We are right about half way home to the 2011 NFL Draft and it is a perfect time to look over the pre draft visitors that the Steelers reportedly have had or will have visit the South Side prior to draft day. The organization has been more tight lipped thus far this offseason about their visitors, so there is a chance that it may include a false report or two, but should be fairly accurate up until this point. In addition, Jim Wexell tweeted not long ago today that they will likely loosen up on the policy soon, so more confirmation should be forthcoming.
An early look at the list confirms what many of us have thought for a while and that the Steelers seem poised to draft a cornerback somewhere in the first 3 rounds, as 6 of the 21 non local players that have visited or are scheduled to visit are cornerbacks. There likely will be a few more that are not yet confirmed by the media as well. The biggest names thus far on that list of corners are Curtis Brown from Texas and Ras-I Dowling from Virginia. Both are expected to come off the board in the first few rounds. I have made my feelings known on Brown in a recent post, but I doubt he will last until the Steelers scheduled pick in the second round. It is not out of the question that they trade out of round one to move down a few slots to land Brown either. I think he has the makings of a solid future NFL corner. The other corner prospects like Johnny Patrick, Curtis Marsh, Buster Skrine and Cortez Allen will likely start coming off the board from round 3 on. It would also not surprise me if more than one was drafted in the first 5 rounds either. Just throwing that out there.
With a handful nose tackles on the list it seems like the Steelers will at some point draft a guy they think and hope might be the heir apparent to Casey Hampton. Phil Taylor likely will come off the board some time in round 1, but he could easily slip to the early portion of round 2 without a surprise. Kenrick Ellis and Frank Kearse have certainly gotten the Steelers attention by several accounts and if the report of Anthony Gray visiting is true, you can certainly summize a mid to later round pick will be used for that position. Although Zach Clayton is listed as a defensive tackle, some think he could convert to a 5 technique defensive end in a 3-4. Clayton will likely be a round 7 or undrafted free agent possibilty.
Next up is wide receiver. As I mentioned in my receiver post a few days back, I think it is a near lock that they draft one around round 4 or later. Even though Jonathan Baldwin visited as a local player, I just can\’t see the Steelers spending an early pick on the position. Austin Pettis is more of a possesion type guy, while Denarius Moore can stretch the field. I suspect one or two more receivers might also make visits.
With 4 tackles already visiting the South Side, it looks like a strong possibility that one will be chosen in the earlier rounds. Marcus Gilbert played with Maurkice Pouncey at Florida, while James Carpenter Jr. and Jarriel King are also proven SEC tackles. I suspect at least one more tackle will visit prior to the draft, but it is looking good for at least one to be drafted from that position and likely by round 4.
You see a few running backs sprinkled on the list as Dion Lewis, Taiwan Jones and Da\’rel Scott should all have made their visits over the next few weeks. The Steelers could use another back to help push Jonathan Dwyer and that back could be a late round selection destined for the practice squad. I can\’t see one being drafted though until the 4th round or later in reality. It just doesn\’t make sense to.
The Steelers love drafting linebackers so it is no surprise that Mario Harvey was brought in. Harvey also can play special teams and I would be surprised if at least one linebacker was not drafted later this month. Some scouts say defensive end Greg Romeus, from next door at Pitt, could be transitioned into a 3-4 outside linebacker as well. I suspect you will see another linebacker name surface on the visitor list very soon in addition to these two players.
Although interior lineman Rodney Hudson visited, I think the Steelers will wait until later in the draft to select a guard and they very well might not draft one at all unless by some miracle Mike Pouncey falls. The guard class this year is just not very deep in my opinion and the Steelers will likely just decide to stand pat with what is on the roster already and add another undrafted guard when and if the labor situation is settled. They also could kick the tires on a low profile unrestricted free agent as well by camp time.
By this time next week, we ought to have a near complete list of the 30 non-local players the Steelers are allowed to have visit prior to the draft. Last season the Steelers drafted 3 players that were 2010 pre draft visitors and in 2009 they drafted 4 that made trips to Pittsburgh prior to the draft. So keep a good eye out, because you can bet that a few players on this list are almost certain to be Steelers in a few more weeks.