Hritz: Steelers Mock Draft 2013 Version 2.0

By Jeremy Hritz

Free agency will arrive this coming week, and the muddy waters that are 2013 NFL rosters will begin to clear. The moves made in free agency will provide a better indication of which direction teams will go in the draft, though it seems that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to keep their gun in holster. While the combine is complete, and it does provide quality measurables about many of the prospects eligible for the NFL Draft, a smart football organization, especially the Steelers, are not going to become infatuated with a workout warrior and choose a player solely based on his combine numbers.

With serious deficiencies at wide receiver, running back, and inside linebacker, the Steelers must make an effort to address these positions at some point in time during the draft. Will it be in the first round? That has yet to be seen.

The Steelers first round pick in this year’s draft is an enigma, as there are many different directions that the team could go. Todd McShay in his most recent mock draft had the Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones falling to the Steelers at #17. While his production with double digit sacks the past two seasons are intriguing, are his off the field issues and spinal stenosis worth taking the chance? And what about the inside linebacker position if Alec Ogletree happens to fall to the Steelers? Here is another player with boom or bust potential that could potentially step in first year opposite Lawrence Timmons. However, his character issues, marked by his recent DUI, make the likelihood of the Steelers selecting him slim. Eddie Lacy is another player that the Steelers could select at 17, but would they be scared away by their recent draft experience with Rashard Mendenhall? And then there is the possibility of selecting one of the upper echelon guards, Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper. There is no question that either of these players would immediately upgrade what already seems to be a young and emerging line, but with reports of the team making an offer to Ramon Foster, would this selection even be necessary?

There are so many if/then scenarios to consider in this year’s draft for the Steelers, and without any further hesitation, here is my second mock of the Steelers draft.

Round 1: Jonathan Cooper – Guard – North Carolina: 6’2, 311

As of right now, the pick that makes the most sense for the Steelers is either Cooper or Warmack, and I am agreeing with Mr. Dave Bryan here that Cooper is more attractive to the Steelers since he has the versatility to play multiple positions on the offensive line, a requirement for a Steelers offensive lineman. Selecting Cooper here makes a potential strength a potential elite offensive line, something that could ensure the health of Ben Roethlisberger and extend his career. Additionally, as poor as the running game has been over the past couple of seasons, bringing in another stud guard can help to open more lanes for whoever is carrying the ball for the Steelers. I am not 100% sold on this pick because the Steelers may still bring back Foster or feel comfortable enough inserting Kelvin Beachum in the starting lineup. If they do so, all bets are off. Selecting Cooper would provide the team with a player that can step in right away and make a contribution to the team on day one. I also would not be surprised if the Steelers traded down or out of the first round to collect more picks, as they may be able to get the value they desire later. If Foster is resigned or if they have confidence in Beachum, I also would not be surprised if the drafted Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas and groomed him for 2014, though I believe spending a first round pick on a safety in this year’s draft, especially with the depth at the position, is not necessary. With the off-the-field issues of Jones and Ogletree, I just can’t see the Steelers selecting them here.

Round 2: Justin Hunter – Wide Receiver – Tennessee: 6’4, 196

The Steelers need a wide receiver to compensate for the loss of Mike Wallace, and while Justin Hunter doesn’t have the speed that Wallace does, he still runs a 4.4, and his size can provide Roethlisberger with the tall target that he has been seeking since the departure of Plaxico Burress. This past season, Hunter pulled in 73 catches for 1083 yards and nine touchdowns against SEC competition. Hunter is described as having an excellent catching radius and outstanding feet, making for crisp routes. While it may be a stretch to believe that Hunter will be available when the Steelers select in second round, if he does fall to their pick, he will provide for the size component missing from the current smallish group of receivers in Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jerricho Cotchery. There are some questions related to Hunter’s durability as he tore his ACL in 2011; however, he showed no ill effects in his senior campaign. Though the nightmare of Limas Sweed in the second round in the 2008 draft is difficult to forget, don’t let that raise a red flag here on this lanky receiver from Tennessee.

