Steelers 1st Round Draft Analysis – Position

By Christopher DiMarino

I’ve been busy working on several in depth looks at the 2012 draft. As I continue my analysis, I always tend to check the mock drafts that are circling out there. Part of the reason I do this is to see who the Pittsburgh Steelers are projected to draft in those scenarios, and who the competitors may consider. Many of these mock drafts will be proven wrong come draft day. It’s a tough job guessing how 32 very different teams (most with several holes) will make decisions. I believe a good 50-60% of what teams will base their 1st round decisions on stem from the team interviews. This is the key of this inaccuracy since we typically don’t know how these meetings go.

The reason for this article is to act as a summary for what Pittsburgh will likely do in the first round and who may be available for that action. I’ve read some brutal recaps lately and I guess it fueled this article. I want our dedicated Steelers’ fans to have at least enough research provided to them to be able to make an educated assessment of what the Steelers may do. Firstly, I will cover which positions are of need and which I believe are the most important. A lot of this is personal opinion, but if you’ve been keeping up with the Podcasts, I believe it’s at least partially agreed on.

1)      Defensive Tackle: The biggest debate is OLine vs DLine. I think the Steelers’ identity as a defensive team (Mike Tomlin is a Defensive guy) will push the tide in this battle. With Casey Hampton’s injury, he’ll likely be on the PUP list meaning the Steelers will need a starter early on. That’s a key hole to fill. There are no current Steelers’ players that can hold that kind of responsibility for a perennial top defense. With Dontari Poe likely a top 15 pick, Fletcher Cox, Devon Still and Jerel Worthy are the top contenders for this pick.

2)      Offensive Line: This is a trouble position for the Steelers. The Steelers are always near the league lead in sacks allowed. This has a lot to do with Ben Roethlisberger’s play extending talents, and recent team injuries, but also a less talented Offensive Line. There are a lot of open positions on the OLine if you consider the possibility of Willie Colon moving to Guard down the line. I’ve investigated Guards and sadly none are projected to fall in this area. Therefore, drafting the “best player available” may result in an Offensive Tackle to add depth. Jonathan Martin, Cordy Glenn and Mike Adams are the top options.

3)      Linebacker: James Farrior’s departure creates a hole at the position. This is not an immediate need as Larry Foote has been more than capable. However, he likely will need some backup and isn’t getting younger. So while this isn’t a need for a starter in 2012, there is need to start developing and grooming a starter if Stevenson Sylvester isn’t part of the plan. Dont’a Hightower is the main linebacker prospect for pick 24. However, as Dave pointed out, there are some free agent options that could allow this 1st round pick to be used elsewhere.

4)      Defensive Back: Just like Linebacker, there isn’t a hole that a rookie would be able to fill, but there is a lot of depth required. I would say safety is a little more pressing to eventually replace Ryan Clark and help out in Big Nickel/Dime packages. With the outburst of talented Tight Ends, athletic Safeties will be at a premium. If Mark Barron is available, he’s an attractive option. As far as Corners go, if you would’ve suggested the Steelers’ would take a corner in the 1st I would’ve laughed at you. However, I really thought they’d retain William Gay. With him gone, there are a lot of questions marks. I still don’t believe the Steelers will take a corner, but if a high profile one drops and there aren’t O/DLineman that the Steelers are targeting, you never know. Count Dre Kirkpatrick as a front runner with Stephon Gilmore as a viable option.

Though my ranking may be controversial, if I were to break it down to a percent, I’d say the likelihood of each would be DL 35%, OL 30%, LB 25% and DB 10%. My personal opinion remains that it will come down to the person they are drafting, not his skills or position. As much as I rely on Xs and Os, I really respect how the Steelers’ organization values character guys. That’s why I think the chances of Janoris Jenkins becoming a Steeler are quite low. This will require further work into looking at who from each position might be available and if their overall value changes each position’s chances. I will continue this investigation and take a deeper look into what players are projected to go where in the 1st round.

  • I would add WR to the list. The Steelers have a history of taking WR’s early in the draft, and there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the position. The Steelers typically carry 5 WR’s on the active roster, which leaves then 2 short. They also have zero WR’s under contract beyond the 2012 season.

    I’m not suggesting that the Steelers will take a WR in the first round, but if history is any indication, they are much more likely to take a WR, than a DB, in the first round. Also, DB is one of the deeper positions on the Steelers roster, versus WR, where the team is one injury away from being in a real crisis.

  • Broderick Wallace

    Steelers moved away from drafting WR’s in the first round, see below. Every year WR class is pretty deep and value can be found later in the draft.

    Wallace – 3rd round
    Sanders – 3rd round
    A. Brown – 6th round

  • If you only look at the past three years, then yes. Three years isn’t enough time to indicate a trend, especially when you consider the number of WR’s that they have taken in the first round.

    More to the point, DB was listed as one of the positions that the Steelers might look to, in the first round of the draft. Considering that over the past 15 years, the Steelers have only selected 1 DB in the first round, compared to 3 WR’s over the same time period, it is much more likely that the Steelers use the first pick on a WR.

  • Tanner

    If the steelers could give up a 7th pick for Larry Grant or get David Hawthorne for a good price. Then trade a 4th or 5th pick for Rodgers-Cromartie. We can then get Jonathan Martin in the first. Kelechi Osemele in the second. And Alameda Ta’Amu in the third

  • Pete

    WR and CB are not pressing needs as far as 1st round picks are concerned. I agree with Broderick that most likely they’ll take a WR in the later rounds.

  • Bleebo77

    Thanks for the analysis! Mock drafts are fun, but projecting this way makes more sense. My worry is that at 1.24, everyone of value at need areas will be off the board. I don’t see the top offensive linemen (Adams, Martin, Glenn, DeCastro) or Mark Barron being available. If the Steelers aren’t sold on Hightower and Keuchly is gone, it’s hard for me to get excited about anyone else (maybe Jenkins from a skill point of view, but he has baggage). Cox or Still could add depth but don’t really fill needs, and this seems high for Worthy (although not sure how the Steelers feel about him). Maybe then you take a CB (Gilmore, Kirkpatrick, Jenkins?), but that seems to me a luxury pick when they have some areas of obvious need (OT, OG, ILB, NT, S). It’s easy to hope they could trade down, but who’s moving to 1.24 and for what player? I wish they picked 5 spots higher – I think they’d have some real O-line choices.

  • WR is absolutely a need. The Steelers have zero WR’s under contract beyond this year. They always carry 5 WR’s on the active roster, but only have three under contract.

  • Hampdenrocks

    Great work Chris. love the analysis.

    Basically, i agree that the Steelers will take the best player available in the first round.

  • chris dimarino

    I think what Greig is trying to say is that WR is a position of need regarding depth rather than skill. Though Sanders and Brown seem likely to resign, if a WR that impresses the Steelers is available they may consider it. The only issue I see with that is getting everyone their touches. I think they will grab at least one WR with the compensatory picks in the 7th and maybe invite some UFAs to camp.