Tear Up Your Mock Drafts, They’re Kindling Now

By Matthew Marczi

I wrote before yesterday’s game against the Detroit Lions that the final score would be pivotal in determining how the remainder of the season would be viewed, at least by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base.

Were they to win, they would keep their fledgling division hopes alive, and would be well within a muddled hunt for the second wildcard spot. The Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs are a shoe-in for the first, of course.

Were they to lose the game, undoubtedly the season would be seen as lost, and the mock drafts would kick into high gear.

Well, tear up your mock drafts, folks, because they’re nothing but kindling now.

With the final results of yesterday’s slate of games, the Steelers now sit at 4-6 following a two-game winning streak and just one game out of a wildcard spot. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are currently tied for that spot at 5-5. Pittsburgh already defeated the Jets this year and still has yet to play Miami.

The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Cleveland Browns to push their division-leading record up to 7-4, but there is no doubt that they are a beatable team, especially after losing two of their best defensive players in Geno Atkins and Leon Hall.

Admittedly, the Bengals’ remaining schedule does not look too daunting. After their bye next week, they must travel to San Diego to face a team that has really been up and down this year in the Chargers. After that, they get the Indianapolis Colts at home, who have been riddled by injuries.

After that is the big game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. It is possible that that game will be played for the division lead. But first the Steelers must clear a gauntlet against the Browns and the Baltimore Ravens on the road before coming home to face the Miami Dolphins.

With signs of life from the offense in recent weeks, the Steelers appear to be in better position than at any other point this season to actually string together victories, and all three of those games are eminently winnable.

Even in the rather likely chance that the Steelers fall short of the division title, a wildcard spot is very much in their reach. Only five teams in the AFC have a winning record after this week, and 4-6 is not far off from 5-5. Meanwhile, the Steelers are 4-2 in their last six games and are facing a fairly light schedule after taking down the Lions.

Even if the Steelers fail to make the playoffs, their winning streak has basically nullified any ‘reasonable’ mid-season mock draft. If the season ended right now, they would not have a top 10 pick. My advice is to wait to see what happens before wasting time on your next mock.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Elijah Stevenson

    You know a thought just occurred to me, why is troy at the linebacker position he’s mute effective in the back line he’s always been. And y ike taylor made the losers list its hard to cover CJ

  • 2443scott

    no matter where steelers end up first and fore most left and right tackles need to be first thoughts come draft day if not in the draft then in free agency ….even though my mock drafts in fire i still see tackles te and dbs in any draft i can come up with

  • RW

    They’ll be fine at RT. LT is the eminent need.

  • Rory

    We play Miami at home after traveling to Cleveland and Baltimore. We play at Green Bay in Week 16. Sounds like Rodgers should be back by Week 13.

  • srdan

    I’d like to see what mike adams has to offer with a full offseason under his belt.

    Assuming that just because you draft a LT high in the draft that they pan out, is a way to further drown your team. Especially if you reach.

    Mike is all of 21 years old. His stature and athlticisim can’t be taught. Technique can. I’d like to see him be coached all offseason and come into camp injury free. If next year we get the same sloppy footwork and hands, then I’d like to see a high draft pick used on a LT.

  • Eric

    You are right about our draft needs. We need an LT and DB’s most, but the player we draft at #9 will be different than the players chosen at #19.

  • Eric

    By the time camp rolls around it is too late to draft a replacement for Adams

  • RW

    Whether he’s the same QB is a different question.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Forget any left tackles in the draft. Best candidate would be Cameron Erving who look like the most pro-ready left tackle right now (Jake Matthews might be the best but he’s been a career right tackle for a reason, a Kyle Turley 2.0) so i’d go into FA sign one because there is no proven or solid evidence we can even develop a left tackle. Hopefully we get Rodger Saffold who in my opinion would be best suited for our currently offense.

    In draft we should get Ebron, the best tight end out there. He’s much closer to Vernon Davis than he is to Heath Miller, best overall TE. Saw him pancakes J. Clowney (overrated player in my opinion but still) several times. I’m sold on Ebron.

  • Ahmad

    After the Browns and Ravens we got the Dolphins and Bengals at home followed by the Packers on the road, and we close out with the Browns at home. Three of our last 4 games will be at home so advantage us!

