2011 Pittsburgh Steelers Mock Draft Version 3.0

The Steelers have four realistic options for their first-round draft pick in 2011, each of which would fill a major need. They could draft an offensive guard (Mike Pouncey) who would almost certainly start as a rookie and provide a major upgrade on the offense line like his brother, Maurkice, did for Pittsburgh at center this fall.

They could also draft one of the many outstanding, big cornerback prospects who may still be available at the end of the first round. However, could that prospect start as a rookie in Dick LeBeau’s scheme over veterans Bryant McFadden and/or William Gay? Based on talent and coverage skills that answer is likely yes.

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Steelers Lounge Steelers Mock Draft, Version 1
Steelers Lounge Steelers Mock Draft, Version 2

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However, corners, in general, struggle as rookies in the NFL and LeBeau does not like to rely on rookies at any spot. Moreover, the Steelers can still probably get a quality, early contributor at corner in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

The other option is to draft for more vital long-term needs, specifically at offensive tackle or defensive end, with tackle possibly needing a new starter by 2012.

I discussed the reasons the Steelers are unlikely to take a tackle in the first round of the 2011 yesterday, even more so because any tackles with first-round grades will likely be off the board by the time the Steelers select.

The Steelers will certainly consider a defensive end in the first round, particularly if fast-rising J.J. Watt of Wisconsin or the falling Allen Bailey of Miami remains on the board.

No defensive player has seen his draft stock soar higher this fall than Watt, a fourth-year junior now expected to enter the draft and likely go in the first round. At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, he has the frame to add another 15 pounds. He will then offer a perfect combo of size and athleticism for a 3-4 end who plays better than he looks.

In terms of appearances, no one looks better than Bailey, who most projected as a top-20 pick before the season. He looks like a combo of Joe Greene and Reggie White against lesser competition, flashing tremendous power and quickness. But after watching Bailey get dominated by big-time opponents like Ohio State and FSU this fall, he may be worthy of the “Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane” stigma for big games and the Steelers rarely draft players in the first round who do not consistently dominate at the college-level.

However, neither of those players would start at defensive end in 2011 or 2012 even if Aaron Smith retires after the 2010 season. Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Casey Hampton are all under contract and slated to be a solid starting defensive line for the next couple of years, which would only be better if Smith tries to play another year or two.

An influx of younger players to develop and add depth is clearly needed on the defensive line, but it is not an area that should be addressed at the top of the 2011 NFL Draft.

So here goes our latest 2011 mock draft for the Steelers. Please note that this mock assumes that no CBA is reached before the draft in 2011, making it likely that the Steelers will maintain the rights to OLB LaMarr Woodley, OT Willie Colon, TE Matt Spaeth and CB William Gay by merely issuing 1-year tenders to each of them. If a CBA is reached before the draft, the Steelers will lose some of those players, and their needs and these projections will change.

Moreover, this mock assumes the Steelers re-sign CB Ike Taylor to a lucrative, multi-year contract, and that Pittsburgh (either before or after the draft) brings back several of its less-coveted, unrestricted free agents to short-term deals to add depth. Upcoming unrestricted free agents who could be resigned include DE Nick Eason (1-2 years), NT Chris Hoke (1 final year), OT Jonathan Scott or OL Trai Essex (2-3 years), RB Mewelde Moore (1-2 years), ILB Keyaron Fox (1-2 years) and CB/ST Anthony Madison (1 year). In addition, when a CBA is reached, it is expected to increase each team’s roster limit from 53 to probably 56, which would increase game-day rosters from 45 to 48 (excluding No. 3 QB).

Finally, this mock assumes that Aaron Smith and third-team QB Charlie Batch both retire after a highly successful 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers’ season culminates in an AFC championship loss at Foxboro to the top-seeded Patriots. Both players will long be remembered and forever loved by the Steelers Nation.

Please also recognize that any picks projected after the first round in December could see their draft standings climb or fall significantly after post-season, all-star games, and the combine and individual workouts. However, multiple services have all these players available at the spots where I project them, while every player is also ranked higher or lower than these spots by some services.

1.    (30) MIKE POUNCEY, OG, 6-5, 310, Florida: Pouncey fills an immediate need at right guard, which has been the worst of the Steelers’ 22 starting positions over the last two years. Pouncey is a great run blocker, who would have instant symmetry with his twin brother Maurkice, the Steelers’ stud, starting rookie center. Pouncey is rated anywhere from the No. 20 overall player in the draft by ESPN to a mid- to late-second-round prospect by multiple services. There is a pretty good chance he would be available for the Steelers toward the end of the first round, but they would risk losing him if they tried to trade down into the second round if the Steelers are picking No. 30 as I project. Mike is not as good a prospect as his brother, who is faster and more athletic. Mike is versatile and tried to improve his draft stock by playing center this fall for the Gators after receiving a 3rd-4th-round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee after his junior campaign before electing to stay in school for another year. But that position move did not work out as planned. First, he had trouble snapping, which is the most important attribute of a center. Second, he is taller and stiffer than his brother, and thus has trouble drive-blocking, big 3-4 NTs like those he will see regularly in the NFL. Thus, RG is Mike’s best spot and no team needs a new RG more than the Steelers.