Round 3: Phillip Thomas – Safety – Fresno State: 6’1, 208  

A safety is a definite need in this year’s draft for the Steelers, as they more than likely will need someone to step in to start in 2014 when Ryan Clark more than likely will not be resigned. Phillip Thomas from Fresno State would be a great pick in the third round for the Steelers as he provides decent size and production. During his career at Fresno State, Thomas was responsible for 20 turnovers, including 13 interceptions. This type of splash-play production is something that the Steelers are desperate for, and Thomas can provide it. While not overly fast, running a 4.65 40, Thomas has solid straight-line speed. He is not afraid of contact and is physical against the run, something that the Steelers want from a safety. Durability may be an issue when considering that he did break his leg 2011, but he returned in 2012 to have an outstanding season, highlighted by eight interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. His lack of speed and tendency to gamble can make him a liability, but with a year to learn from Clark and Troy Polamalu, Thomas could be a long-time starter for the Steelers. Like Hunter, the question is will he be available when they pick in the third round?

Round 4: Le’Veon Bell – Running Back – Michigan State: 6’1, 230  

The Steelers need a running back, no doubt, and while they could select one earlier than round four in this year’s draft, there is enough depth at the position that they can wait before selecting one. Le’Veon Bell is a physical, big back at 6’1, 230 pounds that amassed 1793 yards on the ground to lead the Big Ten in 2012. His effort when carrying the football is unrelenting, as he fights for yards and refuses to go down upon first contact, fitting the mold of revered Steelers running backs of the past. Has excellent patience and can effectively take advantage of his blockers. No durability issues, escaping Michigan State without any serious injuries. Can catch the ball out of the backfield too, making him a versatile player that would work well in Todd Haley’s offense. Some may say his physical style is too comparable to that of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, but Bell has the potential to be the complete package.

Round 5: Nick Kasa – Tight End – Colorado: 6’6, 271

A carryover from my first mock draft, Kasa is strong and is an excellent blocker, despite being a raw pass catcher. In the fifth round, Kasa would be a project for the Steelers to develop, and he could benefit from learning from Heath Miller. Playing on a horrible Colorado football team in 2012 that finished 1-11, Kasa made 26 receptions for 399 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a 70 yard touchdown reception. Kasa has a thick build with strong hands and has great potential to develop in a quality player. Invests time in his game and puts in the extra effort to get better, something that could speed up his acclimation to the NFL.

Round 6: Denard Robinson – Athlete – Michigan: 5’11, 199

Some may question this pick, but when considering Haley’s style of offense, it makes sense. Robinson is a multi-talented athlete that is fast (4.43) and can provide the Steelers with versatility as a runner, pass catcher, return man, and even a thrower. I can see the team utilizing Robinson the way they did Antwaan Randle-El in the mid 2000s, and his addition to the team will provide an element of versatility and deception that could make game-planning for the Steelers offense challenging. While he will be a bit of a project, his experiences as the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan indicate that he is a gamer capable of making big plays on a big stage. While the pick is somewhat of a risk, Robinson has too much potential not to try and find a place for him in an offense. The potential reward of picking Robinson just can’t be ignored, and some team will take a chance on him. Hopefully, it is the Steelers.

Round 7: Bruce Taylor – Inside Linebacker – Virginia Tech: 6’2, 244

Another carryover from my first mock draft. The Steelers need to build some depth at the inside linebacker position, and if they do not select one in the first round, they will need to make an addition in the draft. Selecting Bruce Taylor in the seventh will do just that. Over his career, Taylor has recorded 226 tackles, 33.5 of them for a loss, while also collecting 16.5 sacks. Taylor is a physical and high-motor player that is strong against the run and can effectively rush the passer up the middle. Has a tendency to over pursue at times. Durability is a concern as well, as he struggled with injuries in college. If he can stay healthy, Taylor could make contributions on special teams and be a solid backup with the Steelers.

Round 7 (Compensatory): Ryan Allen – Punter – Louisiana Tech:  6’1, 229

Drew Butler was not impressive during his first year as a starter for the Steelers, and as a result of his poor punts, opponents consistently had excellent field position. This cannot happen in 2013 if the Steelers are to compete for a championship. Allen is consistent, something that Butler was not, and can hit punts with great hang time. Can repeatedly bang out 60 yarders. While he lacks a powerful leg, his ability to be consistent is needed on the Steelers special teams. If anything, he can provide for competition in camp, as something has to give at this position.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I do like the players taken, but it seems your mock is flurried with picks where I don’t see the players still being available like Denard Robinson, Le’Veon Bell, Justin Hunter, and Phillip Thomas. I understand one or two may fall, but don’t think it should be the backbone of your draft.

  • SteelSpine

    Odds are at-least one outta the group of Jarvis, Vaccarro, Cooper, Warmack will still be available, it’d be a good problem to have if more than one are still available there.

