Steelers 2012 Pre Draft Analysis

By Christopher DiMarino

It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a very important draft ahead of them on April 22nd. I will take it a step further and insist that this draft could impact their success not only in 2012, but likely 2013. With the condition of Pittsburgh’s current roster salary, this draft could be important to the team’s cap stability if they can draft players who are able to step in and start. It has been speculated that Pittsburgh will let many of their veterans test the free agency market in an effort to save cap this upcoming season. What accompanies this is the possibility (by injury or subpar talent) that Pittsburgh may need to sign some free agents late into preseason (much like in 2011 with Willie Colon’s injury) if they mishandle this draft. So drafting intelligently could push Pittsburgh from a cap disaster to Super Bowl implications.

The draft needs for Pittsburgh are multi layered. I believe that this year they need a Guard and Nose Tackle. They also need a Safety and Inside Linebacker to add depth and step in a few years. I always feel that pressing needs should be addressed, and secondary pieces can be attended when they are needed (which is why I would make a terrible GM). But with the likelihood of a cap expansion next year it is entirely believable that Pittsburgh could combine the 2013 Free Agency with the 2013 Draft to fill the gaps that arise. That leaves Pittsburgh’s most pressing 2012 draft focus on NT and OG. I will review those 2 positions and what possible players could be donning the black and gold come September.

I feel that it’s safe to assume unless elite talent at the aforementioned Safety and Inside Linebacker drops to Pittsburgh’s 24th drafting spot, that they will choose a Guard and Nose Tackle with their first 2 picks. However there may be a possibility of a fit in the 3rd round that can compete in August. I will review the talent at each of those positions, in an effort to narrow down the names on your radars so we can dig deeper into some of these young stars.

Offensive Guard:

Name

Proj Rank

School

Class

Height

Weight

Proj Rnd

David DeCastro

9

Stanford

rJr

6-5

316

1

Cordy Glenn

23

Georgia

Sr

6-5

345

1-2

Brandon Washington

40

Miami (Fla.)

Jr

6-3

320

2

Kelechi Osemele

44

Iowa State

rSr

6-6

333

2

Kevin Zeitler

56

Wisconsin

Sr

6-4

314

2

Amini Silatolu

70

Midwestern State

Sr

6-4

311

2-3

Senio Kelemete

78

Washington

Sr

6-4

307

2-3

Brandon Brooks

103

Miami (Ohio)

rSr

6-5

353

3

Offensive guard is a sensitive position to draft. These players can often take time to earn the coach’s trust and stay in the starting lineup, let alone the 53 man roster. Even though I live and breathe defense, I think that Pittsburgh has a greater need at Offensive Guard this draft. That being said, the only way that I can imagine that Pittsburgh doesn’t draft a Guard with their first round pick, is if they opt for Dontari Poe (see Defensive Tackle section).

David DeCastro is a very tempting talent. He has a very good college resume, and combines size, strength and agility very well. He is, however, highly unlikely to drop to Pittsburgh at spot 24. Cordy Glenn is projected to be drafted right around this spot, and is the top candidate if Pittsburgh chooses to draft a Guard with their first rounder. If they wait until the second round, they could run into problems. Kelechi Osemele is projected, like DeCastro to go around 10 picks before Pittsburgh drafts. If he is gone as projected, then Pittsburgh may be able to get Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler looks capable and the Steelers had luck this past year drafting an Offensive Lineman in the second round named Marcus Gilbert as he started most of the season. However, Pittsburgh may find themselves hand cuffed as an athletic talent like Osemele could impress at the combine and land near the first round, leaving Pittsburgh with Zeitler as their only option.

I believe that DeCastro, Glenn and Zeitler would be great fits for the Steelers and could contribute next season. Osemele may not be NFL ready, and that may discourage Pittsburgh, but he could also be a dominant Guard when he develops. When more is learned from the NFL combine, this decision may become easier.

Defensive Tackle:

Name

Proj Rank

School

Class

Height

Weight

Proj Rnd

Michael Brockers

8

LSU

rSo

6-6

322

1

Devon Still

10

Penn State

rSr

6-5

303

1

Fletcher Cox

21

Mississippi State

Jr

6-4

298

1

Jerel Worthy

24

Michigan State

rJr

6-2

308

1-2

Dontari Poe

27

Memphis

rJr

6-4

346

1-2

Brandon Thompson

32

Clemson

Sr

6-2

314

1-2

Kendall Reyes

41

Connecticut

rSr

6-4

299

2

Marcus Forston

79

Miami (Fla.)

rJr

6-1

301

2-3

DaJohn Harris

81

Southern Cali

rSr

6-3

306

2-3

Mike Martin

96

Michigan

Sr

6-1

306

3

Alameda Ta\’amu

104

Washington

Sr

6-3

348*

3

This is a slightly easier position to forecast because Pittsburgh would be looking for a 3-4 Nose Tackle. For those not familiar, this player is typically very large (like Casey Hampton), and very strong. You want this guy to seem immovable to opposing guards. He will constantly shoot gaps and take double teams so one of the many linebackers can make the play. Personally, I would want this player to weigh upwards of 325lbs. Also, you want to make sure that this player is an athlete, because at this weight it is easy for the player to relax one off season and balloon up in weight and lose their mobility and their motor.

