After hours of even more tape watching and researching more on the pro days, my latest Pittsburgh Steelers mock draft version 4.0 is now complete. I have battled back and forth with myself, as I do with every mock draft, on the first 4 rounds. Who will drop where is always the toughest question to answer. One position I was not able to fit in this go around was running back. I am not totally sold the Steelers will take one in the first four rounds, but I am also not ready to rule it out from happening either. My first round pick will draw the most ire once again as it goes against the grain of much of what is out there. As far as the Steelers drafting a tackle or a guard in the first round, I just do not see it unless extreme value drops in the form of a top three tackle, or the top guard, David DeCastro. General Manager Kevin Colbert has not drafted a tackle in the first round since coming to the Steelers in 2000. Mississippi tackle Bobbie Massie, has made a huge jump up the boards over the last few weeks, but I am still not ready to put him in round 1. I also do not think he will to the Steelers in round 2. This of course will not be my last mock draft and I might try to fit in one more prior to my final one. The last round of pre draft visits could sway may final mock, as only one of my top four picks have visited so far. If you remember my final mock draft last year, visits play heavily into selections.
2012 Steelers Mock Draft Version 4.0
Round 1 – Pick 24 – Coby Fleener – TE – Stanford - I am sticking to my guns right now with Fleener. When you look at the history of Colbert drafts, he can\’t turn down value even if it is not a primary need. The majority consensus here is obviously Alabama linebacker Dont\’a Hightower, but the risk versus the reward is just too great in my opinion as he just doesn\’t offer very much upside. The Steelers also have not drafted a true inside linebacker in the first round in the Super Bowl era. I have a feeling that the Steelers have not given up completely on Stevenson Sylvester and they will get insurance later in the draft. No other guard or tackle that will likely be on the board at 24 deserve a first round grade in my opinion. As far as tackle goes, Colbert has not drafted one of those in the first round either since he took over in Pittsburgh. Fleener can still grow into his frame and I believe can become a more rounded tight end in the blocking department. His ability to line up all over the field is a plus and he can create match up problems with defenses. He has a knack for the endzone in addition and is a big target. In addition, he could play wide receiver in a pinch. As I pointed out recently, top tight ends in the draft are safe picks and it never hurts to have a solid pass catcher backing up Heath Miller, who will turn 30 years of age this season. Fleener could contribute instantly in his rookie season and that is a plus and he could spell the workhorse Miller a few plays a game.
Players considered: OLB Nick Perry – USC, S Mark Barron – Alabama, T Bobbie Massie – Mississippi, G Kevin Zeitler – Wisconsin, ILB Dont\’a Hightower – Alabama, G/T Cordy Glenn – Georgia, T Jonathan Martin – Stanford
Round 2 – Pick 56 – Brandon Brooks – G – Miami (Ohio) - Will he or will he not last to round three? That is the biggest question. A little side note here. The last player to not receive an invite to the combine that was drafted in the first two rounds was Oakland Raiders safety Mike Mitchell in 2009. The interest the Steelers have in Brooks is obvious as they were front and center for his pro day and he has already made his pre draft visit. Brooks projects of course as a guard at the next level, but can play right tackle in a pinch. The Steelers love versatility from their linemen and this pick would be killing two birds with one stone. Should something happen to Willie Colon this year, the Steelers can sign back Max Starks or insert Brooks in at right tackle. Brooks started 41-of-45 games he played in for the Redhawks – 15 at left guard, 14 at left tackle and 12 at right guard. Brooks recorded 10 touchdown-resulting blocks for a ground game that found the end zone only 11 times and also produced a career-high 90 knockdowns. He did not allow a quarterback sack last year as well.
Players considered: G Amini Silatolu – Midwestern State, ILB Mychal Kendricks – California, S Harrison Smith – Notre Dame, ILB Bobby Wagner – Utah State, T Bobbie Massie – Mississippi, RB Isaiah Pead – Cincinnati, T Jonathan Martin – Stanford
Round 3 – Pick 86 – Josh Chapman – NT – Alabama – It is no secret the Steelers need a nose tackle and the 3rd round is a great spot to grab either Chapman or Mike Martin from Michigan. I truly think this could go either way here, but would prefer Chapman of the two. He is a monster playing the 0 or the 1 and he should be recovered from his knee surgery to contribute at some point should the need arise. Even if he were 100% by the start of the season, defensive line coach John Mitchell will take his time breaking him down and putting him back together. Chapman will not impress you if you look at him from a stat perspective, much like Casey Hampton, but he can clog up the middle of the line and easily anchor to take on two blockers so that linebackers can get the job done. He also is not known for sacking the quarterback, but he can push the pocket like a good 3-4 nose tackle should. He lives in the weight room and his play on tape shows it as he has raw, unmatched strength. Chapman is easily a second round talent that present tremendous value in the late part of round three and that is right about were he is expected to go. As I said earlier, if it is not him here, it will likely be Martin if they go nose tackle here.