  • Chris Ranieri

    A hurt Rodgers is arguably still a top 5 QB in this league…

  • Kareem Daniels

    Ryan Clark was out of position on that first td by CJ

  • Matthew Marczi

    Not saying he’s the answer, but Beachum shut down the left side pass rush against the Lions. Of course that was with Ziggy Ansah out too. Gilbert did a nice job as well, but they were both helped by quick-release passes.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Thanks for the correction, it’s fixed now.

  • HarryBackside

    I agree. I don’t have a lot of faith in the FO’s ability to evaluate LT prospects. FA is definitely the way to go. It doesn’t even need to be a pro-bowler. Even an above average, consistent veteran LT would provide a big boost to the line.

    What I’m really curious about, is how the team addresses the D-line. Keisel and Hood both have contracts that expire at the end of the year. Do they bring Hood back, and if so, how does the team address the lack of depth on the D-line? I would love to pick up Ra’Shede Hageman in the first round. He’s share’s a lot of similarities with Heyward in terms of length and motor, he’s just bigger, stronger, and an absolute freak athlete. I think he would be a great compliment to Heyward.

  • RMSteeler

    Seems to be fewer quality pass protect OT’s coming out of college since there’s so many stretch read option offenses now. After seeing Stanford imposing it’s will on Oregon last week with it’s running attack, would be great to pick up the 4 senior Stanford OL players with a couple from Wisconsin too. But, too many needs in other areas for next year. Would like to see as many UDFA’s from the great running teams signed to try and find some diamonds in the rough. A lot of pundits had Mike Adams rated the #1 pro ready OT in his draft class. What concerned me was he was only able to bench 19 (I think) 225’s at the combine. Many DB’s in that class did better. Plus, Adams seemed to have slow feet, and sure enough, he did. Don’t want to give up on Mike, but get him into a big time strength training program in the offseason! And maybe some dance lessons; get him lighter on his feet.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I’m pretty certain that Ziggy Hood is here to stay. He’s been above-average 3-4 defensive end for us regardless how people interpret the benching Hood and promoting Heyward. It is cause just because Heyward always had been this good.

    Same with Jason Worilds, don’t see him going anywhere.

  • RW

    I think Adams is ultimately the answer at RT. Don’t know why they’re giving Gilbert the shot there. I guess Adams made Tomlin’s “Dog House”. I think Beachum is a perfect swingman for this team, perhaps eventually a starting guard, but he is by no means capable of handling the top-tier pass rushers in this game, and not every offensive pass will utilize the quick release, particularly with Ben’s style of play. I think a true, top-tier LT is all this team needs to build a juggernaut offense. Perhaps a big receiver would also be in order, but not entirely necessary for this to be a great offense.

  • HarryBackside

    I thought about that after I made my comment. I could see the team signing Hood to something like a 3 year contract, which would allow them the opportunity to develop Arnfelt and Nick Williams.

    Worilds definitely has to be high on the teams list. He’s more than just depth, because he gives the team a back up OLB that can contribute on sub-packages.

    Doesn’t mean it will be in the first round, but I see a lot of picks on the defensive side of the ball coming this year. I doubt Clark or Keisel will be coming back. I also expect Troy to be released. I can also see Ike becoming a cap casualty too. I think the team needs to hold on to Velasco and Cotch. If they plan to re-sign Hood and Worilds, along with signing a free agent LT, I don’t see how it gets done without eliminating Ike and Troy’s salaries. That means a lot of picks spent on the secondary.

  • Bell Cow

    I know Colbert generally doesnt draft DBs early, but I’d like to see them draft either safety Clinton-Dix from Alabama or CB Bradley Roby from Ohio State. They need a ballhawk in the secondary.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Matt…I think the draft talk is still pretty relevant. I do agree the playoffs are very much alive after yesterday but the margin for error is razor thin…after the next 2 weeks we’ll know a little bit more about this team in terms of this season. Win @ CLE, and @ BAL…I will shift more attention to the playoffs.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Echo your thoughts on Ebron, a big bodied playmaker would do wonders for Ben, and the RZ OFC…mid 1st is probably where he’s going mid 1st which is about where I expect PIT to be picking now.

    Clowney…I really think the NFL is on this kid’s mind and I guess I can’t blame him…potential #1 overall talk I’m sure effected him. I think is going to struggle a bit in the NFL as a 4-3 DE unless he goes to a team with studs @ DT…imo the Bucs are a great fit for him.