I would really only consider Poe and Alameda Ta’amu players in this group that fit the mold. I hate to oversimplify this study because the Steelers could draft a player and plan to groom him, but with Hampton likely to miss some time early and likely need to share time after that, a solid, NFL ready solution is needed. Pre combine, this is looking very favorable for the Steelers. If they feel like drafting a NT in the first round, Poe should be around, or if they decided to wait, they should be able to get Ta’amu with their 3rd. However, Poe has very limited film sitting around for too many analysts to seriously consider Pittsburgh drafting a guy with question marks in the first round.

Outside the Box Thinking:

I’ve always been known for my outside the box thinking, and if I lace up my GM sneakers, on draft weekend, this is what I would do.

  • Trade up to get DeCastro. If a king’s ransom is necessary, than it may not be worth it, but I can Pittsburgh dishing their 1st (pick 24), their 2nd (pick 56) and if necessary maybe a 4th or 5th to move up about 10 spots to get the Stanford standout.
  • With their 3rd round pick leftover, pick up Ta\’amu

If they pull both these moves off, they would have gotten what are likely 2 players who have the athletic ability and maturity to contribute and even start when the season starts. They can focus the remainder of the draft on solidifying depth at key positions like Running Back, and will enter next year’s draft with Inside Linebacker and Safety as their key focus.

Next Steps:

I will continue this analysis as the NFL Combine results start rolling in, and follow if any buzz is generated around any key players listed in this article. I will also start getting into a more in depth analysis of each of the players that I consider to be strong draft possibilities. Let’s keep in mind that even after the Combine, players still have their pro days and various interviews to increase their stock.

Citations:

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2012/DT

* Ta’amu’s weight was changed from 248 to 348 (typo by cbssports)

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2012/OG

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NXON22FQSDCCSA2WHZIRTHQWTU Greig

    Poe has the same amount of film available, as anyone else. Teams tape their games, and those tapes are made available to any NFL team that requests them. Ta’amu isn’t even in the same conversation as Poe.

  • Steelshinin

    NO way to trading up. I think the Steelers should stay put and get either Poe or whatever top guard fall in the first round. Then grab a ILB in the second round if they get Poe, and if not draft Ta’amu in the second and an ILB in the third. Too many team play a 3-4 now for Ta’amu to last until the third. If the Steelers are smart they will hang onto Larry Foote and let Farrior go. The Steelers have been far too sentimental lately. They gotta start makin the hard cuts. Foote would buy them a year or two to groom another linebacker and Timmons is still there next to him. You don’t have that kind of time behind Casey Hampton or whatever bandaid guard they roll out next. Those two postions need to start damn near right away.

  • Grw1960

    Zeitler is at worst the number 3 or 4 OG in this draft depending on how you see Glenn. Hope fully there will be a run on corners or something and Zeitler falls to the Steelers in the 2nd round.
    To some Glenn is a RT only. Especially since he showed less than steller lateral movement at the combine.
    Some team will fall in love with what Poe did at the combine and draft him before he falls to the Steelers at 24.
    I hope I am wrong. I would like to see Poe fall to 24, Here is hoping 2 or 3 teams reach for players, like last years draft.
    Unless the Steelers trade up. Right now it is looking like Hightower at 24 to me.

  • SteelersDepot

    I think Chris meant for the average guy trying to research him. Even I have had problems getting a full game to break down on Poe. Of course the coaches & the big boys have access to it.

  • SteelersDepot

    I was on 970 ESPN this morning & told my podcast co-host David Todd that I am still struggling with Glenn being a first round talent. He is a classic tweener in my eyes & stiff. Looks more like a right tackle to me and I have a hard time drafting a right tackle in round 1.The more I watch of him, the more I find the flaws. I found another full game this past week that I am going to watch and see if it changes my opinion of him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.whitejr Richard Lamar White Jr

    I don’t think they are going to go guard in the first round. Just a few weeks ago it was either Colbert or Rooney that made a statement something along the lines of its not smart business to try to have an entire offensive line that was drafted in the first round. You mentioned waiting for Poe at 24 or trading up to draft a guard, but what about the possibility of trading up to get Poe if they get the feeling that other teams ahead of them are thinking about drafting him? I think we are going to end up with either Barron or Hightower at this spot though.