Players considered: DT Mike Martin – Michigan, RB Isaiah Pead – Cincinnati, ILB Mychal Kendricks – California, T Mitchell Swartz – California, G Brandon Washington – Miami, DE Derek Wolfe – Cincinnati
Round 4 – Pick 119 – James-Michael Johnson – ILB Nevada - Johnson has been in and out of my mocks and I keep coming back to him. As I mentioned in the Fleener pick, I do not think the inside linebacker position is as much of a priority to the Steelers as it is to the fan base. Sylvester will be given every shot in his 3rd season to unseat Larry Foote. This is his jump year and I believe the lockout hurt his progress last offseason. Johnson offers up great measurables and tape as a prospect that could be groomed for the BUCK role. He is a high character guy and was a team leader at Nevada. Johnson started 43 consecutive games while at Nevada, appearing in a total of 54 with 50 starts. 23 of those 50 were at strong-side outside linebacker and the other 27 were at middle linebacker. He will have to learn the nuances of the 3-4 defense. His straight line speed is a tick slower than that of Hightower, but his agility times and hip turn ability are better. He is not as violent as Hightower in the hole, but he can improve his technique to make up for that. His explosion rate is right there with that of Hightower as well.
Players considered: S Trenton Robinson – Michigan State, RB Ronnie Hillman – San Diego State, RB Robert Turbin – Utah State, OLB Cameron Johnson – Virginia, WR Marvin McNutt – Iowa
Round 5 – Pick 159 – Aaron Henry – FS – Wisconsin - While Trenton Robinson from Michigan State would be the ultimate prize here in this round, I doubt he can fall this far. Never say never though. Henry would be a good consolation prize in opinion. He is a converted cornerback that was not invited to the NFL combine this February. He plays centerfield well and tracks the ball well in flight. He is a tad undersized at 5116, but makes up for it with his leaping ability. Not blazing fast, but is swift with his change of direction and hip flips. He breaks quick on the ball and is not afraid to hit. The Steelers were present at the Wisconsin pro day.
Round 6 – 193 – Tommy Streeter – WR Miami - We know the Steelers had a large contingent at the Miami pro day and it included offensive coordinator Todd Haley and wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery. Was Streeter, a six foot burner, one of the many Hurricane receivers they had an eye on? We don\’t know for sure, but the Steelers figure to draft a wide receiver at some point in this draft and as I mentioned, Streeter is tall and fast. It is not out of the question that he could still be on the board in round 6. The knock on him is that he may be considered a one-year wonder and he struggles at times getting off the line.
Round 7 – Pick 231 – Keith Tandy CB – West Virginia - Mike Tomlin has a good grasp of the WVU program and Tandy was a player that the Steelers met with at the combine and have had in for a pre draft visit. He is an ideal zone coverage type corner that is not afraid to tackle.
Round 7 – Pick 240 – Levy Adcock – T – Oklahoma State – The Steelers were present at the OSU pro day and Adcock could be a good prospect to be a swing tackle after playing on both the left and right side. He anchors well, but is stiff and very tight looking. Not very good out in space, but he does show good balance. Likely best suited to play on the right side at the next level. His size and core strength may allow him to kick inside as well should the need arise. Definitely a project.
Round 7 – Pick 246 – Ryan Van Bergen – DE – Michigan - Van Bergen projects as a classic 5 technique defensive end at the next level. He had great numbers at his pro day that included a sub 5.00 40 time and 31 reps on the bench. Tomlin reportedly showed great interest in him at the pro day according to Van Bergen himself.
Round 7 – Pick 248 – Jerrell Harris – LB – Alabama - Harris is also another player that has made a pre draft visit and he played both inside and outside in the 3-4 defense at Alabama. He projects as an inside linebacker at the next level and can contribute on special teams.