2011 NFL Draft Results: Pittsburgh Steelers Select Defensive End Cameron Heyward, Shoring Up Aging 3-4 Front

Pitt wide receiver Jon Baldwin was taken at No. 26 by the Kansas City Chiefs.

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NFL Draft 2011 Grades: How Should Browns, Steelers Grade Out?

SB Nation’s Bryan Gallifond has NFL Draft grades for all 32 teams. It’s interesting stuff, although he doesn’t seem to weight traded 2012 draft picks very heavily, which leads to weirdness like the Falcons getting a higher grade (B-) than the Browns (C+). The Browns, it seems to me, pretty clearly killed it in the first round, getting a ton of value out of the No. 6 overall pick. I would give them an A, straight up, and I say this as a Steelers fan.

The Chiefs get the lowest grade, with a C for reaching for Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin. The Titans and Vikings get somewhat kinder treatment for reaching for quarterbacks Jake Locker and Christian Ponder, respectively, but maybe they get some slack for picking quarterbacks, who tend to be unpredictable. The Steelers get a B-:

The Steelers aren’t a team that drafts for need; they draft for depth and their system. DE Cameron Heyward addresses both, and was just about perfect value-wise. There are still glaring needs to fill, however.

True, but I’m not sure what grade the Steelers would have gotten had they taken a lesser talent like Aaron Williams, who fills a more obvious need. Other than getting creative by trading up or down, it isn’t really clear to me what the Steelers could have done better.


NFL Draft 2011 (News): Falcons Stake Future On Julio Jones

A lot of teams had strange and questionable drafts, but the Falcons' might just take the cake. Roddy White's reaction to the Falcons' acquisition of Julio Jones was pretty priceless. From his Twitter page (via):

Well we got julio jones I'm excited

Less than an hour later, White had found out exactly how Atlanta got Cleveland to trade the No. 6 pick for the Falcons to take Julio Jones, and he changed his tune:

Well I was wrong we give up our draft

Ouch. And your 2012 draft, too. The Falcons' decision to trade up for Jones - giving up their first-, second- and fourth-round picks this year as well as their first- and fourth-round picks next year - ensured that the Cleveland Browns had the best Day 1 of any team. The Falcons now really need Jones to become a huge star, and he might. But they're taking a giant risk on him.

SB Nation's Falcons blog, The Falcoholic, weighs in on Jones:

They're going to be a nightmare for opposing cornerbacks, and Jones has the potential to be an all-time great. I truly believe that.

The drawbacks? The Falcons gave up way too much to get Jones. Those picks could have been used to get multiple quality players, and the team may regret it in the next draft if players they want are available in the first round and they're not there to pick. Given Thomas Dimitroff's penchant for making great picks in every round, the fact that the Falcons gave up a huge bounty scares me more than a little bit.

In short, Dimitroff has balls of steel, the Falcons gave up way too much, but Jones is a potentially elite talent who may could transform the team's offense. With its blank eyes and steady hands, time alone can tell us whether it was the right move.

It's pretty telling that the author thinks that Jones could be "an all-time great" - and still doesn't seem sure the Falcons didn't give up way too much to get him.

The Falcons will mostly be sitting out when the draft continues on Friday night at 6:30 PM Eastern. They don't have another pick until No. 91, and then don't have another one after that until No. 158. We'll see whether Julio Jones was worth it.


Steelers Draft Picks 2011: Cameron Heyward Happy To Be In Pittsburgh

Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, who the Steelers just selected with the No. 31 overall pick - has a deep history in Pittsburgh and will be happy to be in town:

"To be somewhere where you want to be is an unbelievable feeling," said Heyward, a Pittsburgh native who still has family in the area. "I always had a Terrible Towel."

Heyward went to high school in Georgia, but his father, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, was a star running back at Pitt.

The Steelers, for their part, also sound thrilled with their pick, as they seemed to be when they only took a couple of minutes to make it:

"This is a special moment for this organization," Colbert said. "We got a guy we really wanted and still have all of our other picks."

