2013 Steelers Draft: Defensive End Is A Need Not Often Talked About This Offseason

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.

  • CW

    Jordan Hill,
    Akeem Spence,
    Bennie Logan,

    As 3rd to 5th rounders, all have that sort of 290 to 310 weight that Steelers 3-4 DEs need to hold up at the point of attack and pressure the pocket for the OLBs to exploit.

    Kawann Short, if the Steelers trade down in the first round to later 20s.
    Sylvester Williams as a potential 2nd rounder.

    Both are huge, difficult to move defensive linemen with great potential to bat down passes, block running lanes, and pressure the pocket, opening still more OLB options on the outside.

    Josh Boyd,
    Cory Grissom,

    As 6th or 7th rounder that could develop into starters.

    Though I really like Jared Smith as a deep sleeper who might even end up as a priority undrafted rookie free agent. Huge amount of hustle and running back awareness. Will fight to the whistle and chase down ball carriers. Could develop into a great defensive end like Keisel did.

    The other sleeper I like is Chris Jones. MAC prospect. Good overall stats and seems to be the sort of highly driven late round or free agency prospect that could make a roster and develop into a starter in time.

  • JohnnyV1

    I definitely think there’s a need for DL. I wanted Steelers to take a look @ Sammie Hill who just signed a modest 3-yr deal with the Titans. So, yeah, I’m on board with needing a DE or NT.

  • Lemonier, Ansah, Hunt, Square.

  • Kyle Owens

    If Margus Hunt is there in the 2nd…

  • steeltown

    It is interesting.. I really havent given DE serious thought, but it is a need moving forward especially come 2014. Even if Hood, McLendon and Woods are ultimately re-signed, the departure of Keisel will open a spot on the DL..

    Still though, not as pressing as WR, RB, LB or SS

  • jr

    Margus hunt all day

  • SteelSpine

    I happen to agree with all those points. And similar to what DaveB alluded to, DE need is likely for 2014, vs those other positions you mentioned are we need to get to play positions this season.

  • Nolrog

    We already spent two #1s on DE farily recently. That’s why no one is talking about that position. If it’s still a fracking need, then Colbert needs to be fired.

  • LucasY59

    I agree with Dave that the best time to take a DE is in the later rds, especially with all the other needs the Steelers have.

    Margus Hunt is interesting, He’s a physical freak that could become a dominate player like JJ Watt or he could be a bust if he doesn’t learn to play heavier/lower with more leverage. the other early rd prospects are mostly 4-3 DT’s or DE’s that need to gain some weight to make the switch from college to the pros. if it is a position change or developmental project I hope they aren’t picked utill the 5th or later Jordan Hill PSU, William Gholston, Devin Taylor S.Carolina could be there in the 5th or 6th, later guys that could be taken with the comp pick, 7th or be a UDFA are Kruger, Craig Roh Michigan, Damion Square Bama, Glenn Foster Illinois, Kapron Lewis-Moore Notre Dame

    One intersting thing I found while I was looking at DE’s was that there is another Kruger Brother, Dave is a Sr at Utah, Joe is a Jr. Dave is actually the biggest of the bros 6’5″ 290#s, but it looks like he doesnt look to be much of a pro player (kinda like the Manning and Gronkowski bros where the 3rd doesnt have quite the same skill as the others)

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Part of the reason Aaron Smith was so dominant is that he had the height and arm length to shed blocks. That is one of the reasons why Ziggy Hood struggles. He gets swallowed and contained. I don’t want to draft any more short DE’s with short arms, no matter how strong they are.

    Quinton Dial (Alabama) (6’5″, 318, 34.5″ arms, injured DNP in drills)

    Nick Williams (Samford) (6’4.5″, 309, 34.2″ arms, 28 reps, 10.25″ hands, 4.94 forty)

    Both should be available in the 6-7 round range.

  • mokhkw

    Steelers Draft 101 also means that if there is going to be a need in 2014, then you draft those players in 2013 & give them a year to develop.

    The NT/DT group this year is very deep, Jesse Williams put up similar numbers & is bigger than Poe, a player some though we should Draft in the 1st Rd last season, and it looks like he’ll be lucky to go in the 1st Round. I can see the Steelers drafting a NT early and a DT/DE in the later rounds. Like we do with DEs playing OLB, when looking at 3-4 DEs you probably should check out the 4-3 DTs….Margus Hunt & Tank Carradine being the 2 exceptions imo.

    Seeing as this is Ziggy’s contract year, I wondered if I have been too harsh on him….so I checked out some early games by Aaron Smith & I have to tell you, it’s a huge difference at this stage of their careers. Even Kimo & Hoke are far superior at similar stages of their careers. Depending on how things shake out at NT, I can see McLendon or Heyward replacing Ziggy as a starter this season & him not being resigned.

  • mokhkw

    Lemonier for DE? He’s 6’4 250lbs – that’s way too light for a 3-4 DE. They need to be around 280 or bigger when drafted with the frame to add some extra pounds ( 300 is ideal). Ansah as a 3-4 DE is an interesting thought but he won’t get past 10. Hunt & Square would be nice fits as 3-4 DEs.

  • SteelSpine

    I agree with all those factors, including regarding Ziggy.

  • I think they like Lemonier as an OLB, according to steelersdepot.com. I like Hunt’s athleticism for his huge size. Even Dial the DE opposite Square at Bama.

  • Oh man, if Jesse Williams fell to Pit in the 2nd, you would think that would be sure fire.

  • hergieburbur

    Actually, a few people inexplicable ARE confusing Hood with Smith. Don’t ask me why though. I still think he fits better in a 4-3…

  • hergieburbur

    “Steelers Draft 101 also means that if there is going to be a need in
    2014, then you draft those players in 2013 & give them a year to

    Only problem with that, is they haven’t drafted the needs for 2013, or honestly, 2012 yet… They are behind the 8-ball this year.

