Steelers draft capsule
The following is the sixth of seven Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 NFL draft position-by-position analyses:
Currently on roster: Ryan Shazier, Vince Williams, Tyler Matakevich, L.J. Fort, Steven Johnson
Last five drafts: Shazier (2014, first round) has become a force on the Steelers’ defense — when he’s healthy. Williams (2013, sixth round) and Matakevich (2016, seventh round) were both late-round picks but have been decent pros and will most likely battle it out for a starting spot created by Lawrence Timmons’ exit. Injuries derailed the Steelers’ careers of Sean Spence (2012, third round) and Jordan Zumwalt (2014, sixth round). Spence signed with the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason.
Top inside linebackers available: Reuben Foster, Alabama; Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt; Jarrad Davis, Florida; Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State; Anthony Walker, Northwestern
The Steelers might select: Cunningham; Davis; McMillan
Analysis: With Timmons gone, the Steelers have a glaring need at inside linebacker. The combination of Williams and Matakevich might be able to get the job done, but the team could use a stud to pair with Shazier. Foster will be long gone by the time the Steelers pick in the first round. Cunningham probably won’t be available, either, but would be a nice pick if he slips to No. 30. Davis could very well be the Steelers’ first-round pick. He appears to be a younger version of Timmons. If Davis is gone by No. 30, or if the Steelers pass on him, McMillan could be their second-round pick to give them a pair of Buckeyes inside.
Currently on roster: Bud Dupree, James Harrison, Arthur Moats, Anthony Chickillo, Akil Blount, Jason Fanaika, Farrington Huguenin
Last five drafts: The Steelers picked outside linebackers with their first pick twice in the last four drafts — Dupree (2015) made strides at the end of last season, while Jarvis Jones (2013) never reached his potential and signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Chickillo (2015, sixth round) has done well considering how late he was drafted. The same can’t be said for Travis Feeney (2016, sixth round), who spent his rookie season on the practice squad and is now with the New Orleans Saints.
Top outside linebackers available: Haason Reddick, Temple; Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; T.J. Watt, Wisconsin; Charles Harris, Missouri; Ryan Anderson, Alabama
The Steelers might select: McKinley; Watt; Harris; Anderson; Tyus Bowser, Houston; Carl Lawson, Auburn; Duke Riley, LSU; Tim Williams, Alabama; Derek Rivers, Youngstown State; Vince Biegel, Wisconsin; Carroll Phillips, Illinois; Javancy Jones, Jackson State
Analysis: With Harrison soon to be 39 years old, the Steelers need a disruptive pass rusher on the outside to make up for the disappointment of Jarvis Jones. Reddick won’t still be on the board for the Steelers’ first pick, but McKinley or Watt could be. McKinley would seem to be an ideal pick if he lasts until the 30th selection. The talent pool, though, at OLB seems to be better than in previous years, so the Steelers could possibly grab Lawson or Riley in the second round, Rivers in the third or Biegel or Phillips in the fourth.
Coming Wednesday: Defensive backs