The 2013 NFL combine is now behind us and we are getting a little better handle now on which players are first round prospects. We have also had more time to look even closer at the needs for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Below is a breakdown by position of how likely it will be that the Steelers first round draft pick in April comes from each certain position from least likely to likely.
Center – There is not a first round center in this draft class and the Steelers do not need one just the same for obvious reasons.
Quarterback - General Manager Kevin Colbert has made it known several times since the season ended that he is willing to draft any position in any round, and that includes quarterback. Colbert forgot to add after round four to the statement as there is virtually no chance that they draft a quarterback in round one. Should Geno Smith or Matt Barkley fall that far, Colbert should be entertaining offers to move down a few spots to pick up an extra pick or two. I just cant see a quarterback here for obvious reasons.
Running Back – Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard might hear their names called in the first round, but the 17th overall pick is way too early for either of them to be selected by the Steelers. They will draft a running back in this draft, just not in the first round.
Tight End – This position certainly could be addressed in this draft at some point, but 17 is way too early for either Tyler Eifert or Zach Ertz to be selected.
Cornerback – Dee Milner should be gone in the top ten picks and Xavier Rhodes could go anywhere past the top 10. The Steelers are hoping to re-sign Keenan Lewis and history shows us that they haven\’t selected a cornerback in the first round dating back to 1997. Should they draft a corner this year, I imagine that they will do it in the back end of the draft.
Tackle – Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are sure to be long gone by the time that the Steelers pick. There is a chance that Lane Johnson could still be on the board, but the Steelers already have two young tackles in Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams that they hope are long-term starters. I really think the Steelers are willing to bypass Johnson after unsuccessfully trying to trade the pick.
Inside Linebacker – Alec Ogletree, Arthur Brown, Kevin Minter and Manti Te\’o are the four inside linebacker prospects that have been associated as possibly being drafted in the first round. Ogletree, which many teams will view as a 4-3 outside linebacker, is most likely to be the highest one drafted of the three, but his character red flags should be enough to get the Steelers to pass on him should he not be off the board by the time that they pick. Brown is an interesting prospect, while Minter and Te\’o could possibly be perceived as very late first round selections, or even second round prospects. Neither of those two warrant the 17th overall selection, however, so that leaves Brown as the one in this bunch that I could remotely see the Steelers drafting in round one.
Nose Tackle – Star Lotulelei and Johnathan Hankins are really the only two candidates here for the Steelers as Sheldon Richardson is best suited to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. Lotulelei might be considered too much of a medical risk, however, so that leaves Hankins as the player that would most likely get consideration from the Steelers.
Safety – Kenny Vaccaro, in my opinion, will be the only safety that has a chance to be drafted in the top 20. The Steelers have only drafted one safety in the first round in the Super Bowl era and that happened ten years ago when they moved up to draft Troy Polamalu. Vaccaro is not Polamalu, and the odds alone say that he will not be the selection at 17.
Defensive End – Do the Steelers consider Bjoern Werner a five-technique defensive end candidate? It\’s possible. I do not, however, think that he has the skill set to be a 3-4 outside linebacker prospect. Sharrif Floyd might also warrant consideration as a five technique defensive end, so these two players have to be considered should they drop. Ziggy Ansah is another player that not only could warrant consideration as a 3-4 defensive end, but an outside linebacker as well. In the end I think Ansah best fits a 4-3 defensive end skill set that would require him to stop the run on his way to the quarterback.
Wide Receiver – This is surely a need that the Steelers are most likely to fill in the first four rounds. Depending on how you rank them, Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, DeAndre Hopkins and Tavon Austin could possibly be first round candidates. How many of them are top 20 candidates? Two? I am not willing to rule this position out as a possibility, but I have a sneaky feeling that one won\’t be taken by the Steelers in the first round.
Outside Linebacker – The list is long. Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, Jarvis Jones, Damontre Moore and possibly even Ansah. Several of them will also get consideration by other teams early in the first round as defensive ends. There is a chance that only one or two remain on the board when the Steelers pick. Should one of them be drafted by the Steelers they better be solid special team contributors as that is where they will play in their rookie season.
Guard – Where the Steelers pick is normally the time in the draft when the first interior lineman is known to come off of the board. The two studs here are of course Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. They both can play in a zone blocking and power blocking scheme with Cooper having more position flexibility of the two. Cooper also moves and bends better. It is hard to rule this position out being as one of the two, if not both, will still be on the board when the Steelers pick.
So who do I think the Steelers will pick in the first round? My second mock draft will be out sometime Sunday and I have narrowed it down to one of these 16 players: T Lane Johnson, ILB Arthur Brown, NT Star Lotulelei, NT Johnathan Hankins, S Kenny Vaccaro, DE Bjoern Werner, DE Sharrif Floyd, DE/OLB Ziggy Ansah, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Keenan Allen, OLB Dion Jordan, OLB Barkevious Mingo, OLB Jarvis Jones, OLB Damontre Moore, G Chance Warmack and G Jonathan Cooper.