Forecasting The Steelers 2012 First Round Pick

By Jeremy Hritz

It’s never too early to talk about the NFL Draft, and it’ never to early to speculate about the direction that the Pittsburgh Steelers will go in the first round. While the needs on the offensive line are well known, there are some other positions that need to be considered with the 24th overall pick.

The pundits have wasted no time in showcasing their 2012 Mock Drafts on espn.com and nfl.com. In looking at those projections, the following seven players have surfaced:

  • Safety, Mark Barron from Alabama
  • Defensive End/Tackle, Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State
  • Guard, Cordy Glenn from Georgia
  • Cornerback, Janoris Jenkins from North Alabama
  • Cornerback, Chase Minnifield from Virginia
  • Tackle, Kelechi Osemeli from Iowa State
  • Nose Tackle, Dontari Poe from Memphis

Upon examining this list, and when considering the 2011 Steelers season and the challenges presented by the salary cap, certain players will not hear their name called by Roger Goodell when the Steelers make their first round pick.

Based on the potential that Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown demonstrated this year, plus the consistent and solid play of Ike Taylor (sans the Denver debacle), it does not seem likely that the Steelers will go after a cornerback, at least not in the first round, so we can forecast that neither Chase Minnifield form Virginia or Janoris Jenkins from North Alabama will be selected.

While safety will be a need in one or two more years, selecting one in this year’s draft would be done solely to begin the grooming process for whenever Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu either step down or regress to a point where there skills are not longer effective. Drafting safety Mark Barron from Alabama is a possibility in the first round, but not a highly likely one as safety is not an immediate need. Safety is an area the Steelers will probably address after the third round.

There is no question that the greatest need for the Steelers this year is on the offensive line. The questions is, will the offensive lineman that are available when they make their first round selection have the potential to step in immediately and contribute? While it is extremely early, Mel Kiper has Cordy Glenn ranked as the # 2 guard prospect in the draft, while Kelechi Osemeli is ranked as the # 5 best tackle. Both of these players could be available when the Steelers pick at number 24, and could possibly even fall into the second round.

The name that is being linked the most to the Steelers in the first round is nose tackle Dontari Poe from Memphis. Kiper has projected the massive 6’5, 345 pound beast as the Steelers’ pick, being that he is a perfect fit in the middle of a 3-4 defense. Fletcher Cox is being projected as a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive end. Unless the Steelers are not convinced by Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood, they will most likely not draft Cox unless they believe that he can play nose tackle, which he is not ideally suited to do at a light 295 pounds.

Considering the recent ACL injury, surgery, age, and salary cap number of Casey Hampton, the best move forward, if the Steelers’ organization believes that Poe could step in immediately and play, would be to draft him in the first round. This would insert an enormous body in the middle to free up Lawrence Timmons and whoever lines up beside him next year to stop the run. This would also be the final puzzle piece in completing what would be a young defensive line that could develop together over the next ten plus years. The other benefit of this move would be that it would make Hampton expendable and free up some cap space, which the Steelers are in desperate need of. And based on the success that the Steelers had in last year’s draft by picking Marcus Gilbert in the second round, the Steelers could again address the offensive line there, and again in the third round if believed to be necessary.

Poe could be wearing the black and gold next year, unless he is taken before the Steelers make their pick. If he does make an early exit, then the pick will be an offensive lineman, possibly Glenn or Osemeli. As we move closer to the beginning of free agency on Tuesday, March 13th, and closer to the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, April 26, the direction that the Steelers will go with their first pick will become clearer. Steeler Nation can’t wait.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1272226149 Chris Steed

    Another name I’ve heard in the mix a lot by the “experts” was ILB Dont’a Hightower.

  • Mtulenko

    vontaze burfict… nuff said!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Intropy

    My SWAG for the moment is Cordy Glenn. Having gone with a couple of first round defensive linemen I think the likelihood of them picking another in round one is diminished. But if he’s the best player available I wouldn’t discount the possibility of Poe being taken. I’ll throw out a bonus guess that in round two they pick up Alameda Ta’amu to fill that particular need.

  • SteelersDepot

    Glenn was not impressive today IMHO. Not 1st round good. Ta’amu helped his stock today for sure.