    I think next year’s draft we’ll be at approx 17 again or a bit higher, sadly I don’t foresee us being better overall next season. Of-course I hope next season proves otherwise.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Would love to see Jarvis fall. I think he is going to be a star. Who better to eventually replace Harrison?

  • Bob Francis

    Nice mock. I think Keenan Allen should also be in play in Round 1. I really like the idea of D. Robinson as a flex player if the round is right. While we need depth on D, I really hope the Steelers try to make this an offensive-heavy draft. I esp. hope they get several playmakers at key positions: WR, RB, TE. Offensive has been the liability lately, and a strong O can cover up what might be some growing pains on D.

  • CrRe

    Jeremy, I like this mock pretty good and would be pretty happy with if this is how it turns out.

    I would be cool Cooper (unless J. Jones would be in the board, which I think is unlikely), I like J. Hunter better than the Hopkins pick, I also like the (S) P. Thomas.

    I was wondering what other RBs might you think could be had in the 4th round?

  • CrRe

    I personally, think it is highly unlikely he falls to us a 17. However, if he falls out of the top 10 then I would like to see us move to get him. I personally think he will be drafted in the top 10 despite word that some teams have removed him for their draft boards. I think the “concerns” are overblown.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Yea I agree, was thinking the same thing. Just depends how the Steelers feel about him though. Doesn’t happen often, but do they think he can be the next Polamalu-espue impact player?

  • mokhkw

    The muddy waters should start to clear a bit in the next week or so once FA starts. Only one LBer the Steelers have drafted since 1974 has started as a rookie (K.Bell). Aside from not wanting Jones or Ogletree in the 1st Rd. I can’t see either of them breaking that trend even if they slipped to the 2nd & we selected them. On D, the only spot I can see a rookie starting is at NT (going by past history).

    I wouldn’t regard the ILB, RB or WR spots as having serious deficiencies – certainly they need addressing, but if the right player isn’t available they could make do for one season. I can’t see anything that Bell would bring to the table that Redman doesn’t already do well and would consider a speedier back to complement Redman & Dwyer; I think the Steelers will be a RB by committee in 2013, assuming Mendenhall is gone. WR could be plugged with a vet like Breaston & although ILB is fine for one more year with Foote & Timmons adding Taylor would be a nice pick also.

    I agree that Guard – either Warmack or Cooper – seems to make the most sense for a 1st atm ( if you’re looking for a player to start in year 1). It’s unsexy, but I really do miss those OLines from the Cowher era and would love to see the Steelers beating up teams on O again. Thomas and Kasa, while both very good players, may not measure up as starting material for the NFL. I can see Robinson going earlier than expected -maybe Rd 4 – but if we could get him in the 6th that would be a steal.

    Still have a query with no NT being taken by either you or Dave in your Mocks so far. You both seem to think Hampton will not be back, leaving us with a back-up (McLendon) and 2 unknowns. If that is the case, I’d call that a serious deficiencies more than RB, WR or ILB (unless you think Foote won’t be back).

    Props to you & Dave for your well thought out Mocks. Keep ‘em coming. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.shoemaker.520 Bob Shoemaker

    The Steelers will need to add at least one DL, preferably an end. Next season Hood, Keisel, McLendon, and Woods will all be free agents and there is little reason to think that our cap situation will be substantially better than it’s been the last two years. Ta’amu and Fangupo (a signing that I really loved) may/should be able to handle NT in the base defense but, if we don’t draft DL or extend someone this year, LeBeau will have to start a rookie next year.

  • JohnnyV1

    Pretty solid overall, definitely like the positions addressed. I think your Rd 3, 4 and 5 would be tough to get at mid-round, it would be great, but each of those might go higher.

  • mokhkw

    Sadly I agree – it’s starting to feel a bit like 98-00 atm……

  • dgh57

    I like your 1st 4 picks! But does La’Veon Bell fit good in a zone blocking scheme?

    Would like to see Cooper replace Colon! But I have a feeling Dallas trades up to get him.

  • CrRe

    Depending on how much of a headache Steelers conclude Christene Michael to be or not be, I would be cool if Steelers based on their judgment drafted him.

    I am tending to think, however, that I team will take a chance on him by no later than the 3rd round.

    Zac Stacey is another RB that is intriguing though he may be more of a 5th round prospect.

  • Mikey Hoje

    Please consider making 3 smaller posts. Easier on the eye balls. Thanks… from a fellow Studious Steelers fan.