2.    RASHARD CARMICHAEL, CB, 5-10, 185, Virginia Tech: Everyone knows that the Steelers like big, physical, zone coverage corners who are great tacklers. The problem is that outside of No. 1 corner Ike Taylor, the Steelers do not have a corner on their roster who can actually cover NFL receives downfield and they certainly do not have a nickleback quick enough to cover players in the slot. Enter the undersized Charmichael, who could immediately provide Pittsburgh with an upgrade over William Gay at nickleback and could eventually be an undersized but quality, full-time corner similar to Deshea Townsend, who was a underrated Steelers corner for a long time. It is a deep draft for corners, which, along with his battling injuries this fall, is a reason a playmaker with speed like Carmichael may be available late in round 2. Most of the big corners who fit the Steelers’ scheme will likely be off the board by this point in the draft and the ones who could be left, like Ras-I Dowling of Virginia whose stock has fallen precipitously, have many of the same coverage weaknesses of McFadden. Thus, Pittsburgh does not need another big corner who struggles in man-to-man coverage, but instead need a smaller, coverage corner like Charmichael, Utah’s Brandon Burton, Texas’ Curtis Brown or Georgia’s Brandon Boykin, all of whom could potentially be on the board at this point of the draft. Drafting Pouncey and Charmichael would immediately upgrade the Steelers’ two weakest areas over the last two seasons.

3.    CHRISTIAN BALLARD, DE, 6-4, 295, Iowa: Ballard is a classic tweener who some teams are now viewing exclusively as a 3-4 DE prospect. He lacks the upper body strength and bulk to play 4-3 DT, or the quickness and range to play outside in a 4-3. However, he is a solid, athletic player who could be a starter and will at the minimum become a contributor in a 3-4 scheme. He has been overshadowed on the Iowa defensive line by Adrian Clayborn and Ballard has seemingly been nearly invisible on the field for entire games. But his upside is strong and he has been well-coached at Iowa. Ideally, he could be the Steelers’ No. 4 end as a rookie, No. 3 end as a second-year pro and then replace Keisel in the starting lineup in 2013.

4.    IAN WILLIAMS, NT, 6-1, 305, Notre Dame: While his defensive teammates were struggling, Williams was having a strong senior season before suffering a mid-season MCL tear, which has since dropped his stock slightly. However, he is expected to play in the Sun Bowl and post-season all-star games. The Steelers will likely resign valuable reserve Chris Hoke for a final season in 2011 and starting nose tackle Casey Hampton is signed through 2012. But Hoke is 34 and Hampton is 33, so the Steelers have to start thinking about drafting and grooming a young nose tackle after ignoring the spot with all 10 of their draft picks in a 2010 NFL Draft that was loaded with 3-4 NT prospects. This year’s draft is not as deep at that spot, but Williams is a solid, hard-worker and good run-stuffer who could easily become a quality No. 2 nose tackle and may develop into a potential starter.

5.    OWEN MARECIC, FB, 6-0, 245, Stanford: The Steelers would be fortunate if Marecic falls this far. Yes, I know that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians likes to infuriate fans by proclaiming his offense does not use a fullback. However, the Steelers used a fullback more than any time during the Arians’ era early in the season and had great success running the ball despite having virtually no passing threat with Ben Roethlisberger suspended, and their best run-blocking offensive lineman, Willie Colon, out with an injury. Imagine how good the ground attack would be if both of those guys returned and the Steelers actually used a real, lead-blocking fullback. Marecic, a FB/LB who is the only two-way starter in major college football, is having a strong year for a top-5 Stanford team. He would also aid multiple special-teams units and is the type of winner teams want on their rosters. Speaking of rosters, with the limit stretched to 56, Arians will no longer have an argument against keeping a pure fullback on the roster, especially one as versatile as Marecic, who is actually an average blocker for the position but still much better than the TEs and HBs the Steelers currently use as lead blockers in the I-formation.