  • Dan

    Just a correction. If the season ended right now we would have the 9th overall pick, which is a top ten pick. Seven teams have a worse record than 4-6 (although Buff at 4-7 shouldn’t count since they haven’t had their bye). Of the eight 4-6 teams, only SD has a worse SOS than us, which gives us the 9th pick. We are tied with OAK on SOS but we “win” the coin-flip tie breaker by virtue of league compensation from the Phil Luckett debacle in Detroit.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m really torn between getting that big target or a left tackle. I think if necessary they could continue to get by with the three tackles they have (all are still on an upward trajectory…I also think more highly of Gilbert than most do), but if there’s a legitimate left tackle when they draft, I’m not going to cry. I just think an elite wide receiver with size *could* have an even greater impact on the offense. Just look at Stafford, he avoids some sacks just by tossing the ball up to his tall receivers and letting them make a play. Another TE is also a high priority, though it doesn’t have to be a first-round pedigreed guy. We should still have Miller and (finally) Spaeth next year, and probably David Johnson, but I’d like to add a quality draft pick to that competition.

  • ATL96STEELER

    LT…the top 3 LTs taken from LY, Joeckel (1), Lance (4), Fluker (11)…none are the starting LT on their respective teams…Kalil in MIN was probably the last lock at LT drafted since Joe Thomas. Point…I agree I don’t have much confidence either, but it’s proving to be a RT start in a lot of these cases.

    Hood…I think they almost have to bring him back…should not cost a ton…Brett will hang it up, or should. Have not seen Hageman play, but I do like the concpet of pairing him with Heyward…I like Nix b/c I don’t think McLendon is a legit NT, would be a better DE in this scheme imo.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Keisel, Clark, Foote, Levi Brown are all done imo. Sanders…I think he’s going to get offered #2 money somewhere and take it.

    Troy…it really depends on how the cap looks…Thomas looks like he can take over SS next year and maybe they move Troy to FS for his last year…I’m sure they will ask for a discount on the $10 mil cap hit and I think he’ll oblige them.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Big target…a Ebron or Evans type player would really put this OFC back at another level. Right now…in the RZ Ben has to be so precise because he doesn’t have the option of throwing it high.

    Call me crazy, but I still think Adams can play LT….the top 3 OTs off the board last yr are all playing RT if they’re playing at all…the plug and play guys like Joe Thomas are very rare and I think we forget that.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Agree, Jason Worilds is much more valuable than any would think, which is why his contract shall be a steal. To be honest, I’m still pissed how first round went last April. Jarvis Jones is NOT the answer. We would still have to look for a 3-4 pass-rushing specialist. Maybe we can keep Jarvis Jones as a BUCK LB but, eh, don’t see our coaching staffs going that direction.

    Drafting Eifert last season would have eliminated the need of TE but also we wouldn’t be able to land Ebron, so that’s something.

    We need a pro-ready player, somebody who can start and I already have eliminated all positions except for NT, OLB, and TE. Victor Beasley and Khalil Mack both can easily start, both are easily the second best pass-rushers beside Woodley but they won’t be there by our pick. Daneil McCullers are the only true nose tackle in top 75 prospects and when I say neither Notre Dame products are not a nose tackle, I mean it. Tuitt and Louis Nix both are defensive ends. Thing is we can get McCullerslater and maybe trade up for him in 2nd.

    That leaves the obvious; best redzone weapon available, enter Ebron of North Carolina. His agility is insane for a man his size, can shake off defender when facing one on one. Plays with strength.

    Heath Miller have been awesome but believe it or not; we actually can upgrade from Heath Miller to Ebron.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    We will sign players to medium salaries, getting rid of bloated contracts, that’s for sure. While without troy polamalu, ryan clark, and ike taylor makes our secondarylook weaken, let’s not forget we have Will Allen, Shamarko Thomas, Isiah Green, Willie Gay, and Cortez Allen. They are better than many would think, I see other mid-round defensive back no question.

    Also one more free agent acquisition for defensive back. Likely after the draft.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That’s another thing to consider. Very few left tackles are plug-and-play left tackles coming out of college and usually take a year of honing at right tackle. Tyron Smith even struggled in his first year on the left side in his second season. Can the Steelers afford the learning curve this late into Ben’s career? Unless they’re in position for a premium talent at LT, which they won’t be, a big target would definitely have a more immediate impact, and you wouldn’t have to deal with the Emmanuel Sanders issue.

