Steelers draft capsule

The following is the seventh of seven position-by-position 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers draft analyses:


Currently on the roster: Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, William Gay, Isaiah Green, Ross Ventrone, Brice McCain, Antwon Blake, Devin Smith

Last five drafts: The Steelers have tried to address their cornerback situation just about every year but have mostly struck out with Joe Burnett (2009, fifth round), Crezdon Butler (2010, fifth round), Curtis Brown (2011, third round), Terrence Frederick (2012, seventh round) and Terry Hawthorne (2013, fifth round). Keenan Lewis (2009, third round) turned out to be a good pick but is now in New Orleans. Allen (2011, fourth round) is probably the best of the cornerback selections.

Top cornerbacks available: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State; Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech; Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State; Bradley Roby, Ohio State; Jason Verrett, TCU

The Steelers might select: Dennard, Fuller, Gilbert, Roby, Verrett; Phillip Gaines, Rice; Shaquille Richardson, Arizona; Brandon Dixon, NW Missouri State

Analysis: Due to the fact that the Steelers haven’t found much success selecting cornerbacks in the later rounds, this might just be the year to take one of the top corners with their first-round pick. Taylor is not getting any younger, and they need to find a shutdown cornerback soon. Dennard, Fuller, Gilbert, Roby and Verrett are projected to be first-rounders by most mock drafts, and the Steelers could have their pick at possibly three or four of them. Of the five, Gilbert brings the best combination of size and speed but could be a top-10 pick. The Steelers could trade back in the first round and still get one of the five or they could resort back to their old ways and look for a speedster in the third or fourth round, like Gaines, or later – Richardson or Dixon.


Currently on the roster: Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas, Robert Golden, Will Allen, Jordan Dangerfield

Last five drafts: The Steelers picked their first safety in five seasons last year when they selected Thomas in the fourth round. He showed promise and should have an expanded role this season.

Top safeties available: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama; Calvin Pryor, Louisville; Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois; Deone Bucannon, Washington State; Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

The Steelers might select: Brock Vereen, Minnesota; Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin; Dontae Johnson, N.C. State

Analysis: The Steelers brought Bucannon and Pryor – projected first-rounders – to their facilities for official pre-draft visits, but it doesn’t seem reasonable that the Steelers would pick a safety with their first-round selection. Polamalu was healthy last season, Thomas has upside, and they brought Mitchell in to replace Ryan Clark. Depth in the secondary, though, is an issue, so they might look at some safeties in the later rounds. The Steelers put an emphasis on speed in the secondary, so fast safeties like Vereen, Southward or Johnson could be on their radar during Saturday’s last four rounds of the draft.

– Buck Frank

Steelers draft capsule

The following is the sixth of seven position-by-position 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers draft analyses:


Currently on the roster: Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones, Chris Carter, Arthur Moats, Vic So’oto

Last five drafts: Worilds (2010, second round) has steadily improved over his four-year NFL career and will be a big focal point of the Steelers’ defense this season. Carter (2011, fifth round) has done OK but hasn’t displayed any explosiveness. Jones (2013, first round) showed flashes last year but needs to take his game to a higher level this season.

Top outside linebackers available: Khalil Mack, Buffalo; Anthony Barr, UCLA; Ryan Shazier, Ohio State; Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

The Steelers might select: Lawrence, Marcus Smith, Louisville; Carl Bradford, Arizona State; Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College

Analysis: The Steelers picked an OLB in the first round of the draft last year, so it figures they’ll not go in that same direction on Thursday night, even though Barr might be available to them. The Steelers could be fine at OLB – if Worilds stays healthy, Jones progresses, and Moats, an offseason acquisition, fits in well with the team. But those are too many ifs to neglect the position totally. It’s harder to find 3-4 OLBs in the later rounds, so if they are going to pick one, expect it to be in the third or fourth round. That’s where someone like Smith or Bradford might fall to them.


Currently on the roster: Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Sean Spence, Kion Wilson, Daniel Molls

Last five drafts: Williams (2013, sixth round) was pressed into service last season and did pretty well for a rookie sixth-round pick. Spence (2012, third round) hasn’t played the last two seasons due to a major injury but could be headed toward some action this year. Stevenson Sylvester (2010, fifth round) never could get over the hump of being a decent backup/special teamer.

Top inside linebackers available: C.J. Mosley, Alabama; Chris Borland, Wisconsin; Max Bullough, Michigan State; Preston Brown, Louisville; Shayne Skov, Stanford

The Steelers might select: Mosley

Analysis: Inside linebacker doesn’t appear to be one of the Steelers’ top needs – especially if Spence is healthy – but they can’t overlook the position in the draft. Mosley is the top ILB available, and a drop-off exists after him. Some mock drafts have the Steelers selecting him with the 15th pick of the first round, but that would be somewhat surprising considering their other needs. But if Mosley does fall to them, the Steelers could pick him strictly on his being the best player available – much like they did with David DeCastro a few years ago. If they don’t select Mosley, they probably could wait until the sixth or seventh round for an ILB, like Kentucky’s Avery Williamson or South Florida’s DeDe Lattimore.

