The Steelers have glaring needs to fill at corner, receiver and on the defensive line, all of which should be addressed in the first four rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
That left one possible wild-card round, which could have been used to find a franchise left tackle, bolster the team’s depth and provide long-term stability at outside linebacker, or find an immediate starter and significant upgrade at inside linebacker.
They filled the latter on that list by drafting Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier to team with Lawrence Timmons in what should quickly emerge as one of the NFL’s better inside linebacker duos.
Unfortunately, the Steelers are unlikely to now find immediate help at corner in any round this weekend and must now draft a project or two at that spot with hopes of that player contributing in 2015.
On the plus-side, though, Pittsburgh can get a 1st-round talent in the 2nd-round to fill one of their other major needs in tonight’s NFL draft. Accordingly, here are players and positions the Steelers should be targeting at No. 46 overall and who they should avoid picking at that spot:
The top three prospects in the draft best suited to play defensive line in a 3-4 scheme are all still available even though all were projected as late1st-round picks in multiple mock drafts.
Accordingly, the Steelers must now seriously consider 6-foot-6, 310-pound Minnesota defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman, 6-6, 304-pound Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt or mammoth 6-3, 331-pound Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix if any of those three are still available with the 15th pick in the second round.
The Steelers’ need to bolster their defensive line becomes more paramount after the selection of the speedy Shazier, who along with Timmons needs strong, powerful defensive linemen in front of them to occupy blockers to allow them to excel at making plays in space.
There will be some decent 3-4 defensive line prospects available for rounds 3-5, although the drop-off from these three is steep. If the Steelers do no take a defensive lineman in the 2nd round, it may be best to wait until day three and then take two between rounds 4-7. However, defensive end Brent Urban from Virginia, nose tackle DaQuan Jones from Penn State or defensive end Kelcy Quarles from South Carolina would all still be nice choices at the end of round No. 3.
The best value in the 2nd round, however, will be at receiver. Players like USC’s Marqise Lee, Indiana’s Cody Latimer, and pass-catching machines Davante Adams from Fresno State and Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt might have all been 1st-round picks in a normal year that was not so deep at receiver. Accordingly, many teams are seemingly waiting to address the wide-out spot, which is why some of these fine prospects should still be available at No. 46.
Another option might still be for the Steelers to trade down from No. 46 toward the end of the 2nd round or the early part of the 3rd, pick up an extra pick in the 4th round or possibly even a 3rd-rounder if the Steelers give up a later pick, and still have a chance to possibly draft a top receiver like Penn State’s Allen Robinson, LSU’s Jarvis Landry or Mississippi’s Donte Moncrief. There will be value at receiver throughout this draft, although the drop-off before the Steelers’ compensatory selection at the end of the round No. 3 will be steep, particularly among receivers with size, which is what Pittsburgh most needs.
The Steelers do need a cornerback, but should not address that now until at least the 3rd round (maybe Phillip Gaines of Rice or Dontae Johnson of North Carolina State), because the 2nd-round value at that spot is not great after five corners were selected in the 1st round on Thursday, which is what Pittsburgh should have done as well.
Further, the Steelers must fill one of these three position needs in the 2nd round. Therefore, they cannot entertain selecting Oregon State’s Scott Crichton, a 6-2, 273-pound jumbo DE/OLB pass rusher who does not have a natural fit in the 3-4 defense.
They also cannot take troubled but talented Boise State outside linebacker Demarcus Lawrence to develop behind starters Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones. And they also now can’t take any tight end in the first three rounds to groom as Heath Miller’s eventual replacement.
The Steelers have urgent needs to fill tonight. This is a team coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons despite having a franchise quarterback playing in the prime of his career.
They got a good football player in Shazier, who will be an instant upgrade at inside linebacker and adds needed speed to the defense. Still, they should have taken Darqueze Dennard in the 1st round, who ESPN had ranked as the top corner and No. 12 prospect overall in the entire draft (Shazier is No. 17). But now they should not reach to take a corner in the 2nd when the true value at that spot will be on the defensive line or at receiver.