Here are some possible Steeler mocks I did for fun. Players may or may not be available at the spots where I have them being selected. However, I looked at rankings from nine different draft services, so none of these are outlandish projections in terms of who is on the board in various rounds.
All of these drafts take into account the Steelers’ primary need at cornerback, while also addressing the probable need at offensive tackle for 2012, as well as the long-term need for young defensive linemen, where Pittsburgh can also take advantage of the best position group in the entire draft.
The Steelers do not have a major, immediate need area in this draft but will if they lose star cornerback Ike Taylor in free agency. However, they likely will not know that answer before the draft. For now, let’s assume the Steelers are confident they can resign or retain Taylor for 2011, assuming that there is free agency before 2011 and a 2011 season is actually played.
1. OT Derek Sherrod, 6-5, 320, Mississippi State: Versatile swing tackle who could start at RT in 2012 after Flozell Adams likely retires and possibly move to the leftside in 2013 if Max Starks is not resigned to a third contract. Multiple “draft experts” have wrote that Sherrod is a finesse pass blocker, but did they watch Mississippi State play last year? The Bulldogs had the fewest pass attempts (288) of any team in the SEC, running the ball on an SEC-high 69% of their offensive plays on the season and mainly doing so very effectively behind Sherrod on the leftside. Just ask the Florida Gators’ defense who Sherrod repeatedly mauled in MSU’s upset win in the Swamp last year.
2. CB Brandon Burton, 6-0, 190, Utah: Solid, all-around and physical corner with great character who could battle for the nickleback spot as a rookie (especially if the Steelers lose Taylor and/or William Gay to potential free agency) and then probably start in year No. 2.
3. DE Lawrence Guy, 6-4, 305, Arizona State: Big-bodied, and young (just turned 21), prototypical 3-4 defensive end who could replace Nick Eason as the No. 4 DE as a rookie and then move up the depth chart in ensuing years. No chance he would last this late in other draft years and the Steelers like to draft for value.
4. ILB Akeem Dent, 6-1, 240, Georgia: Instinctive and productive SEC player who may be too small to play in a 4-3 system, but would fit nicely in a 3-4. This is a mediocre draft at ILB, so the Steelers may ignore the spot all together. But James Farrior is 36, so having a youngster to go with Lawrence Timmons and Stevenson Sylvester for the future would be a nice addition. Keyaron Fox is unlikely to return in 2011, and – while a valuable reserve and possible starter again – the athletically-limited Larry Foote is 30.
5. RB Bilal Powell, 5-11, 205, Louisville: Solid, all-around back who likely fits best as a third-down back in the NFL. Could replace Mewelde Moore, who he mirrors physically. Needs to add some more bulk and more pop in pass pro, but is much quicker than Moore and is ready to play in 2011.
6. NT Chris Neild, 6-2, 320, West Virginia: Hard-working nose tackle who could either stick as the No. 7 defensive lineman or on the practice squad, and then potentially replace 35-year-old Chris Hoke (who is a free agent this year but will not go elsewhere) as Casey Hampton’s backup in 2012. Ironically, Neild is often compared to Hoke.
7. WR DeAndre Brown, 6-6, 235 Southern Miss: Highly-touted prep recruit who battled multiple injuries in an under-achieving college career. Boom/bust type, who will most likely bust. But a player with his physical talent would be tremendous value at this spot in a pretty deep draft for receivers and could likely be stashed on the practice squad for a year.
1. CB Brandon Harris, 5-10, 190, Miami: An intelligent, hard-working coach’s son, Harris is arguably the second best man-coverage corner in the draft, an area where the Steelers were awful last year. Taylor is their only corner who can cover in man and he is a free agent. Harris is more quick than fast. He is similar to former Bears’ corner Walt Harris (no relation), who was a good NFL cornerback but had some matchup problems. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau likes playing veterans, but the studious Harris would likely start before the end of his rookie season.
2. DE Christian Ballard, 6-3, 285, Iowa: Ballard may well be off the board by this spot, but there is decent chance he may not due to the absurd level of depth at 3-4 end in the first two rounds of this draft. Overshadowed by Adrian Clayborn at Iowa, Ballard still had a solid career, although he would be un-noticeable at times on the field. However, he possesses great upside and would be steal in the late second-round.
3. RT/G Jason Pinkston, 6-3, 315, Pitt: Excellent college player at LT, who needs to play RT or G in the pros. Horrible-looking body, though, so he needs a season in the weight room and working with a nutritionist before he could contribute. However, the Steelers do not mind short, stocky right tackles and Pinkston could always end up at guard.
4. NT Sione Fua, 6-2, 310, Stanford: Productive, smart and aggressive player who has experience in a 3-4 defense. However, he may not have the mass to be an every-down 3-4 nose tackle in the NFL.