  • HarryBackside

    I’m not a fan of Nix in round 1, because I don’t see him as a two down player. The increase in pass first, and spread based offenses has resulted in the Steelers using their nickle and quarters defenses as their “base” defense in a lot of circumstances. We saw it happen against the Ravens, and again yesterday against the Lions. LeBeau doesn’t use a NT in nickle sub packages. Hampton didn’t play nickle, and McLendon doesn’t either. It wasn’t a big deal for most of Hampton’s career, because offenses were still primarily run based, which meant he was on the field a lot. Not the case anymore. My concern with a guy like Nix, is that you spend a first round pick on a guy who maybe sees 50% of the snaps on defense.

    It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone mention McLendon being a better fit at DE. I don’t see it. If that were the case, he was see action in nickle sub packages, even if it meant in a rotation.

  • ATL96STEELER

    LY…my top choice was Mingo…I do like JJ and was for the pick, but I’m getting the same feeling that he’s not an OLB in this scheme.

    I’ll have to take your word for it on Nix because the reports I’ve heard is he can play the nose…I’m on record as thinking the personnel with some tweaking and shirt to a 4-3 but I don’t see it happening.

  • ATL96STEELER

    NT…not 3 down guys…that’s largely why NTs are not thought to be top picks.

    I don’t know how Nix compares athletically to Poe in KC, but I think he would be a bear to handle with just a C…G has to help and that was the element that Hampton brought. Just makes it much easier for the ILB to shoot the gap.

    McLendon…I really thought his game was going to be quickness…shooting into the gap and causing timing problems, but it’s not working out that way at all.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Nix can be a nose tackle but he is exactly in the same mold McLendon is. What’s point of drafting one if we already have same player in Steve McLendon and not just; much more glaring needs to be addressed.

    Kappor Lewis-Moore (last year starting DE for Notre Dame) was a better player, best fit for our scheme than any of those players. If you are a 3-4 defensive linemen and you produce sacks, likelihood is that you aren’t for us, our scheme.

    McCullers, on other hand is much closer to the player Terrence Cody is but with actual athleticism and can be 3 downs player if he ever develops. A player like McCullers give us more versatility among our schemes. Better fit.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Actually McLendon does his best when he’s being paired up with Hood. Which is why Hood truly should be our NT, just have to use him differently, keep this in mind Hood is our best run-stuffer on roster. Keisel hurts our starting/rotations more than one would think.

    McCullers compare better to Poe because his initial quickness is really good but in a Terrence Cody-like body. When looking at our future D-line, it looks pretty good. Hood and McLendon both can play DE and NT, I really like Arnfelt, who is very comparable to Chris Hoke. We just need one more piece; a run-stuffing NT because then in the end, we can employs our linebackers more toward their strengths, not to the limitations of currently system.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Matt I like your write ups but we have a losing record 10 games into the season…I wouldn’t tear anything up. Lets hope to continue to stack wins.

  • Riverstko

    LT sounds good but not in the first round-too much of a risk.

  • Riverstko

    Oh believe he will be back everyone wants a chance to play and beat the Steelers. In greenbay or not We owe them one.

  • Riverstko

    DB before mid round prob 1-3rd. Its more urgent than Oline.

  • Riverstko

    It would be worth it! I wanted POE!

  • Riverstko

    Yeah I like McCullers if we can get him in the second

  • HarryBackside

    Hood would be a good NT in a one gap 3-4. Once LeBeau steps down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the defense move to a single gap, under style scheme that the 49er’s and Ravens use. It’s easier for guys to learn coming out of college, and allows them to contribute earlier. It’s also more of an attack based defense.

    I don’t think Poe is a good comparison for anyone. He’s just a freak athlete, and has the skill set to be a 3 down player. I do like MCullers, and would be in favor of possibly upgrading the NT position, but not in the first round. When you look around the league, most teams getting their NT’s on the field for maybe half the downs on defense. They’re basically becoming situational players. I want more bang for the buck out of a first round pick, which is why I would prefer to go DE over NT, assuming that the team addresses the D-line this year. Give me a big, powerful, long armed Mohammed Wilkerson type player who can defend the run, and can rush the passer in nickle situations.

