Without a doubt, the Pittsburgh Steelers have several needs that will require filling in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft, but one position that you haven\’t heard talked about much this offseason is the defensive spot.
Veteran Brett Keisel is entering the final year of contract, which in all likelihoods will be the last of his career. Whether or not he will be will be the starter again on the right side is yet to be determined, but it would not be surprising if he is.
On the other side sits Ziggy Hood, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. 2013 is a big year for Hood as he needs to show that he is the future at the left defensive end spot. While he has made slight improvements over the course of the last few seasons, nobody is confusing him with yet with his predecessor Aaron Smith.
2011 first-round draft pick Cameron Heyward should see a lot more playing time in 2013 and could overtake Keisel as the starter in training camp or at some point during the season. He will most definitely be part of the rotation regardless of if he starts or not.
Behind Hood on the left side is Al Woods, a former fourth-round selection of the New Orleans Saints in 2010. Woods played all of 30 snaps on defense for the Steelers in 2012, his first full season with the team. Like Keisel and Hood, Woods too is in the final year of his current contract.
While the Steelers seem to be set at the defensive end position in 2013, they certainly need to add to the pipeline for the future in April. Could Steve McLendon be part of the future at defensive end? In the short term, no, but in the long-term, it is possible should second-year nose tackle Alameda Ta\’amu ever turn the corner. McLendon has played the three, four and five technique at defensive end briefly during his time on the roster, but that hasn\’t been for many snaps. For now, McLendon looks to be the successor of Casey Hampton at nose tackle, until a younger nose tackle challenges him.
The Steelers added several futures players after the conclusion of the 2012 season, but none of the players that were added were defensive ends. You have to figure that at some point during the draft that one will be selected with a few others being added after the draft as undrafted types.
As usual, there are few solid five technique defensive end prospects in this draft. The ones with the lowest risk and greater upside can be had in the fifth round or later, and that is where I expect one will be selected. One of my favorites, as I pointed out in my most recent mock draft, is Joe Kruger out of Utah.
List a few of your favorite 3-4 defensive end prospects below.