  • Dave

    There’s a decent chance that Hampton, Farrior, Foote, and Kemoeatu could all be cap cuts in March….They almost HAVE to go NT, O-line, or ILB at pick 24…it could just come down to the BPA available among Poe, Cordy Glenn, Hightower.

  • Intropy

    Oops. I completely forgot that game was today. Oh well, my DVR remembered.

  • Steeler_dave

    Burfict looked great last year… this year totally exposed as fat and lazy. Didn’t even make Pac-12 honorable mention this year. Add that to his attitude/personal foul issues, and you have a complete bust (from Arizona)

  • Kingtut499

    New OC New LG. then NT and ILB.

  • OTR

    I think Poe will be the pick, as you say, with a guard in second round and ILB in 3rd. Only possible change up might be if Vontaze Burfict shines in Indy and looks too good to pass up. They might be able to get Ta’amu in 2nd round. I would still go with Poe.

  • matt searls

    In your next article.about the draft will you examine fonts hightower. Most drafts.ive seen have the steelers taking him

  • Steeler_dave

    The day we draft Burfict is the day we become the Browns. He’s a cross between TO and Ryan Leaf.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Up until the Hampton ACL I was thinking ILB this year, but at the moment, I think we need a NT. I like McLendon, but I want a difference maker at NT if possible. Poe I think could be that guy.

  • John21

    I don’t see us making a legit SB run w/our O-Line. We need serious help. Rnd 1 should be Adams OT, Osemele OT or Glenn OG. (Then NT in Rnd 2 or 3 depeneding on value/fit) If we take Poe in Rnd 1 -I’m OK with that. After that look at OT prospects – Ryan Miller and Nate Potter are solid prospects (also like Matt McCants OT 6 6 295). We WILL need an ILB-really like Cole 6 4 248 – not as flashy as Vontaze but a solid everydown player. Has anyone looked at Safeties-available after Rnd 3? FS – Markelle Martin 6 1 203 4.4- he may go early; George Iloka 6 3 218 4.5 (Beast!) or later Tysyn Hartmann 6 3 208 4.6′
    Hightower will be gone by 24. Burfict is way too high risk for a Steeler #1. (Ravens??)
    Important draft for us- we need starters and future starters.

  • James Kling

    I’ll take a couple of Bama guys R1-2: Dont’a Hightower and Josh Chapman…

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jimdesantis Jim DeSantis

    We really need two picks in the first round this year. One for O-Line & the other to replace Hampton. Is there any buzz (or reality) to the Mike Wallace rumor? (Talking about the rumor that he will be shopped around and a team will be looking to give a first rounder in his place)

    Probably not.

  • Grw1960

    I tend to agree with dave for now as far as NT, OL or LB goes. The Steelers have needs at those positions and others, but the Steelers always ” seem to go BPA in the first round

  • Jb

    I agree the Steelers will go nose-tackle in the first round, if the correct one is still available. The team is weak at the offensive guard spots, but Pittsburgh is now also weak up the middle defensively… nose-tackle, middle linebacker & safety (mostly because of age).

    Whether, as fans, we like it or not I think the team believes they can still get away with covering up the weaknesses at the guard and safety positions. That leaves middle-linebacker and nose-tackle. Right now, at the 24th spot nose-tackle is most likely the best fit… again, if their favorite choice is still available. Otherwise, if you take the Steelers at their word that they tend to go with best player available in the first round, it currently seems a guard would be their next choice… mostly because I don’t see a great middle-linebacker left at 24.

    I do believe both lines should be the priority for Pittsburgh. The Giants have shown, time and again, that a strong defensive line can cover a multitude of sins behind them. The Giants current defensive backfield is no better than ours was in 2010′, but they seem better mererly because their defensive line causes so much turmoil. So, Pittsburgh, go for linemen on both side of the ball and maybe you will get lucky and still pick up some good players in the later rounds at middle-linebacker, tight-end, or full-back.