  • LouPGH

    From #11-17, the Saints at #15 are the only team I’d be worried about. I suppose the Giants or someone could jump up and get him if they felt strongly about it, but beyond that, a team is giving up a lot and taking on a lot of risk. (Unless you’re the 49ers, who will be tipping servers at dinner that night in draft picks.)

    I read up on his medical condition, and it’s scary stuff, especially long-term. As a Steelers fan, I’d like to get him at #17. If I were the kid’s dad, I’d be more than a little concerned every time he stepped on the field. But those are two different things.

    All of that said, I don’t think he gets out of the top 10.

  • grw1960

    You mock is very possible.
    1 – Cooper very well could end up being the pick.
    2 – Hunter should easily be there at the Steelers 2nd round pick. As he is around the 6th or 7th best WR in this draft. I would rather have Hopkins, Patton or Woods. But 2 of those 3 will probably be gone.
    3- I would rather see a RB here but Safety could be BPA.
    4 – Not sold on Bell Hope they find a better one.
    I could easily see the Steelers picking a OLB/ILB type in the 2nd or 3d rounds and waiting till 3d and 4th to draftWR and RB also.

  • SoCal-Steel

    I can’t see how you don’t see OLB or ILB as a priority. If the key to the DEF is turnovers, then LBs have to be part of the fix. I think another OL in the first is a luxury, if you replace your Cooper with a OLB, then this mock starts to look real nice. I also agree with others in that you are banking on some of these guys falling (Hunter, Robinson)…would definitely be nice if they fell though.

  • Nolrog

    I really don’t see another line man in the first round. It’s been 5 years now since we didn’t pick a line man (and 6 of the top 8 picks in that time were on the line.) Steelers need to start spending those picks on skill positions, and we will this year.

  • Intropy

    Interesting. I was thinking kind of the opposite. I like Hunter and Bell but in the 3rd and the 5th respectively.

  • Dan

    Isn’t Kasa the one that was the “they asked me gay questiosn” whistleblower? I guess everyone from the Kordell era is gone now, but I wonder how that will sit in the locker room?

  • The Fighting Ingies

    Jeremy – I like the mock, each pick makes a lot of sense. However, I would like to see you fit in an OLB in the next mock. I can see how some of the early picks like Cooper are based on BPA but from a need standpoint OLB should be addressed at some point.

    Mike Mayock has updated his 3-4 OLB rankings and Michael Buchanan from Illinois seems like an interesting option. I have not heard anyone talk about him or seen any film on him but he has an interesting story about losing 20 lbs heading into his senior year, possibly affecting his production compared to his junior year. Seems like the perfect under the radar prospect that the Steelers tend to find. I would appreciate it if you and/or Dave would consider using your expertise to look into him and do a write-up for us.

    Thanks!

  • rob.pghsteelersfan

    Even if Foster leaves and Beachum isn’t going to start the team does not need to draft a guard in the 1st. They can bring in a cheaper FA to fill that void or find a guy who can start later. A WR should be the pick in rd. 1. The first 4 rounds should be on offense, guys who can come in and start right away. On the field the team is going to have to be carried by the offense for the next 3 or 4 years while the defense us rebuilt. The offense is where the talent is now but they need more pieces. It is stupid to spend high picks on defense now and wait for them to start without the offense having all the weapons it needs to succeed, especially when we have one of the top qbs in the game. The high draft picks in 2014 – 2016 can br spent on defense. By the time all those guys are ready to start it will be time for the defense to carry the team while Pittsburgh looks for its next franchise QB. This is the plan the team needs to follow or everyone will be hoping we can get to 8 – 8 and it will be a waste of Roethlisbergers last 5 or 6 good years.

  • Nolrog

    There’s still good value on the line later in the draft. There’s no need to constantly spend high picks on the line. I definitely see one maybe even two linemen picked in the draft, but in the middle and late rounds.

  • rob.pghsteelersfan

    I agree with that if Tomlin and Colbert are looking for a starter or depth they should look in the later rounds. Foster or Beachum could be the starter though. I just hope they aren’t counting on or keeping Colon.

  • Melly

    UNLESS a Top 10 guy falls to 17, I can only see them trading back. A trade to 24 w/ Indy would give them a 3rd n 4th Rd pick. A trade back to 27 w/ Hou would give them a 2nd Rd pick…but they would have to throw a 5th back to Hou. I think dropping back one or even two times is the way to go!

