As a member of BTSC, I'm intrigued by two recent draft-related taglines from fellow regulars. One says, "Just say no to Hunter Henry." The other says, "The Steelers are NOT drafting a corner-back in the first round."
If you're a Steelers fan, naturally you understand the corner thing (those guys are the draft day enjoyment devil). But, just to refresh your memory, Henry is a tight end from Arkansas, who has been linked to Pittsburgh in some mock drafts (an association that has picked up some steam now that Heath Miller has retired).
The cornerback and tight end positions are two areas of need for the Steelers with the draft now less than two months away, so it's a little strange that some fans are pulling out the garlic to keep those evil spirits at bay. Defensive line is another position of need (kind of), and without doing much investigative journalism, I'll just bet there are some BTSC members with taglines such as, "Andrew Billings for President" or "I'm in-love with Vernon Butler."
I understand the desire for defensive linemen. After all, who doesn't love the guys who stuff the running backs, eat up blockers and make the quarterbacks look like rag dolls? However, aren't those prospects supposed to be in abundance this Spring?
Not to insult anyone's sensibilities, but Mel Kiper, the draft expert everyone loves to hate, told ESPN that and more as recently as February 22:
"Defensive line is the best it's been since probably in my history of doing this, in terms of depth. I don't remember...I've been doing it since the '78 college football season, and I don't remember as many outstanding defensive ends, defensive tackles, combo guys, as there are this year. It's loaded with elite guys in the first and second round. So if you need a defensive lineman--end or tackle--this is the year to get one. "
I was running with my friend the other day, and he mentioned something about there being 20 or so defensive linemen/edge pass-rushers among the top 50 prospects, heading into the draft. Sure enough, according to this draft board posted by CBSSport.com on March 2, there are 17 defensive ends, defensive tackles and combo guys listed among the top 50 (correct me if I'm off one or two either way).
Therefore, it goes without saying the Steelers should possibly have their pick of such guys with the 25th selection; and if the position really is historically deep, there is a pretty good chance they'll still have their pick of a very talented prospect late in the second around, as well.
With all things being equal, wouldn't it stand to reason that this might be a perfect draft to concentrate on some other areas of need with the 25th pick? For example, if a cornerback such as Mackensie Alexander, or a safety such as Keanu Neal out of Florida were available, it might be a wise business decision to snatch him up. (I never heard of Neal until recently, but Lance Zierlien, who in his description said, "Every once in a while, you see safeties and say 'He's a Steeler,'" has him coming to Pittsburgh in his latest mock draft.)
Now, before you go and make a tagline that says, "Abolish Keanu Neal," let me say that's just an example--things will obviously change between now and the next 17,000 mock drafts.
In years past, when the argument about going for a particularly deep position in the first round was broached--corner, receiver, offensive lineman--the retort almost always had to do with waiting until the later rounds and, instead, using the top pick on a position that wasn't so deep.
Nobody knows what the Steelers are thinking and who they are truly targeting. Regardless of the depth at defensive line, if someone on the coaching staff or in the front-office is just in love with a certain player at that position and a strong argument is made to select him, that player's name will most likely be called in Round 1 if he's still available--other needs, be damned.
However, if someone such as Hunter Henry happens to be sitting out there at 25, it might not be a bad idea to pull the trigger and try to find Miller's replacement. After all, this is the year when the next Cam Heyward or Stephon Tuitt could be had in the second round or later.