The following is the fifth of seven position-by-position 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers NFL draft analyses:
Current makeup: Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, Antonio Smith, Walter McFadden, Myron Rolle
Last five drafts: William Gay turned out to be a decent fifth-round pick in 2007, but now he's in Arizona. Lewis (third round, 2009), Brown (third round, 2011) and Allen (fourth round, 2011) will all be trying to replace Gay in the starting lineup. Joe Burnett (fifth round, 2009) and Crezdon Butler (fifth round, 2010) didn't stick with the team very long.
Top cornerbacks available: Morris Claiborne, LSU; Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina; Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama; Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama; Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
The Steelers might take: Trumaine Johnson, Montana; Josh Robinson, Central Florida; Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt; Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma; Keith Tandy, West Virginia; Shaun Prater, Iowa
Analysis: Who will start at left cornerback in 2012 might be the biggest question facing the Steelers when they head to training camp. Lewis has the most experience, but Allen and Brown have more upside. The Steelers will most likely add another corner to the mix because the draft is deep with cornerbacks. They might find a good physical corner in the fourth or fifth rounds, such as Tandy or Prater. If not, they could always wait until the seventh round and still get a decent prospect.
Current makeup: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen, Damon Cromartie-Smith
Last five drafts: Mundy (sixth round, 2006) has been OK as a backup free safety but is a big drop-off from Clark.
Top safeties available: Mark Barron, Alabama; Harrison Smith, Notre Dame; George Iloka, Boise State; Trenton Robinson, Michigan State; Antonio Allen, South Carolina
The Steelers might take: Robinson; Brandon Hardin, Oregon State; DeQuan Menzie, Alabama
Analysis: Barron could be available for the Steelers in the first round, but it's hard to believe they'll take a safety when they have more pressing needs. However, Polamalu will be 31, and Clark will turn 33 during the season, so they need to start thinking about adding youth. Robinson could be an ideal Steelers pick because of his physicality, but they would probably have to grab him in the second or third round. Likely, the Steelers would go for a college cornerback who projects as an NFL safety, such as Menzie, in the later rounds.
Coming Tuesday: Linebackers
- Buck Frank