The following is the seventh of seven position-by-position 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers NFL draft analyses:
Current makeup: Casey Hampton, Steve McLendon, Kade Weston, Mike Blanc
Last five drafts: The Steelers haven't drafted a true nose tackle for their 3-4 defense since they picked Hampton with their first selection of the 2001 draft.
Top defensive tackles available: Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State; Michael Brockers, LSU; Devon Still, Penn State; Jerel Worthy, Michigan State; Kendall Reyes, Connecticut
Top nose tackles available: Dontari Poe, Memphis; Alameda Ta'amu, Washington; Josh Chapman, Alabama; Hebron Fangupo, BYU; Nick Jean-Baptiste, Baylor
The Steelers might take: Poe; Ta'amu; Chapman; Fangupo
Analysis: Hampton will be 35 this season coming off an ACL tear and in the final year of his contract. The end is near. With Chris Hoke retired, the Steelers need to get a quality nose tackle in this draft, or they might as well switch to a 4-3 defense. Poe is everyone's top-rated nose tackle and could be available for the Steelers with the 24th pick of the first round. If he's already gone, the Steelers could get Ta'amu, possibly in the second round, or wait a few rounds for Chapman or Fangupo. The Steelers, in the later rounds, could also take a defensive tackle that could play outside in their 3-4 or move inside if they switch to a 4-3.
Current makeup: Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward, Al Woods, Corbin Bryant
Last five drafts: The Steelers took Hood (2009) and Heyward (2011) in the first round in two of the last three years. Others who weren't selected in the first round - Ryan McBean (fourth round, 2007), Ra'Shon Harris (sixth round, 2009), LB/DE Thaddeus Gibson (fourth round, 2010) and Doug Worthington (seventh round, 2011) - are no longer with the team.
Top defensive ends available: Quinton Coples, North Carolina; Whitney Mercilus, Illinois; Vinny Curry, Marshall; Jared Crick, Nebraska; Trevor Guyton, California
The Steelers might take: Probably none. Many of the defensive ends that will be selected - Andre Branch, Nick Perry - will be considered outside linebackers by the Steelers.
Analysis: By taking Hood and Heyward in the last three drafts, the Steelers planned for the eventual loss of veteran Aaron Smith, who was released. With Hood, Heyward and Keisel still playing at a high level, the Steelers don't need to take a 3-4 defensive end in this year's draft, at least not in the early rounds.
Coming Thursday: Steelers' overall draft commentary
- Buck Frank