5. K Alex Henry, 6-2, 175, Nebraska: I like Shaun Suisham and am not calling for this pick, but Henry is the best kicking prospect in the draft, and also punted at Nebraska. However he likely is not good enough to punt in the pros and did not kick-off at Nebraska, which has long been a weakness for the Steelers, who adamantly refuse to keep a kick-off specialist on the roster even though kickoff coverage has been a regular detriment to this franchise for 20+ years. Still, Henry has a very strong leg, so there is no reason why he could not improve on kick-offs. Plus, if the Steelers are going to keep often-injured punter Daniel Sepulveda for another year, it would be nice to have another serviceable punter on the roster.
6. OLB Mario Addison, 6-3, 245, Troy: Athletic, small-school, developmental 3-4 outside linebacker with raw but impressive pass-rushing skills. Could stick as a No. 4 OLB and special-teams contributor, with the potential to eventually become a starter in 4-6 years.
7. RB Mario Fanin, 5-11, 230, Auburn: A third-down, receiving back in Auburn’s loaded backfield, Fanin made himself a draftable-prospect at the combine, where he surprisingly ran a 4.38 in the 40. Despite playing with Cam Newton in a run-dominated and vertical-passing offense, Fanin had 42 receptions for 413 yards in 2010. Could replace Moore as the third-down back and contribute on special teams. High-character and unselfish player who would fit in well with the Steelers.
VERSION 4C (with two trades)
Through this scenario, the players the Steelers truly covet are off the board at the end of the first round, so they look to trade down. San Diego has extra picks in the second and third rounds, a history of trading up in the draft, not many roster spots available for all their picks, and its management justifiably believes they are a few impact players away from winning a Super Bowl.
Thus in an near equal swap based on the trade-value chart, Pittsburgh trades its first-round pick (31st overall) to the Chargers for their own picks in the 2nd (50), 3rd (82) and 6th-round (178).
However, with more picks than roster spots, the Steelers later trade their 5th (159) and original 6th (191) round picks to Buffalo for its 5th-round pick (130).
2 (50). CB Curtis Brown, 6-0, 185, Texas: An outstanding nickleback who can match up in man with NFL slot receivers from day-one. The concern is that he will never be able to handle bigger receivers on the outside as a starting corner. Still, with the number of teams using 3- and 4-WR sets, especially against the Steelers, this would be an excellent pick.
2 (62). TE/HB/FB Lance Kendricks, 6-3, 245, Wisconsin: The extra picks enable the Steelers to add an offensive weapon at a non-need area. Pittsburgh has a solid starting tight end in Heath Miller. However, the interest the front office has shown in multiple hybrid-type tight ends/h-backs indicates they would like to add another receiving threat to the Steelers’ offense since No. 2 TE Matt Spaeth (who may be a free agent this offseason) had just nine catches for 80 yards last season and TE/FB David Johnson has bricks for hands. Kendricks will catch a lot of NFL passes and is a willing blocker, although he does not have Johnson’s power or Spaeth’s size.
3 (82). DE Jarvis Jenkins, 6-4, 310, Clemson: Some 4-3 teams like Jenkins as a DT or NT, but he has the athleticism to play 3-4 end for Pittsburgh, and may well be available in the middle of the third-round due to the depth of talent on the defensive line in this draft. He would be a nice value pick at this spot and would fill a long-term need as five of the Steelers’ top six defensive linemen from last year are 30 or older.
3 (95). OT James Brewer, 6-6, 325, Indiana: Mostly played RT at Indiana, but has the athleticism to eventually play LT in the NFL. Needs time to develop and has bust potential, but the Steelers can afford him a redshirt year and he would be worth the gamble at this spot in the draft.
4 (127). RB Jacquizz Rodgers, 5-6, 195, Oregon State: Tremendous, slippery back who often played his best against the Beavers’ toughest opponents. Would be a huge weapon in the passing game as a poor-man’s Ray Rice and on delayed draws. Is a willing blocker, but obviously gets overwhelmed at times by bigger players. The only reasons he might fall this far are due to a poor combine showing in the 40 (4.64 in the 40) and his obvious lack of size.
5 (130). FS Deunta Williams, 6-2, 205, North Carolina: Was set to be a top-50 pick before suffering a horrific leg injury in the Music City Bowl. As a result, his stock has fallen and he will likely need to spend his rookie season on IR. That is no problem for the Steelers, who like their top four safeties, but need to get younger at this spot over the next two drafts. Williams at this spot might turn out the steal of the draft down the road.
6 (178). OLB Bruce Miller, 6-2, 255, UCF: Fails the eyeball test badly, but is a big-time producer every weekend, especially against superior opponents. Finished career with 35.5 sacks and posted 35 reps of 225 pounds on the bench-press at the combine. However, is a subpar athlete who will be exposed in coverage and likely will be a limited NFL contributor on special teams.
7 (223). NT Anthony Gray, 5-11, 330 Southern Miss: His stock is rising as a possible draftee after a strong pro day. Stout, athletically-limited player who would likely go on the practice squad and then hopefully replace Hoke as the reserve NT in 2012.
Steelers Lounge Steelers Mock Draft, Version 1
Steelers Lounge Steelers Mock Draft, Version 2
Steelers Lounge Steelers Mock Draft, Version 3
Steelers Lounge Steelers Mock Draft, Version 4