By Jeremy Hritz
When I initially completed my third mock draft, I had fully accepted that the Pittsburgh Steelers would not match the offer sheet from New England for Emmanuel Sanders and that they would have acquired an additional third round pick. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Retaining Sanders changed the entire complexion of my mock draft, and I had to retool the direction I envisioned them going.
There has been a great deal of speculation that several teams are looking to trade out of the first round because of the quality players available in the second and third rounds and the lack of elite players in the first round. Considering all of the needs that the Steelers have, trading out of the first round to stockpile picks makes sense. Does that mean they will do it, no. This version of my mock draft is an exercise in showing what the team can do if they were to add additional picks by trading out of the first round, and in this mock, I have Buffalo trading back into the first round with the Steelers and giving up their second and fourth round picks, increasing the overall number of picks for the Steelers to nine.
This is a critical draft for the Steelers organization, one that will either help the team rebound from 8-8, or continue to slip into the abyss of mediocrity.
The final edition of my mock draft will be available Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.
Round 2 from Buffalo: Pick 41: Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver – California – 6’2, 206
The Steelers can get value in a wide receiver in the early second round, and if Allen happens to fall to pick 41, the Steelers would be wise to grab him. While he is not a burner who can stretch the field, he is a big, physical receiver that has excellent hands. Adding a large, tough receiver like Allen to the Roethlisberger’s arsenal will provide a red zone threat and a reliable pass catcher that can convert third downs in a Hines Ward-like fashion. There are some concerns about health as he missed the final three games of the 2012 season at California, but it is not enough to pass Allen up should he be available in this spot.
Round 2: Pick 48: Le’Veon Bell, Running Back – Michigan State – 6’1, 230
A carryover from my second Mock Draft, though two rounds earlier as his stock has risen. The Steelers need a zone runner, and they can get that in Bell. Worked out for the Steelers. See my 2.0 for a more detailed analysis.
Round 3: Pick 79: Phillip Thomas, Safety – Fresno State – 6’0, 208
Another carryover from 2.0 that I am standing behind, especially after his visit with the team. See previous mock for a more detailed analysis, but safety is a need, especially one with Thomas’ playmaking ability.
Round 4 from Buffalo: Pick 105: Corey Lemonier, Outside Linebacker – Auburn – 6’4, 255
Lemonier may not be available at this pick, but there is a chance that he could be, and with his speed off of the edge, he would be a nice addition to the Steelers pass rush. Is physical and a big hitter that has experience dropping into coverage. His best season came in his first year as a starter when he recorded 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. His junior year was not impressive, but the entire Auburn team struggled through a poor season in 2012. Will need refining and commitment to improving his technique as he has a tendency to play out of control, but his relentless motor, if harnessed appropriately, could pay dividends for the Steelers defense. Ran a 4.6 forty yard dash at the combine.
Round 4: Pick 115: Jon Bostic, Inside Linebacker – Florida – 6’1, 245
Addresses the need for depth at inside linebacker. Competitive, physical, and committed to stopping the run, Bostic fits the mold of an interior Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker. Was considered a team leader at Florida, a quality needed in the Steelers locker room. Can also play special teams, so the ability to contribute in his first year is there. Not very fast and may not have the talent to stay on the field on third downs at the next level. Recorded five interceptions and seven and a half sacks during his career at Florida.
Round 5: Pick 150: Nick Kasa, Tight End – Colorado – 6’6, 269
Once again, another carry over from my early mock drafts. His size and raw ability make Kasa a player that could potentially develop into a star. Will benefit from learning from Heath Miller.
Round 6: Pick 186: Denard Robinson, Athlete – Michigan – 5’11, 199
Robinson carries over from my second mock draft, and while many consider Robinson to be exclusively a wide receiver, he will provide versatility to the Steelers offense that has been missing since the early days of Antwaan Randle-El. Todd Haley likes to have a shifty, quick back in his offense, and Robinson can fulfill that role, in addition to catching passes. If a gadget play is needed, Robinson can also throw the football to keep defenses on their toes. Robinson can also contribute on special teams as a returner, making his value very high. While he will probably go earlier than the sixth round, his do-it-all capabilities are something that would benefit the offense and the special teams, and the Steelers should think hard about selecting him.
Round 6: Pick 206: Terry Hawthorne, Cornerback – Illinois – 6’0, 195
The Steelers need to add some depth in the later rounds at the corner position, and that’s just exactly what they will do by selecting Hawthorne. Hawthorne will be a project for the Steelers, but his height (6’0) and his speed (4.31) indicate that he has the characteristics needed to be a successful cornerback in the NFL. Hawthorne is not afraid of contact, something that is a necessity on the Steelers defense. Can get beat easily and will get suckered into the play action. Durability is an issue as well. However, the later rounds are used on players who have boom or bust potential, and Hawthorne has a chance to boom.
Round 7: Pick 223: Jeff Baca, Guard – UCLA – 6’4, 302
The Steelers also need to add another guard for depth in this year’s draft. Baca has a high motor, plays through the whistle, and shows an excellent initial burst. Possesses the versatility that the Steelers look for in their offensive linemen, as he took snaps at every position on the offensive line during his collegiate career. While he is aggressive and physical, he is not athletically gifted. However, his effort may enable him to overcome his limitations.