This looks like a match made in heaven. With Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood in front of him, Heyward will have a year or two before the Steelers begin to depend on him as a starter. When they do, though, he'll probably become a fan favorite.

2011 NFL Draft Results: AFC North First-Round Draft Grades

The first round of the draft was a successful one for all four AFC North teams.


2011 NFL Draft: What The Cameron Heyward Pick Means For The Steelers

Many Steelers fans are breathing a sigh of relief that Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward fell to them in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. While cornerback is a more pressing need, and while there were cornerbacks available (Texas’ Aaron Williams and Miami’s Brandon Harris) who projected to go at the end of the first round, neither Williams (who might turn out to be a safety) nor Harris (who is undersized) were of much interest to Steelers fans, who preferred Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling.

Dowling will probably be gone by the middle of the second round, and Williams will probably also be gone next time the Steelers’ name is called. But in the meantime, the Steelers picked up a solid value in Heyward at a position of need. Here’s Behind The Steel Curtain on the Heyward selection:

At 6’5", 294 pounds, Heyward projects quite well as a 3-4 defensive end. With Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith both over the age of 30 and dinged up with injuries in recent years, it made sense for the Steelers to use a high pick on a defensive lineman for the second time in three years. He’ll provide immediate depth along John Mitchell’s line in 2011, with the hope that he can slide into a starting role perhaps as soon as 2012.

As with Ziggy Hood, another defensive end who the Steelers selected in the first round (in 2009, in Hood’s case), Heyward probably won’t have to contribute right away. But with Brett Keisel showing signs of age and Aaron Smith really showing signs of age, the Steelers will need him sooner rather than later, and he will fit in well in their defense. ESPN on Heyward:

The Steelers want physical two-gap players at this position who eat up blockers in space and let OLBs LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison make plays and Heyward fits this description. Pittsburgh is an organization that always seems to have a great handle on its future needs and seems to be one step ahead.

Defensive end wasn’t the Steelers’ greatest area of need, but it was a concern that needed to be addressed, and they did so with a player who offered good value and will fit in well with the team. Also, as Pete Wilmoth pointed out while watching the draft, the speed with which the Steelers made the pick seems to indicate that they felt pretty certain about it. In the second and third rounds on Friday, the Steelers will surely need to take a cornerback, but hopefully the fact that Williams and Harris didn’t get taken in the first round might mean that a talented defensive back will slip to them.


2011 NFL Draft: An Entertaining And Surprise-Filled First Round Comes To An End

While we pen some articles about the Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick, Cameron Heyward — from what you should know about the Ohio State defensive end’s background, to how he’ll fit into the Steelers’ defensive scheme — let’s take a quick look at the first 32 picks of the 2011 NFL Draft. There were several picks early on that went as expected; there were some major surprises that followed; there was a major trade that saw a divisional opponent stock up on picks; and once the dust settled, there was one of the more well-rounded and genuinely nice young prospects in many years selected by the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers.

Here’s the list of names called during Thursday night’s first round:

1. Carolina PanthersCam Newton, QB, Auburn
2. Denver Broncos — Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
3. Buffalo Bills — Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
4. Cincinnati Bengals — AJ Green, WR, Georgia
5. Arizona Cardinals — Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
6. Atlanta Falcons (via Cleveland) — Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
7. San Francisco 49ers — Aldon Smith, LB, Missouri
8. Tennessee Titans — Jake Locker, QB, Washington
9. Dallas Cowboys — Tyron Smith, OT, USC
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Washington) — Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
11. Houston Texans – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
12. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
13. Detroit Lions – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
14. St. Louis Rams – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
16. Washington Redskins (via Jacksonville) – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
17. New England Patriots – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
18. San Diego Chargers – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
19. New York Giants – Prince Amukamara, DB, Nebraska
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
21. Cleveland Browns (via Kansas City via Atlanta) — Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
22. Indianapolis Colts — Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
23. Philadelphia Eagles — Danny Watkings, OG, Baylor
24. New Orleans Saints — Cameron Jordan, DE, California
25. Seattle Seahawks — James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
26. Kansas City Chiefs** — Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
27. Baltimore Ravens** — Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
28. New Orleans Saints (via New England) — Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
29. Chicago Bears — Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
30. New York Jets — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
31. Pittsburgh Steelers — Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
32. Green Bay Packers — Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

  • Kansas City swapped places with Baltimore as a result of the Ravens failing to get their pick in a time.

