The Steelers are going to select at least one cornerback in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
They have to.
Since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, the Steelers have had a need to upgrade their secondary each year. But they have selected four cornerbacks in the draft in those four years with three of them coming in the fifth round and one, Keenan Lewis, in the third.
That's not exactly making a commitment to improving that position.
In fairness to the Steelers, they have made some good picks with their top choices excluding Limas Sweed and the cornerback pool of talent hasn't been the greatest in terms of first-round choices. They've also been to the Super Bowl in two of the last three seasons.
But after the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers torched the Steelers' secondary for 304 yards and three touchdowns in Super XLV, and the fact that Ike Taylor and William Gay are currently free agents, it has become clear the Steelers need to try and find a young stud at cornerback.
The following is a stab at how the Steelers' draft may play out over the next three days:
First round (31): Trade to Arizona Cardinals for their second- and third-round picks
Second round (38): Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Second round (63): James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
Third round (69): Jerrell Powe, NT, Mississippi
Third round (95): Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State
Fourth round (128): Buster Skrine, CB, Tenn.-Chattanooga
Fifth round (162): Da'Rel Scott, RB, Maryland
Sixth round (196): David Arkin, OG, Missouri State
Seventh round (232): Lee Smith, TE, Marshall
The problem is they're picking 31st, so they won't get a chance at the top two cornerbacks available in LSU's Patrick Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara. Colorado's Jimmy Smith is another first-rounder but most likely has too many red flags for the Steelers.
That would leave the Steelers staring at possibly Texas' Aaron Williams, Miami's Brandon Harris and Virginia's Ras-I Dowling. All three are on the Steelers' radar, and each of them offers something different.
Williams is a 6-foot physical play-maker but is not fast and is expected to eventually play safety in the pros, Harris is fast and can cover but is only 5-10 and isn't as physical, and Dowling is 6-foot-1 and fast but is injury-prone.
It's difficult to predict if the Steelers have one of them rated much higher than the others. The guess here is if all three are available, the Steelers would entertain thoughts of trading out of the first round.
Several teams in the early part of the second round Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers need a quarterback, and if they passed on one early in the first round they may be eager to get back into the first round and grab one of the remaining QBs.
The Steelers could pick up a team's second-round pick and still be able to get one of the three corners and possibly add a third-round pick to their arsenal.
That would also keep them from reaching for need in the first round, which they try and never do.
What may prevent the Steelers from trading out of the first round is if a player such as Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward or Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod falls to the 31st pick. They may be too good to pass up at that point, and the Steelers could hope Dowling is available at the end of the second round with their next pick.
Once the Steelers get their cornerback, they can start filling their other top needs, which are offensive tackle and defensive line. They also need a tall receiver, third-down running back and a tight end.
And they could also use a second cornerback sometime on the third day of the draft. With the current state of their secondary, the more the merrier.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.