Coming Wednesday: Defensive backs

– Buck Frank

Steelers draft capsule

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

Steelers draft capsule

The following is the fourth of seven position-by-position 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers draft analyses:


Currently on the roster: Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Derek Moye, Justin Brown, Kashif Moore, Jasper Collins, Lanear Sampson, Danny Coale

Last five drafts: The Steelers have been successful with non-first day wide receiver draft picks. Mike Wallace (2009, third round) and Emmanuel Sanders (2010, third round) were quality players but are no longer with the team, and Antonio Brown (2010, sixth round) has turned into one of the top receivers in the NFL. The jury is still out on Wheaton (2013, third round), who caught passes in just two games as a rookie, and Justin Brown (2013, sixth round). Toney Clemons (2012, seventh round) is currently with the Carolina Panthers.

Top wide receivers available: Sammy Watkins, Clemson; Mike Evans, Texas A&M; Odell Beckham Jr., LSU; Brandin Cooks, Oregon State; Marqise Lee, USC; Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

The Steelers might select: Beckham Jr.; Donte Moncrief, Mississippi; Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; Allen Robinson, Penn State; Cody Latimer, Indiana; Martavis Bryant, Clemson

Analysis: There’s a good crop of receivers this year, and the Steelers could use a stud that might make an immediate impact. The problem is, where the Steelers are situated in the first round at pick 15, Watkins and Evans will be gone, and it might be too early to take the other first-rounders. If they do go after a receiver in the first round, the physical Beckham Jr. would make the most sense as he could fill the void left by Hines Ward’s retirement a few years ago and be a complement to Antonio Brown. The Steelers might trade down a few picks if they’re interested in him. Otherwise, a strong group of second-tier receivers exist, so they could wait until the second round for big, fast guys like Moncrief, Matthews or Robinson. But they do need to find someone high in the draft to help offset the free-agent loss of Sanders.


Currently on the roster: Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, David Paulson, Michael Palmer

Last five drafts: The Steelers enjoyed some success with David Johnson (2009, seventh round), who had trouble staying healthy and is now with the San Diego Chargers. Paulson (2012, seventh round) has 13 receptions in two seasons but hasn’t positioned himself for a long future with the team.

Top tight ends available: Eric Ebron, North Carolina; Jace Amaro, Texas Tech; Troy Niklas, Notre Dame; Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

The Steelers might select: Arthur Lynch, Georgia; Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State; Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts; Xavier Grimble, USC; Jake Murphy, Utah

Analysis: The Steelers need to upgrade the tight end position as Miller begins his 10th season. It’s probably not a good year to pick his successor in the first round, due to other needs, but they could use one of their third-day picks on one of the above-mentioned possibilities. If they can get a good value tight end pick in the sixth or seventh round, that would be a perfect scenario for them.

Coming Monday: Defensive line

– Buck Frank

Steelers draft capsule

The following is the third of seven position-by-position 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers draft analyses:


Currently on the roster: Maurkice Pouncey, Cody Wallace

Last five drafts: Pouncey (2010, first round) is a Pro Bowler, when healthy. He missed 99 percent of the 2013 season with an ACL tear. A.Q. Shipley (2009, seventh round) spent one season on the Steelers’ practice squad before bouncing around with Philadelphia and Indianapolis and landing with Baltimore, where he started nine games last year.

Top centers available: Marcus Martin, USC; Weston Richburg, Colorado State; Bryan Stork, Florida State

The Steelers might select: None

Analysis: The Steelers’ offensive line made strides last year without Pouncey, so it figures they are hopeful his return will make the line more effective. Wallace has played in 17 games the last two seasons, so he is a capable backup. If the Steelers want another center, they’ll wait until after the draft for a free agent like New Mexico’s Dillon Farrell, who can play other positions.


Currently on the roster: David DeCastro, Ramon Foster, Nik Embernate, David Snow, Bryant Browning, Chris Hubbard

Last five drafts: DeCastro (2012, first round) had a good season in his second year in 2013, and Kelvin Beachum (2012, seventh round) has been a good find with his versatility. The Steelers gave up on Kraig Urbik (2009, third round) after one season, and he’s spent the last four in Buffalo carving out a solid NFL career. Keith Williams (2011, sixth round) ended up in the Arena League.

Top guards available: Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA; Trai Turner, LSU; David Yankey, Stanford

The Steelers might select: Charles Leno, Boise State; John Urschel, Penn State; Dakota Dozier, Furman

Analysis: The Steelers don’t need to select an offensive guard, with DeCastro and Foster each starting 15 games in 2013. Embernate could be a decent backup if he is able to return from a serious knee injury. But, if a versatile player, like Leno or Dozier, or a heady player, like Urschel, slips to the sixth or seventh rounds, it wouldn’t hurt to give one a shot.


Currently on the roster: Kelvin Beachum, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, Guy Whimper

Last five drafts: Gilbert (2011, second round) and Adams (2012, second round) haven’t lived up to their draft statuses, but they turned a corner in 2013 and have given the Steelers some hope for their futures. Chris Scott (2010, fifth round) spent two seasons in Pittsburgh and started eight games for the Carolina Panthers last year.

Top tackles available: Jack Matthews, Texas A&M; Greg Robinson, Auburn; Taylor Lewan, Michigan; Zack Martin, Notre Dame

The Steelers might select: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, McGill, Can.; Matt Feiler, Bloomsburg

Analysis: As with guard and center, the Steelers don’t need to select an offensive tackle. Usually, if a team doesn’t get one of the top tier tackles, it isn’t worth a gamble on one in the middle rounds. But the Steelers might want to give new OL coach Mike Munchak a project like Duvernay-Tardif or Feiler – both from small schools and both can also play guard – to tinker with in training camp and help push Adams and Gilbert. They would be looking at those prospects with their late picks.

Coming Sunday: Wide receivers and tight ends

– Buck Frank