Stay tuned here and at Behind the Steel Curtain for more 2011 NFL Draft updates and analysis throughout tonight, tomorrow, and the remainder of the weekend.

Go Steelers!


2011 NFL Draft Results: Pitt's Jon Baldwin Selected In First Round, Headed To Chiefs

Pitt’s Jon Baldwin was able to shrug off all the criticism about his work ethic, the questions from fans about his not being ready for the NFL, and despite a substandard junior season, was still taken as a first-round pick Thursday night.

More than anything else, Baldwin was taken based on his potential and his prototypical wide receiver body. At 6-foot-5, he’s the perfect big target for NFL quarterbacks.

Baldwin is headed to the Kansas City Chiefs, which should be a good fit for him. He’ll team up with 1,000-yard receiver Dwayne Bowe, and should have a chance to start next season if he can beat out veteran Chris Chambers. He’s also working with a veteran quarterback in Matt Cassel. That, along with the presence of a big-time reciever such as Bowe will only help Baldwin have a smooth transition. He’ll have some time to ease into the role without having a ton of pressure on him immediately.

For more analysis, check out SB Nation Pitt blog Cardiac Hill.


2011 NFL Draft Results: Pittsburgh Steelers Select Defensive End Cameron Heyward

With the No. 31 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward. The team didn't take a whole lot of time making the selection, suggesting that Heyward was very high on their draft board. While everyone was clamoring about a cornerback in the first round - a frightening number of mock drafts linked the Steelers to Texas cornerback Aaron Williams - the glaring need for a youth infusion on the defensive line flew under the radar.

Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are both gifted 3-4 ends, but they're both getting old, and the former has been injured more often than not over the last few seasons. Along with third-year man Ziggy Hood, Heyward ensures that Pittsburgh's defensive front will be dominant in seasons to come. He has ideal size for the position and scheme (6-foot-5, 294 pounds) and has the skills to play five-technique, as he is not well-suited to be a pass-rusher in a 4-3 scheme. While he doesn't excel in any one area, he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses. It's a solid pick for Pittsburgh, who has always built through the draft.

The way things were panning out toward the end of the first round, it became clear that the Steelers would likely select a defensive end or an offensive tackle, as some highly rated prospects fell down the draft board, thanks to some surprising selections (especially the run on quarterbacks early on) in the first round. That said, we might look back in a few years and wonder about Cameron Heyward versus Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod, who was also staring the team in the face at No. 31. Both guys would be excellent values at pick No. 31, at positions of need for the Steelers. We'll just have to see how it pans out and hope that Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, and company made the right choice. They usually do.

Check back tomorrow for coverage of the second and third rounds, and look for Pittsburgh to address the cornerback and tackle positions. 


2011 NFL Draft Results: Baltimore Ravens Skip First-Round Pick, Eventually Select Jimmy Smith

Uncharacteristically, the Baltimore Ravens, who run a tight ship personnel-wise, neglected to submit a pick  with their first-round selection. Pretty big gaffe from Baltimore, as they passed on their #26 selection, a mistake that hasn't happened since the Minnesota Vikings similarly screwed up in 2003.

The clock ran all the way down on their pick, suggesting that perhaps Baltimore was trying to work something out with another team looking to jump up the draft board, but couldn't close the deal. Basically, Baltimore can step in and pick in front of anyone who's on the clock - that's what happened with Minnesota in 2003 - but teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers who are sitting behind #26 couldn't be happier about getting a free spot on their big boards.

The Ravens eventually selected Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, which is a pretty great pick. Looking at Smith, you'd think he was a linebacker. And in man coverage last season, opposing college quarterbacks only completed seven passes against the guy. Seven. Of course, he's got his share of character issues, too, getting arrested twice while in Colorado. We'll see how this pans out for the Ravens.