6.    JOSH BYNES, ILB, 6-2, 235, Auburn: Some Steelers fans want the organization to draft Greg Lloyd, Jr. But they must not follow college football real close, because the younger Lloyd lost his starting job at UCONN and is not worthy of being drafted. Bynes, however, is enjoying an outstanding senior season as Auburn’s defensive leader and top tackler for a second consecutive year. Bynes is physically limited, though. He lacks the size to play MLB in a 4-3 scheme or the athleticism to play WLB on the inside in a 3-4. However, he could be a Larry Foote-type, two-down player for the Steelers down the road. And this pick would be for the long-term. Keyaron Fox may be allowed to leave via free agency or the Steelers will likely not draft an ILB. James Farrior, however, is 35 and Foote is 30, so the Steelers need to add another young ILB to go along with Lawrence Timmons and 2010 rookie, 5th-round pick Stevenson Sylvester.

7.    BRUCE MILLER, OLB, 6-2, 250, UCF: Miller is a highly-productive, collegiate defensive end who will be a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. He is the active leader in career quarterback sacks in major college football. With the in-season release of 2010 fourth-round pick Thad Gibson, the Steelers have a need for a fourth OLB on their 2011 roster. Now, Kevin Colbert may decide to fill that need earlier than this, because drafting OLBs early for depth over other positions of need is his annual wont, frustrating me to no end. More than likely, though, he will try to find OLB depth late in the draft this time, and Milller’s production, tenacity, and pass-rushing instincts will all look very good on film. One negative of this pick and mock draft is that while both linebackers were highly-productive college players, neither Miller or Bynes offer tremendous upside and both are too athletically limited to be special-teams standouts.

This entry was posted in 2011 mock draft, Cool Stuff, Defensive Line, Free Agency, Front Office, Offensive Line. Bookmark the permalink.
  • DC in ATL

    There is a long way to go before the draft to know if these are the right players, but this looks like a good list and addresses our key needs.

    It would be cool to have the brothers Pouncey together making the Pro Bowl for us for the next decade, but there are a couple other good Guards out there that the Steelers may prefer. Marcus Cannon from TCU, Rodney Hudson of Florida State and Orlando Franklin from Miami are rated higher than Pouncey in a couple of the draft sites I visit.

    I predict the Steelers will take a kicker in the late rounds this year. Kai Forbath from UCLA is probably the top guy out there with Alex Henery (who also punts) from Nebraska probably #1A

    • Ted

      DC, I had us taking Forbath in a mock I did not post here two weeks ago, but am now officially on the Shaun Suisham bandwagon as our future kicker. The guy has been flawless thus far.

      • DC in ATL

        I’ve been liking Suisham as well, but I think Tomlin has been an advocate of healthy competition. If there’s a future All Pro kicker sitting around on the second day, I think Colbert would jump on it.

        On Suisham…what a clutch performance punting and kicking against the Ravens on Sunday.

    • Randy Steele

      I thought the same thing about Pouncey II. Sure, it would be a great story to have the Pounce Brothers mauling together on the Steelers’ O-line for years to come, but is Mike really the best prospect for right guard, Round 1? Are we picking with our heart instead of our head?

      Hmm. I’ll trust the Steelers’ front office to figure that one out.

  • JKURK

    i really like the article and Pouncey in my opinion would be a great pick up, but Ryan Clark seems to be getting slower with every year. not sure if they will address that this year due to the fact they signed Clark to a new deal last year, but it should be considered

    • Ted

      Jkurk, I did consider FS in several spots and JJ and I were literally just discussing Clark being a step slower and making less plays; although he is still a decent starting FS. However, this is a weak safety draft and we did resign not only Clark to a 4-year deal last offseason, but also added new second-team FS in Will Allen.

      I am still surprised and disappointed that we did not draft a safety in any of our 10 picks last year in a loaded safety draft. But I think we will wait until the 2012 draft to draft Clark’s eventual successor unless we see someone we really like who also represents good value in this draft. Would a late-round safety find a spot on a team that already has Allen and Mundy as back-ups slated to return?

  • JKURK

    i really like the article and Pouncey in my opinion would be a great pick up, but Ryan Clark seems to be getting slower with every year. not sure if they will address that this year due to the fact they signed Clark to a new deal last year, but it should be considered

  • Rodneyp3

    My prediction for the Steelers 2011 NFL Draft:

    1. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
    2. G/C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
    3. CB Rashard Carmichael, Virginia Tech
    4. NT Kenrick Ellis, Hampton
    5. WR Terrance Tolliver, LSU
    6. FB Owen Marecic, Stanford
    7. OT Derek Newton, Arkansas State

    Any of the draft picks from the 4th through the 7th round could be swapped out for the highest rated kicker in the draft (Alex Henery, Nebraska), but other than that, this is what I have. Thoughts?