  • SteelSpine

    Well put, hergie you stated it better than I could, that’s the point I meant to add in my reply it’s about urgency to play during this season.

  • hergieburbur

    “Depending on how things shake out at NT, I can see McLendon or Heyward
    replacing Ziggy as a starter this season & him not being resigned.”

    I still think McClendon plays NT and they don’t go that way unless someone falls to them. But, I can definitely see them going DE later and not signing Hood. Of course, I wanted Heyward to start over Hood last season, so I may not be the best source…

  • bk

    As a umich fan i would like to see them draft craig roh or will campbell. Both have been coached by greg mattison, the former d-coordinator for the ravens and both understand the basics of 3-4 run d. Campbell has unlimited potential while roh is a hard worker and heady player.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Logan LSU 4th rnd
    Steinkuhler Neb 6th rnd

  • Pete

    I also thought Smith had explosive short distance quickness and could hold the point of attack. For a big man he was very quick and I think he was a freak of nature. Smith said Hood was going to be a great DE. By now Hood should be showing something of that greatness so was Smith just blowing smoke up someone’s butt when he said that about Hood?

  • zyzak

    DE later in draft, they have Ziggy and ironhead’s kid, they could draft 6 of 8 picks on offense

  • SteelerFanInMD

    My candidate DE is Joe Vellano from Maryland. He is a bit undersized at 285 lbs., but he has a great work ethic, great dedication to the game, and plays at 100% effort every down of every game. He could be a 6-7 round pick or an undrafted free agent signing.

  • mokhkw

    +1 on Heyward. If they found it necessary to bench Ziggy vs. Chiefs for Woods, surely Heyward would be a better option to start?

    DT/NT is deep so it’s very possible that a player the Steelers admire would drop to them at 17. Not everyone was convinced that Hampton was a 1st when drafted – some had him as a 2nd because of his short arms & lack of height – so we can’t take the player rating as being how the Steelers perceive them.

  • mokhkw

    Not for lack of trying of course, unfortunately players don’t always work out like you’d hope for. Being behind the 8-ball as they are, it could mean that they decide to fill the gap with a vet (Hampton) for 1 more season.

  • mokhkw

    Nightmare scenario would be if the Ravens got him at 32 & teamed him with Ngata. If he’s still there at 48 I would be very surprised ( and screaming at my monitor for us to pick him). Interesting to note that Mayock has him listed as a 3-4 DE & he’s dropped some weight ( down to 313lbs) since the end of the season.

  • mokhkw

    Problem is our D rookies never start, apart from Hampton & Bell in 2002. I can’t see the Steelers changing that philosophy – which is going to drive some people crazy but you can’t argue with the results over the past decade.

  • mokhkw

    Players tend to do this unfortunately, but when asked the Q, how else can they respond? Physically Ziggy has the tools, but I always thought he lacked football instincts when drafted. I recall in his rookie year he split a double-team and ended up directly in front of the QB who had booted right – but Ziggy didn’t try to tackle him as he didn’t realize he had the ball.

  • steeltown

    To be honest, with McLendon, Ta’amu and Fangupo on roster, I dont see them drafting NT at all this year

  • hp

    A long term dominant nose tackle is paramount for any team. Especially 3-4.

    The Steelers have had Steed and Hampton in there for the last 20+ years.

    That’s the consistency and high caliber play needed to be a champion team.
    The middle is as key in football as it is in baseball.

    You know the Patriots have an eye on McLendon if Pittsburgh fools around too long.

  • hergieburbur

    Some cases they have clearly tried (OL, WR, CB, LB), and some have worked, some have failed, and some they have let walk. Others, like Safety, TE, and RB, they have not put a lot of effort into. Although I am in the minority in thinking Dwyer can be a solid starter if he has a good compliment.

  • hergieburbur

    I do. Late. One that can play NT or DE. They pretty much always do. Plus I don’t rule anything out in case a guy like Star miraculously falls.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Colbert is pretty high on Kapron Lewis-Moore. Look for us to draft him in 6th-7th, even UDFA signing.

  • RMSteeler

    If I remember right, Fangupo is who the Steelers really wanted last year but was grabbed earlier than they thought, and they ended up reaching for Ta’amu before he got taken. Now that they have Fangupo, I wonder if they trade Ta’amu for a draft pick if he can get his police charges resolved without a league suspension. If not, I see him eventually being cut. Only time I see a DE being drafted this year is if they want to develop an OLB. That’s been the Steeler way. Unlike last year, this draft is deep with good NT prospects, even as a UDFA.

  • steeltown

    Actually Fang went undrafted, the only reason I see that he wasnt selected is that he’ll be 28yrs old before the season starts. I think Ta’amu and Fangupo will battle for the backup spot, BUT also McLendon can play anywhere on the DL, and with Keisel in his last year and Hood and Woods in a contract yr I think its possible they are all kept on roster..

    It’s funny before the draft last yr, everyone was talking about Dontari Poe, but I wanted the Steelers to draft either Ta’amu or Fangupo… now, we have both! … guess we’ll see which one is the better player

  • David Edward

    Nice! You’ve obviously done your homework. Those are two guys I had picked out. 3-4 DEs primary function is to hold strong at the point of attack and keep OL off the LBs. Not really a position you need to go #1 pick on like the did with Hood and Heyward. I’ll throw out another couple of names…Abry Jones 6’3 313 from Alabama and Jared Smith 6’3 302 from New Hampshire…so a big school and a small school like StarSpangeled mentioned above. Smith is also a 6-7 round guy and Jones is probably a 5th. Not a fan of Joe Kruger at 6’6 269…needs to add 20-30 lbs.