UPDATE: It was later revealed that Baltimore was trying to deal - with the Chicago Bears. Can't really find a positive way to spin this for Chicago, who clearly wanted a certain player they may now not get, and Baltimore, who lost value by not punching the trade through...in addition to embarrassing themselves.


2011 NFL Draft: Picks: Through First 24 Picks Of First Round, Plenty Of Surprises

Looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be trading up in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. When the Miami Dolphins selected Mike Pouncey with the 15th pick, any hope of a reunion of the Pouncey twins was eliminated. Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara was still available at No. 19, and a big part of me hoped the Steelers would pull the trigger to move up and draft the cornerback most people considered to be the second best corner in this year’s draft.

As it stands, it looks as if the Steelers will either select at No. 31 or trade out of the first round in an attempt to acquire additional picks in later rounds. While we wait to see what transpires, here’s the updated picks through No. 24.

1. Carolina PanthersCam Newton, QB, Auburn
2. Denver Broncos — Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
3. Buffalo Bills — Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
4. Cincinnati Bengals — AJ Green, WR, Georgia
5. Arizona Cardinals — Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
6. Atlanta Falcons (via Cleveland) — Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
7. San Francisco 49ers — Aldon Smith, LB, Missouri
8. Tennessee Titans — Jake Locker, QB, Washington
9. Dallas Cowboys — Tyron Smith, OT, USC
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Washington) — Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
11. Houston Texans – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
12. Minnesota Vikings – Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
13. Detroit Lions – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
14. St. Louis Rams – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
15. Miami Dolphins – Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
16. Washington Redskins – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
17. New England Patriots – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
18. San Diego Chargers – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
19. New York Giants – Prince Amukamara, DB, Nebraska
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
21. Cleveland Browns — Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
22. Indianapolis Colts — Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
23. Philadelphia Eagles — Danny Watkings, OG, Baylor
24. New Orleans Saints — Cameron Jordan, DE, California


2011 NFL Draft Results: Cleveland Browns Trade With Kansas City Chiefs, Select Baylor's Phil Taylor

The Cleveland Browns continue to have what looks like a pretty great draft. After exploiting the Atlanta Falcons' love affair with Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones and acquiring a bevy of picks for their #6 selection, they traded back up to #21 in a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs - who were probably hoping Florida center Mike Pouncey would fall to them - selecting Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor.

Give the Browns some credit. They've adeptly maneuvered up and down the draft board, maximizing their value and aggressively targeting a player they obviously coveted. Taylor is perhaps the only true 3-4 nose tackle in this draft class, suggesting a schematic change is in the cards for Cleveland's defense.

There was speculation that Taylor, a talented beast in the trenches, would fall out of the second round due to character issues. He played for Penn State but got kicked off of the squad for getting into a bar fight and subsequently transferring to Baylor. (Sidenote: Who the hell would pick a fight with a 6-3, 334-pound dude is beyond me.)

Just a few more selections until the Pittsburgh Steelers pick at #31... 


2011 NFL Draft Results: New York Giants Draft Prince Amukamara

The New York Giants got a real bargain at the 19th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, snagging Nebraska Prince Amukamara. A lot of analysts basically considered Amukamara the 1b to LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson's 1a. That is, he's not quite the athletic freak that Peterson is, but he's still likely to be a quality NFL starter. It's a great pick for New York, a solid team with few holes. The Giants will likely look to shore up their offensive front in the forthcoming rounds.

This affects the Pittsburgh Steelers, because it marks the beginning of the alleged second tier of cornerbacks: Jimmy Smith of Colorado, Aaron Williams of Texas, and Brandon Harris of Miami. The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to be in the mix for a corner at pick #23, but beyond that, the Steelers might find that a corner they covet falls into their laps at #31. Alternatively, if two of the above trio are still on the board then (likely Harris and Williams), you could see the Steelers trading down in the 2nd round for value and selecting one of them in the late 30s. 

Then again, they might draft a defensive end or a tackle instead. We'll just have to wait and see...


