The following is the fifth of seven position-by-position 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers draft analyses:
Currently on the roster: Cam Thomas, Steve McLendon, Hebron Fangupo, Al Lapuaho
Last five drafts: Ra'Shon Harris (2009, sixth round), Doug Worthington (2010, seventh round) and Alameda Ta'amu (2012, fourth round) didn't make much of an impact - on the playing field - in Pittsburgh.
Top defensive tackles available: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh; Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota; Timmy Jernigan, Florida State; Louis Nix, Notre Dame
The Steelers might select: Hageman
Analysis: The signing of Thomas, the San Diego Chargers' former nose tackle, eliminates any pressing needs to pick a nose in the draft. McLendon is there, too, but also might see action on the end this year. With the Steelers' 3-4 defense, they might draft a player who is listed as a defensive tackle but is actually projected to play end in their scheme - like Ziggy Hood and most recently Nick Williams. That is why Hageman, at 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, has the perfect body size for an end in the Steelers' defense (think Aaron Smith) and could be a nice catch if they trade down in the first round or up in the second.
Currently on the roster: Cameron Heyward, Nick Williams, Brian Arnfelt
Last five drafts: Ziggy Hood (2009, first round) never played like a first-round pick, but Heyward (2011, first round) blossomed in 2013 and appears to be headed toward a solid NFL career. Williams (2013, seventh round) was on injured reserve for his rookie season but has potential. Thaddeus Gibson (2010, fourth round) was with seven organizations in four seasons.
Top defensive ends available: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina; Dee Ford, Auburn; Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame; Kony Ealy, Missouri
The Steelers might select: Tuitt; Ealy; Scott Crichton, Oregon State; Will Clarke, West Virginia
Analysis: The Steelers have many needs, but defensive end could be the most pressing. They lost Hood and Al Woods to free agency and haven't re-signed Brett Keisel. With the 15th pick, they won't get a sniff at Clowney, but the others they might be interested in - tall and heavy ends that eat up blockers - are not worth the 15th pick. If a player like Tuitt or Crichton is available with their second-round pick (No. 46), they very well could pull the trigger on one of them. Or they could try to get someone like Clarke (6-foot-6) in the third or fourth round. They need to come out of the draft with, at the very least, some depth on the defensive line.
Coming Tuesday: Linebackers
- Buck Frank