I write this, my gut feeling is that the Steelers will find a new starting safety in free agency which means cornerback becomes the obvious choice for round one.
With the pass rush average at best in recent years the Steelers must find guys that can cover and that's why I believe this may be the year they go corner in the first for the first time since Chad Scott was selected in the 1997 draft. Will it surprise me if they don't? Of course not.
I'm not suggesting the Steelers ignore the nose tackle position as long as they are going to stay in the 3-4 base (I admit that's not a sure thing either), but I feel they can get the type of player they need later in the draft.
I find it sad that if former Steeler Casey Hampton were available in this draft he would not be as sought after as he was when the Steelers drafted him. The game has changed that much and the Steelers have to roll with those changes. Nose tackle just isn't the necessity it used to be.
Dani Bostick: Yes, the Steelers will draft a nose tackle in the first round
The Steelers secondary needs help, but that help can come from adding depth to the front seven. The stronger the defensive line and the more effective the pass rush, the better the Steelers secondary will perform. Hence, choosing a nose tackle in the first round will benefit not only the defensive line, but will also make the Steelers defensive backs look better.
Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward are both talented players. The defensive line as a unit, however, needs as much help as the secondary and other units that tend to attract negative attention. The Steelers recently interviewed Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler.
If the Steelers are interviewing Butler, they are likely considering an upgrade to the aging Steve McLendon, whom the Steelers could lose to free agency, and Daniel McCullers, who is adequate, but not the star playmaker the defensive line needs.
Butler is not the only intriguing possibility coming out of the college ranks. Andrew Billings of Baylor is another talented option. In fact, this year's draft class is very defensive-tackle heavy. If the Steelers go best-available, there is a good chance that player will be someone who can fortify the defensive line. Most of this year's prospects are athletic and versatile enough to a variety of positions on the defensive line.
A first-round nose tackle will add depth the the defensive line, strengthening the run defense and vastly improving the Steelers ineffectual pass rush. Using a first-round draft pick on a defensive tackle won't hurt the secondary; it will help it by fortifying the front seven.