2011 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins Select Mike Pouncey, Dispelling Rumors of Steelers Trading Up

The Miami Dolphins filled a glaring hole in their starting lineup on Thursday night, selecting interior offensive lineman Mike Pouncey out of Florida with the 15th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. While Pouncey could play either guard spot, it is likely that he will start at center in South Beach, despite occasional troubles this year handling snaps. This selection gives the Dolphins another effective young presence on their offensive front to pair with tackle Jake Long, a former top overall pick. (Now if they can just get quarterback Chad Henne to step up his game...)

There were rumors earlier this week that our favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, would auction their whole draft in order to pair Mike with his twin, All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey. However, as I discussed yesterday, Mike didn't fall beyond Miami, and it would have been foolhardy for the Steelers to trade away a bajillion picks to move way up the board for a guard when they have a number of needs, due to lack of talent and / or age.

I would hope people clamoring for the Steelers to trade up for Pouncey would be even more excited to see Pittsburgh trade up for Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara. (I don't think that's going to happen either - just makin' a point - but I could at least understand that a little better.)

In the meantime, we'll just have to wait and see what the Steelers do as their #31 pick approaches.


Lions Continue to Make Smart Decisions, Adding Nick Fairley to Already Talented D-Line

Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Picture that for a little while.

The Detroit Lions added another stone to the foundation of what may become a dominant defense, selecting Auburn DL Nick Fairley with the 13th overall pick.

The Lions had been rumored to desire a trade down, but why step back when such tremendous value falls in your lap? Fairley is a very highly touted prospect that could abuse offensive lineman throughout the NFL.

Lions fans may still feel snake-bitten by their team’s prior history of loading up at one position in the first, but this is a new day. Detroit finally understand the value of big men.

The Lions are on their way up, folks.


NFL Draft 2011: Minnesota Vikings Reach for Florida State Quarterback Christian Ponder

The Vikings waited about as long as possible to make their current pick, presumably because they wanted to trade down. Since they didn’t receive any offers they liked, the Vikes selcted Christian Ponder of Florida State.

Ponder might be the guy they wanted, but this sure seems like a reach. Ponder could’ve been had much later in the first round, but I guess the Vikings just couldn’t get a deal done.

Hasn’t that happened before?

In a notable snub, the Vikings turned their nose up at talented DE DaQuan Bowers. Let’s see how far Bowers falls now.


NFL Draft 2011: Jaguars Select Blaine Gabbert as Washington Redskins Trade Down

All nine Jacksonville fans in Florida have had to suffer through bland quarterback play for years. With tonight’s selection of Blaine Gabbert, those days may soon be coming to a close. Gabbert may have a year or two to develop behind incumbent QB David Garrard, but the writing is on the wall: Gabbert is the future.

The Jaguars liked their man so much that they traded their first rounder (16th overall) and their 2nd rounder (49th overall) for the privilege of calling his name.

This may be a slightly disappointing trade for Redskins fans who might have been hoping for the glamor of a top ten pick, but Washington is a team with a lot of needs, so scoring an extra pick is a great move, so long as they still nab their target at 16.

One more QB off the board only improves the value of Pittsburgh’s 31st overall pick in a potential trade down.


2011 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Trade Out Of No. 6 Pick, Acquire Multiple Picks From Atlanta Falcons

The 2011 NFL Draft is underway and we have out first major trade of the evening. The Cleveland Browns traded out of the No. 6 pick with the Atlanta Falcons, who had previously been scheduled to pick at No. 27. That’s quite a big jump for Atlanta, but they wanted to ensure they got a dangerous weapon in this year’s draft. They did just that, wide receiver Julio Jones out of Alabama.

I applaud the Falcons for having the gumption to move up that high. It did cost them a pretty penny though. The Falcons swapped places in round one with Cleveland (27th overall pick), plus gave up their second round pick in this year’s draft (59), their fourth round pick (124), and a first and fourth round pick in the 2012 Draft.

Cleveland is now positioned well to really lay a nice foundation for the future in this and next year’s draft. Mike Holmgren has to be thrilled to have pulled off this trade. The Browns may not be ready to compete for a Super Bowl in ’11, but they are going to be a threat to the Pittsburgh Steelers in years to come if they get it right with this bundle of picks they possess. More on this trade, what it means for the AFC North landscape, and how the Steelers and Browns rivalry could be renewed in a big way sooner rather than later.

