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.