  • HarryBackside

    Poe is just a physical freak, so I don’t think there is a comparison to be made. Nix compares well to BJ Raji. The problem is, Raji barely gets on the field anymore, because the Packers don’t use him in nickel. It was easy to justify using a first round pick on Hampton, because offenses ran a lot more, so the defense was in base most of the game. That’s not where the NFL is at anymore. The Steelers spend most of the game with 2 defensive lineman on the field. With all the no-huddle, and spread based offenses that have popped up around the league, a 3-4 NT is basically a situational player now.

  • HarryBackside

    The defense has changed. The DE’s are being asked to apply pressure a lot more than in the past. They have been doing a lot less 2-gaping, and instead asking the DE’s to attack a single gap.

  • HarryBackside

    Anthony Barr would be a perfect fit at OLB, but I’ve given up on the idea of the Steelers having a high enough to draft Barr

    I think the FO really needs to focus on putting together the pieces to improve on the dime sub-package that was used against the Ravens. Shamarko’s ability in pass coverage allowed LeBeau to use 3 safeties, instead of a 4th CB. Troy and Shamarko are strong enough run defenders, that it allowed the defense to do a good job defending the run and pass. That’s a sub-package that is going to be used more often, and has already been the primary defense used in a number of games. Add a DE who is good against the run, and can attack a gap, along with another complete safety who can play the run and cover the slot, and you’ve got a defense that is going to be able to handle most of the top offenses in the league.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I actually like Anthony Barr a lot but I see him being Aldon Smith 2.0, applying so much of pressure when the man in front of him does his job, occupying blockers. I actually am looking at more technically sound pass-rushers with above-average athleticism and came with Khalil Mack. Mack actually plays in a 3-4 for Buffalo, unlike Jarvis Jones- Mack is primarily a pass-rusher, not a coverage LB who got asked to pass-rush.

    When looking at whole draft from pass-rushing standpoint, not much we can improve, especially from Jason Worilds. Worilds is still easily better than the rest excluding the 4 pass-rushers (Clowney, Barr, Mack, and Beasley) so we either have to go big in 1st round, grabbing one of them OR draft a developmental player, Larry Bloom from Shippenburg come to mind. Freaklish athletic and big at 6’6″ 245 lbs.

    Our problems have been drafting player with lesser talent or wrong fit for the scheme so we now are stuck with those players. Those players can be among the best in NFL but not within our defense. The Eagles are doing very well with last 2 draft classes so look for them to become a very good team in next 5-10 years.

    We need that kind of drafts.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Aside from just the run good NT play in a 3-4 really screws up the LB blocking schemes vs the blitz.

    Point well taken and I agree about Nix or NT might not be the best fit for a 1st rd pick…gotta get bigger playmakers with speed on OFC…Ebron seems ideal right now.

    On DEF I’ve said I think it all depends on LeBeau…I still contend they are closer to a 4-3 personnel than a 3-4…he’s just making it work.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Also there’s a misconcept that getting a good left tackle is easy as getting a pass-rusher or quarterback. The general pool in left tackle talents have shrinked a lot those day. College programs running spread much more hurts us, the old days of I-formation and grinding it out have died out.

    So much as I want a left tackle, I personally only have gave one with a great grade and considered the most pro-ready left tackle out there: Cameron Erving from Florida State. Problem? Can we develop him to become much more technically-sound? Can he be mentally strong to have a short-memory after being beaten? How about handling opponent of such athleticism?

    When looking at the draft in general, you look at your current roster and ask yourself; how much of an upgrade is this prospect and can he replicates what we never had? Kelvin Beachem who is considerably small for a left tackle but does well against the Lions and Terrell Suggs. How many left tackles in this league do you think can actually say that? Not very many.

    I say either stick with what we have or sign a free agent because investment in afree agent is significant smaller than investing in a 1st round and that’s just a harsh fact.

  • HarryBackside

    Barr brings a lot more to the table than Smith. Smith is a great pass rusher, but he’s not great in coverage, and is just OK against the run. Barr was TE/WR during his first two years at UCLA, before being converted to OLB last year. He’s great in coverage, and is asked to play man coverage against TE’s a lot. He’s closer be being a faster, more athletic version of Clay Matthews Jr, than he is to Aldon Smith. I see him more as a combination of Mingo And Dion Jordan, but faster.

  • walter mason

    best run stuffer? you must be joking

  • walter mason

    I would not consider Hood an above average starting def lineman. Hes only average.

  • walter mason

    Beachum has played well. I like his attitude.