2012 1st Round and 4th Round Pick


NFL Draft 2011: Cleveland Browns Score King's Ransom in Trade-Down

This is terrible news for Steelers fans. The Cleveland Browns appear to be doing smart things. Very smart things.

The Brownies traded down from the sixth overall pick 27th overall pick—a big jump to be sure. The Browns got paid handsomely for their willingness to add value, as Cleveland acquired the Falcons’ 2nd round pick (59th overall) and fourth round pick (124th overall) this year, as well as their first and fourth round pick for next year.

This is a huge move for a team with a ton of needs. The Browns take one quality pick and turn it into five of them. Hopefully, they will take Brady Quinn with all of the picks they acquired.


Arizona Cardinals Score Best Player in the Draft

For those Steelers fans who feel a strange sort of kinship with the Arizona Cardinals—I call them “Steelers Jr.”—it is a good feeling to see former Steelers coach Ken Wisenhunt snag athletic freak Patrick Peterson, CB of LSU, with the 5th overall pick. This is an enormous value for the Cardinals, who have not had a noteworthy corner since the great Aneas WIlliams left the desert in 2001.

Peterson is a virtual lock to be a lockdown corner. You will be watching him shutout your favorite receiver for years to come.


2011 NFL Draft: The Price Of Moving Up Not Always Been Prohibitively Expensive For Pittsburgh Steelers

We’re just 75 minutes away from the start of the 2011 NFL Draft from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. A record number of draft hopefuls will be in attendance this year, hoping to hear their name called early by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Will the Pittsburgh Steelers draft one of those guys? We’ll see, but likely only if they trade up from their current position at No. 31 to somewhere in the late teens or early 20s.

As speculation has heated up the last few days about the Steelers potentially trading up to land Florida OG/C Mike Pouncey, the reaction from most fans and pundits has been that the price would be too high for the Steelers, especially when Pouncey is projected to play guard at the next level. Well, that’s a matter for good, honest debate. But for example, in this mock draft that projected the Steelers moving up to No. 20 to land Pouncey, the price was losing their second round pick.

Let’s rewind the clock to 2003. In the final few days before that year’s draft, rumors surfaced of the Steelers’ interest in trading up to get Troy Polamalu. They did just that, moving up 11 spots. How much did it cost? Just a third and sixth round pick in that year’s draft. Hardly too much to give up in return to get the guy you really want.

Now, I’m not saying that there’s anybody at No. 20 that the Steelers will absolutely be adamant about trying to acquire, but just remember that ‘03 draft when considering what they’d have to surrender in order to make a similar jump of 11 spots — not too much. So, if there’s a guy you want Kevin Colbert and you’re very confident he’ll turn into a long term starter for the six-time Super Bowl champs, pull the trigger and get it done!

Go Steelers!


Todd McShay NFL Mock Draft Has Steelers Taking Cameron Heyward, Orlando Franklin

Todd McShay’s latest 2011 NFL mock draft. The first four picks (Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green) are predictable, but McShay has Missouri DE Aldon Smith going to the Cardinals at No. 5 overall. Prince Amukamara, meanwhile, falls all the way to the Bucs at No. 20.

McShay has the Steelers picking Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, followed by the Green Bay Packers taking Texas corner Aaron Williams. That would certainly be a strange sequence of events, given the level of interest the Steelers have had in Williams, but Heyward would be a good value at the No. 31 overall pick.

In the second round, McShay has the Steelers taking Miami offensive lineman Orlando Franklin. Here’s a scouting report on Franklin. He would be a good value at the end of the second round, but like Heyward, he would probably be the sort of player the Steelers might feel obligated to take simply because he’s available, not necessarily the guy they really want.


NFL Mock Draft 2011: Who Will Pick The Cornerbacks?