  • Scott_McQ

    I’d have to disagree that OLine is the “greatest” need – Gilbert/Legs-or-whomever/Pounce/Foster/Colon are the likely starters. A stud LG would be nice, don’t get me wrong, but the focus is elsewhere. Lineman currently on the roster, and possibly 1-2 draft picks (rds 3-5) will fill the backup/reserve roles, unless someone unexpectedly falls in the 1st/2nd.
    As you assess and JB points out, the middle of the defense is the area of greatest need. With Snack’s 2nd ACL surgery (at least 6mo recovery, IF he can get back in shape), and Hoke’s retirement, there are ZERO run stoppers at NT on the roster. McC looked ok, but also didn’t command any double teams, which didn’t allow the backers to cut through the gaps, in rushing or passing situations. Not drafting a replacement for Snack over the past few years may come back to bite them now. Even a 1st rd pick will need a year or two of grooming before they could take over full time. Even Hampton (#19 overall in 2001) did not start full time until his second season.
    Also, Farrior really wore down last season, perhaps finally, truly showing his age. He struggled getting pressure on the QB on passing downs, and typically got lost in the shuffle and/or couldn’t shed blocks in the run game. I won’t even mention his pass coverage abilities…
    The lack of pass rush contributed to the lack of defensive “splash plays” and turnovers, so despite the #1 overall ranking, this past year was NOT the typical year for the defense. In fact, if not for the improved play at CB (outside of the Denver and Ratbirds games), the year could’ve been much worse overall.

  • Skbrons

    Dontari Poe is very raw and the tape shows it. His size and strenght are very impressive but his play is not Steeler first round material. Poe doesn’t dominate the line or even stand out like a first rounder should playing for a smaller school. We all know the Steelers dont miss on the first round, our worst first round pick in ten years is Mendenhall. Not Bad. Steelers dont miss on first for several reasons, one of them being not taking bigger chances than they need to.
    Lets stick to real first round material:

    1.David Decastro- If you think Im dreaming and he will never fall, you have a short memory -Cameron Heyward-

    2.Luke Kuechly- Solid player all around, great tackler, leader, imagine him next to Timmons.

    3.Dre Kirkparick- The past few years we have been wanting a first round corner and missed on it because of our late round seat.

    4.Peter Konz- wont it be great to plug him in as a guard and have him as our back up center. Yes it would.

    5.Kevin Zeitler- Is not a 24th overall pick. How about trading back, get him late first and now we have more picks.

  • Paul

    Poe stinks no way the 24th pick, late second would be abou the highest he will go Didn’t make all conference in a very very weak league

  • SteelerElder39

    I’m very comfortable with Dontari Poe as our #1 pick. I can hear Baltimore right now: Hey Poe, don’t go to Pittsburgh, Man, quoth the Ravens evermore!!!

    We also need a true full-back to get us in the end zone, inside the five yard line….

    Ben, when you and Bruce get back from the Pro Bowl, he will still be your neighbor (unless he re-locates), but now he will be your opponent.

  • Steeltyke

    Steelers will not draft Poe in Round 1. They will not go with a rookie and inexperienced McClendon at NT. They will bring back Casey at a reduced price and draft a NT in a later round to develop.

    On the Oline, unless a top quality tackle falls to 24, the target will be an OG. Decastro is likely gone so it will be either Glenn or switching Konz from C to G or Osemele from T to G. Given Konz has had injury problems in each of his last 3 seasons and he is from Wisconsin (remember Kraig Urbik anyone?) he might well not be on the board.

    The other possible area to keep in mind is ILB. The middle of the D is looking old. Kuechley will likely be gone but Hightower is a distinct possibility.

    A final round 1 flier. CB Janoris Jenkins. He was kicked off the Florida squad and had to play his senior year at North Alabama. He has been no trouble this past year and says he has given up smoking weed. If the Steelers were satisfied he has straightened himself out and he fell to 24 because of his past problems they would not pass up a cornerback who is considered a top ten pick on talent alone, despite having Lewis, Allen and Brown. They would use the great Steelers locker room attitude to help keep him on the straight and narrow the same as the Ravens have used Lewis and Reed to watch over the previously troubled Jimmy Smith, their round 1 pick last year.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ESU2VFZHEUTQEPJ7AWSN7ODBPQ Emac2

    Guard or bust in the first round. No way I pass on a good guard for a good NT. If we go into the second round hoping to get a guard that can help we’ll end up with more of the same. in terms of line play and QB hits.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ESU2VFZHEUTQEPJ7AWSN7ODBPQ Emac2

    I think we are pretty likely to lose Wallace. I could easily see a team looking at him as a final piece and deciding he could help them far more then anyone they get in the first round (while still being young enough to be worthy of a rebuilding effort BTW)