    • Ted

      Rodney, I like your draft more than mine, but I cannot see Pouncey falling to the end of the second round and a guy who can cover like Carmichael lasting until the end of the third even in a loaded CB draft. It’s early, though, so a lot of guys can rise and fall. I like Ellis in the fourth. He is more of a boom/bust type than Williams, who is more dependable but does not have as high a ceiling. We will have seven returning WRs (Wallace, Ward, Sanders, Brown, Battle, Randle El, Sweed) and have other needs to fill out an expanded roster. If we are going to draft a tackle, it needs to be early. Otherwise, I do not see a likely roster spot for a late-round project.

    • Ted

      Rodney, I like your draft more than mine, but I cannot see Pouncey falling to the end of the second round and a guy who can cover like Carmichael lasting until the end of the third even in a loaded CB draft. It’s early, though, so a lot of guys can rise and fall. I like Ellis in the fourth. He is more of a boom/bust type than Williams, who is more dependable but does not have as high a ceiling. We will have seven returning WRs (Wallace, Ward, Sanders, Brown, Battle, Randle El, Sweed) and have other needs to fill out an expanded roster. If we are going to draft a tackle, it needs to be early. Otherwise, I do not see a likely roster spot for a late-round project.

    • Morrisonjustin81

      as ur #2 u mean mike pouncy we already have maurkice but i know what u ment and i like it what u have

  • Mike L

    I cannot see OG as a priority. If Colon returns he most likely kicks inside to guard or Foster is given a chance to keep improving on starting this season, either way we should be fine as long as we don’t loose both starting OT. Unless Keenan Lewis can stay health and show more or Butler makes monumental strides in his 2nd season I think a starting CB who can press is our top priority. Why? I asked quite a few football fans who to disrupt a 3 step drop or screens and the answer was to press or redirect the WRs. With Brees, Brady, Rodgers and Rivers relying heavily on these plays we need this type of corner. If Lewis or Butler can be a #2 I like the idea of speedy 3rd corner as a 2nd rd option. From what I have read, Ras-I Downing is faster, quicker and can press when compared to McFadden. If he falls in the draft that is better for the Steelers. What are the thoughts on Tyron Smith (USC)? Is he coming out this year? Where is he projected? I like him even if the Steelers would have to trade up. I have heard Lewis and Butler have spent time at FS in practices, so FS is less of a priority.NT is definitely a strong need. I like Watt as a strong pick if other players we need are gone. So if Dowling drops Watt Dowling would be a great 1 & 2 picks.

    • Hutchapalooza

      The Steelers have never shown they view Colon as a guard (despite what a lot of fans say), not even when they had two legit starting tackles in Marvel Smith and Max Starks and a sick K. Simmons manning the RG spot. And Flo hasn’t exactly been the kind of world beater I’d banish Colon inside for.

      Not to mention it’s risky banking on anybody coming back to starter strength a year after an ACL tear. If the Steelers have a chance to draft an “elite” interior lineman, or a high upside (but technically raw) tackle like Nate Solder, they should do it. If you can protect your QB and run the ball in the NFL, you can win a lot of games.

      • Cols714

        This exactly. The Steelers have 3 decent tackles in Colon, Adams and Starks. They do not need a tackle. It’d be nicer to have a good RG.

        Why people keep trying to move Colon inside is beyond me.

  • JCRODRIGUEZ

    I don´t know, this is WAY, WAAAAY to early to think about specific draft picks, thre are several injuries left to happen/heal, retirements to announce (Hines?) and discharges to happen, so, i can only add a few general pointers.

    1. Please, please enough already with the fullback, we are not going to waste a pick there. Period. DJ will continue to handle that role and the third TE slot. So cut it out already.

    2. We should not reach for a anybody, let alone a shaky guard propsect. It does not matter if it is the baby brother of our best O line pick in decades. We are not the Lions nor the raiders. We have scouts and a system to keep.

    3. Best available player is and will be our way to work, and we should stick to the plan, obviously, the defensive backfield, the aging D line and the irrelevant O line are the most pressing needs, but we should not over play our hand.

    4.Trade up is an actual possibility if a game changer is within reach, but the uncertainty of the CBA make it impossible to figure this thing out.

    5. We should be focused on enjoying this ride and hope for another run at the Lombardi.

  • steelerjunky

    I like the Mike Pouncey pick if no higher rated players are available at a position that needs an upgrade.
    One player I like in round 3 or 4 is Cb Marcus Gilchrist. He has only player CB one season at Clemson. He was a SS before that. He hasgood speed and great ball skills. I think he could be a possible FS for the Steelers in the future.

  • John Henry Johnson

    Reports on Downing now are that he may not have the sped to play corner. More suited for S. We cannot let Ike get away !!!! We’re dead if we do. IMHO we have to draft a S in top 3 picks.

  • M jr

    the steelers should target brandon harris-cornerback miami in the 1st round

  • Corinne Haugh

    I really like the Bruce Miller pick. Bruce Miller should be the first round pick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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