  • Skbrons

    The ESPN app on Xbox work great for me. Put in the School you are interested in and ESPN televised games show up. I’ve seen three Memphis games on there. Poe might be strong and fast, but the tape does not impress me. A Steelers 24th overall is to much risk.

  • SteelersDepot

    Yeah, have seen the one game on ESPN 3 archives against Middle Tennessee

  • Skbrons

    They must have removed the other two. What did you think of Poe after the one game? The Middle Tennessee game was his best game of the three I saw BTW.

  • Intropy

    Of the players I think have a reasonable chance of falling to 24, I like:
    1. Cordy Glenn
    2. Dont’a Hightower
    3. Dontari Poe
    4. Janoris Jenkins
    5. Mark Barron
    6. Dre Kirkpatrick
    7. Peter Konz

    However, if your estimate that Alameda Ta’amu will be available to the end of round 3 looks accurate, I absolutely pick him up there and skip Poe in round 1 as a result.

  • Eric87

    Alot of people saying Steelers should go with Barron, why? Polamalu,Clark, prob bringing back Mundy as the 3rd guy. After that still have vet Will Allen(for now), and youngsters Myron Rolle and Da’mon Cromartie-Smith. No immediate need at safety position imo

  • Ron Jammes

    Poe Poe Poe gimme a break, he has short arms and has no production for such a large man playing against crap competition. The guy from Washington in the second would be better.

    He at least played against good players.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NXON22FQSDCCSA2WHZIRTHQWTU Greig

    I was thinking the same thing. Colbert recently stated the NT position is a “special part of” the Steelers defense. If they think that Poe has the potential to become an elite 34 NT, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them trade up, if they don’t think he will make it to 24. The Steelers need an elite player manning the NT position. Poe has the athleticism to be a 3 down player, something that is very rare for a 34 NT.

  • Twokvin

    If we lose Wallace to either the Patriots or the 49ers, that would give us 2 first round picks with a draft value to move up to the 9/10 spot, which would put David DeCastro in reach. As for Poe, he likely moved up 10 spots based on his combine performance, so he won’t be there if we stay at 24.

  • PoKey21

    I have been saying all along if Decastro drops to the Jets we will trade up to their spot for him. We have a history of trade moves with the Jets I think that would be the best bet. Decastro would have to get by the Cardinals and the Cowboys to make it to 15. Definitely possible.

  • Joe D

    Yes… Steelers have a need at OL and NT…

    However, aside from Ike Taylor… we don’t have a top notch CB… this is a passing league!! We are loaded with 3rd round CB’s that don’t cut it!!!
    Need to use 2nd round pick on a CB..

    Therefore, the order… OL, CB, NT…. who cares after that!!
    The DL already has 2-1st round picks… Heyword and Ziggy!!! Lets not get enamored with the DL when the Steelers are getting killed in the secondary.
    Next year the Steelers can address the safety position with a top round pick!

  • blount

    Interesting take. Doesn’t it seem like Glen is too slow to move.inside to G making him less worth a 1st rounder? Osemele seems like a reach at 24. Leaves one with the choice of paying to move up for decastro or waiting for Zeitler. It also seems like the Steelers very rarely spend a 1st rounder on OL, pouncey being the exception. They tend to only go OL in the 1st for a sure thing. That means no Glen, only Decastro in the first. I also find it hard to imagine them spending picks on OL. I’m guessing they take Poe if available and Zeitler in 2. If Poe is not available, might they trade down? Also, what do you suppose they do in hightower falls and Poe doesn’t?

  • Bleebo77

    Thanks for the analysis! No way Ta-amu makes it to Round 3, and I’ve seen some sites with a first round grade on him. Round Two at the very latest. And it’s a deep draft for OG, so I think they could get quality there outside of Round One. As usual, it’ll be Best Player Available for the first 3 rounds outside of a few positions. And I’d hate to see them ransom part of the draft just to move up 10 spots – I think they need 2, 3 or even 4 potential starters from this draft, not 1 superstar. That equation would be helped if they end up with an additional first round pick for Wallace. I’d love to see them emerge from the first 3 rounds with BPA picks at ILB, NT and OG (and maybe S, like if Barron drops to them in Rd. One).

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

    I think you have to list Konz as a possibility for the guard position. Given Pouncey’s ankles, I like the idea of guard/center flexibility too.

    I agree with the NT/guard preference and would trade up for the right guy but not way up and Decastro would be far too pricey. I think Glenn looks better as time goes on and my worry is that he climbs too high.

  • Thom Kay

    Poe looks great, and Ta’amu is huge, but don’t count everybody else out for NT. Kyle Williams for the Bills is great at 301 lbs and Chris Hoke was always solid at 305. I’ve read that Brandon Thompson is a tough guy to move. Not sure about others.