    At 17 I would want Jordan, Jones, Mingo, or Cooper(G)-NC

    If they trade back to say 27 I would target Damontre Moore, Arthur Brown, or Minter
    Note- I would stay away from the 1st Rd TEs. Remember Gronk was a 2nd Rd, J.Graham was a 3rd Rd, A.hernandez was a 4th Rd

    At 48 I like Jonathan Cyprien, Reid-LSU, Corey Lemonier, Jamie Collins, Hopkins-Clem or Hunter-Tenn(IF they trade back in Rd 1, they are looking to get 2 of these players @ 48 and 57)

    3rd round Im lookin at Sio Moore, Patton(WR), or Phillip Thomas

    4th round The best RB that fits…Bell, Franklin, Davis

    5th round Cornelius Washington, Kiko Alonso, or Michael Mauti
    Note- maybe Mauti in the 6th/Goodwin in the 5th?

    6th round Marquise Goodwin(WR)-Tex

    7th round Zac Dysert(QB) Miami(OH)

    I think W.Colon will be cut post June 1 so they can sign their draft picks.
    I would like to see them sign Ramses Barden(WR)…6’6″ & cheap
    Victor Butler is another possibility as an OLB
    I wouldnt mind them kicking the tires on Brandon Jacobs…cheap w/ incentives?
    Dont sign Hampton or Breaston
    Bring back Foote, Starks, and Legursky for minimum deals if possible
    I think K.Lewis and Foster are goners!!
    I hope Wallace goes to Mia and drowns!
    Let the young guys play that are on the team already, and incorporate the new picks faster, so they can replace the guys we will lose in 2014.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Its best person available…Last year DeCastro was considered to be A Fanaca like player…cant pass it up…If either Cooper or Warmack comes to us I cant see how we can pass it up…you u have a dominant OL and DL the rest can be just average and still have success.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    1. Cordarelle Patterson WR Tennessee
    Gives us an offensive playmaker at WR and could ease the loss of Wallace
    2. Jamie Collins OLB Southern Miss
    Said to be like Clark Haggans, appropriate being we need rookie to start
    at OLB
    3. D.J Swearinger S South Carolina
    Good hard hitting safety that also has good ball skills
    4. Andre Ellington RB Clemson
    Provides a nice homerun threat at RB, seems to be like Jamaal Charles
    5. Brian Winters G Kent St.
    His athleticism could help us with our O-line since were switching to
    Zone Blocking
    6. Michael Muati ILB Penn St.
    Leader and a good ILB if he gets past his injury he will make a great
    Steeler
    7. Spencer Nealy DE Texas A&M
    Great leader and is a solid option at DE
    (Comp.) Ryan Allen P Louisiana Tech.
    he’s a punter and is good at it
    (Undrafted Rookie) Phillip Lutzenkirchen TE Auburn
    Big pass catcher for Big Ben

  • Garrett Hunt

    I think Hunter is prob hardest to guess…. I could see beginning of 2nd to bottom of 3rd. But I think Bell could arguably be the best back in the class. Big, strong, durable, fast… whats not to like?

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I think Stacy will be a big surprise

  • http://twitter.com/NeffRn Randy Neff

    I’d sign up for your first 4 round in a heartbeat, Jeremy. Although I feel 2-4 picks may be gone where you have them. Looks like Jarvis Jones possibly never had spinal stenosis.

  • youareverycorrectboss

    If Warmack or Cooper are at # 17, the Steelers should select the aforementioned, without hesitation. Protecting their franchise QB should be priority one. If not, Sheldon Richardson, Ansah, Patterson, Mingo, Jones, Vaccaro, Fluker or Eifert would make sense and would suffice. Yes, Eifert. Miller is coming off a serious injury and Eifert is the best TE in this year’s draft, as he could block well and make the difficult catches, too. Jones and Olgetree and tempting though and would fill needs @ OLB & ILB.

  • youareverycorrectboss

    Why not? Their “offensive” line was their weakest link last season. Warmack or Cooper would be immediate impact players and vast upgrades on that suspect “offensive” line. Drafting another offensive lineman should be priority one and would keep Ben upright and open up holes in their run game, too. LT-Gilbert, LG-Warmack/Cooper, C-Pouncey, RG-DeCastro, RT-Adams would suffice. Don’t be surprised if they draft the Notre Dame TE, Tyler Eifert (the best tight end in this year’s draft, too), who would help that offensive line with his adequate blocking skills, along with his durable & clutch pass catching abilities. Miller is still recovering from that leg injury and is nearing ten years of service. Plus, utilizing a viable two TE set a bit more might be beneficial for Haley’s scheme.