    Our biggest problem with trading up is that from pick 16-23, four pick belong to division rivals, and the Jets and Chargers both have similar needs. They’d both be tempted by DeCastro and Poe. We might be able to target the Titans 20th pick, but that might be it. I don’t see us doing it.

    If we can’t get somebody great, I’d love to trade down and pick up a 3rd round pick.

  • John B.

    horrible idea.
    First off “our one top notch CB” wasnt picked in the first few rounds. “3rd round cbs that dont cut it!” are you serious?? did you see Brown(a projected 2nd round guy we got in the third) and Allen play last year?? they took away alot of Bradys options. Not only that but we were best passing defense last year despite lack of turnovers.

    DL has a need. We are a 3-4 defense. you need a nose tackle that can eat up guards/centers. you ever hear the saying “the game is won in the trenches”? thats what they’re talking about. yeah we have 2 first rounders on the line in waiting. so having 3 would be better, no? How many times did rushers go over 100 yards on the Steelers last year? now look back how many have done it in the past 5 years. and you’ll see what i mean. Not to mention it adds pressure to the QB which will take pressure of that “weak secondary” you mentioned.

  • Joe D

    It’s become a passing league!!!
    That is why low rushing!!
    That is why we need top CB’s… and the games Steelers lost in 2011 was due to the pass!! If it weren’t for Troy, Steelers are done.
    Sorry, the Steeler secondary needs more help than the DL!!
    I’m not saying Steelers don’t need a NT… but I would say, they need a top CB before NT…
    It’s all about the speed baby!!

  • ed52

    I can’t believe what I’m reading here. Do I need to replay the first game of last season for you? How many sacks? I’m still stinging from that game.

    Forget NT or ILB (maybe in the later rounds). We had one of the best defenses last year and it’ll be just fine this year as well.

    Trade Wallace and our 1st round pick to the Vikings or Rams for their pick and take the best LT in the draft. Move Gilbert to RT. Pick up Gs in the rounds 2 and 3. Rounds 4 through 7 get your NTs and LBs and whatever sounds sexy.

    Priority of the draft = protect one of the best QBs in the league before its too late!

  • John B.

    Top CB?! Eagles have 3 of them..including one of the top 2 in th league…playoffs?? no.. Jets have 2 including the best CB in the league…playoffs? no….Steelers have average nonprobowlers..playoffs? yes. top pass d in the leage? yes! the teams that beat us last year were able to run on us!!! RAVENS, TEXANS, 49ers! none of those teams were passing all over us! were you even watching? and I dont wanna hear about the denver game, cause had Clark been in there, we wouldve won. and they got speed, check the times from combine last year. not only that but according to reporters Keenan Lewis is the only one that can keep up with Mike Wallace.

    flip the coin… its a passing league, right? ONE of the top 5 passers made it to the Superbowl and he lost to a shitty Secondary and a AWESOME front seven. and Green Bay met that fate as well. and they have outstanding wideouts.

    IF any secondary pick should be made in rd 1, it should be Barron for Safety..but if we dont get Poe i believe we should get a ILB cause the Guards we want wont/shouldnt be there.

    i’ll finish with this…if you dont trust Colbert by now, you shouldnt be here.

  • Nolrog

    I would not trade up, especially giving up the 2 and either a 4 or a 5 to do that (in addition to swapping 1s). This draft is very deep in guards, so we can get a very good guard in the 2nd round.

    The OLine is horribly thin. We need at least 2 players to come out of this draft. A starter high in the draft, and a project lower that we could work and develop. We desperately need a nose, there’s just Mclendon there right now. Hampton won’t be back, and likely will be cut (Steelers are quite possibly holding on to him as a smoke screen to hide the fact that it’s such a desperate need.)

    1, 2 and 3 should be G, NT (or NT, G) and then ILB. Then they could draft for depth later on.

    I do think next year we’ll be looking for a safety though.

  • Nolrog

    Or we could use those picks on Poe and Glenn and fill 2 big needs.

  • BillinDC

    Unless someone drops dramatically, I am in the camp of ILB or NT with #1 pick. We need to get better at stopping teams on first and second down and these are both big needs over the next few years for our D. I don’t think that moving Ziggy to NT is the solution and if Poe is the real deal then we are covered at a critical slot for years to come.

    Besides KC at 11, who is in need of a first round 3-4 NT that drafts before us? If KC goes another way with their pick would he drop to us? Is there a team that drafts behind us that needs Poe enough to try to move up? None jumps out at me.

    Could Worthy translate to 3-4 NT? We seem to do well with Ohio natives.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NTJHAJRCJAD4HMTSPJTCWPJA4I Joel

    The D-Linemen take O-linemen off the linebackers,and and a nose tackle is the anchor of the defensive line