SBNation.com has its final mock draft before the 2011 NFL Draft begins Thursday night. Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus and Von Miller kick things off. After that, a couple of cornerbacks are much higher in this mock draft than in most. Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara heads to the 49ers with the No. 7 pick:

San Fran would be leaving serious talent on the board with this pick, but Amukamara is a clean, potentially elite talent at a huge position of need for the 49ers.

Colorado corner Jimmy Smith, meanwhile, gets all the way up to the Detroit Lions at No. 13. Despite that, this mock has Texas corner Aaron Williams still available when the Steelers pick at No. 31, and yet the Steelers don’t take him, instead opting for Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins:

The Steelers could use a starter on the offensive line, and Watkins has better upside than serviceable-at-best left guard Chris Kemoeatu.

No doubt the Steelers could use an offensive lineman, but I simply don’t see this happening – Watkins is 26, and cornerback is a much more serious need. There have also been multiple reports connecting the Steelers to Williams. Even if Williams isn’t available, I’ll be surprised if they take Watkins.


2011 NFL Draft Order: Carolina Panthers Up First, Steelers To Pick No. 31 Overall

As you've probably heard by now, barring a trade, the Steelers will pick with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. They don't have any additional picks, so they'll simply be picking at No. 31, No. 63, No. 95, and so on. Here's the complete list of picks in the first round.

1. Carolina Panthers

2. Denver Broncos

3. Buffalo Bills

4. Cincinnati Bengals

5. Arizona Cardinals

6. Cleveland Browns

7. San Francisco 49ers

8. Tennessee Titans

9. Dallas Cowboys

10. Washington Redskins

11. Houston Texans

12. Minnesota Vikings

13. Detroit Lions

14. St. Louis Rams

15. Miami Dolphins

16. Jacksonville Jaguars

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland Raiders)

18. San Diego Chargers

19. New York Giants

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

21. Kansas City Chiefs

22. Indianapolis Colts

23. Philadelphia Eagles

24. New Orleans Saints

25. Seattle Seahawks

26. Baltimore Ravens

27. Atlanta Falcons

28. New England Patriots

29. Chicago Bears

30. New York Jets

31. Pittsburgh Steelers

32. Green Bay Packers


2011 NFL Draft: Penn State Nittany Lions Prepare For Draft Weekend

Unlike Alabama or Ohio State, there aren't many Nittany Lions that expect to have their name called this weekend. However, that doesn't stop many analysts, commentators and fans from projecting where they might fall.

Penn State's official website has the rundown of all the seniors from the 2010 team. GoPSUSports also notes the recent success of the Nittany Lions on Draft Weekend.

Four Nittany Lions have been first round draft choices in the past five NFL Drafts: Jared Odrick (Miami, 2010), Aaron Maybin (Buffalo, 2009), Levi Brown (Arizona, 2007) and Tamba Hali (Kansas City, 2006). Thirteen additional Penn State players have been selected within the first four rounds since 2006; 24 overall.

The only former Penn State player that is guaranteed to hear his name this weekend is Stefen Wisniewski, who projects as a late first-round pick to mid-second round pick. Wisniewski is the nephew of legendary Raiders offensive lineman Steve Wisniewski, who is now a coach for the Raiders.

Ron Musselman of the Post-Gazette takes a closer look at Evan Royster, Penn State's all-time leading rusher, and comes up with the notion that Royster is a seventh-round pick. I don't disagree; Royster could sneak as high as the fifth round, and could also completely drop out of the draft.

Others waiting to figure out their future plans include wide receiver Brett Brackett and defensive lineman Ollie Ogbu.


NFL Draft 2011 (News): Mel Kiper's Final Mock Has Cam Newton Going First Overall

Mel Kiper's final mock draft has the Steelers going in a now-familiar direction, selecting Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, who Kiper thinks the Steelers could mold into a "great cover corner."

At the top of the draft, he has Cam Newton, Von Miller (whose stock has soared recently) and Marcell Dareus going with the first three picks, to the Panthers, Broncos and Bills, respectively.

Many of the rest of his picks have become fairly standard, but some are not. Cal DE Cameron Jordan goes to the Cowboys with pick No. 9. The Patriots select Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson at No. 17. Nebraska corner Prince Amukamara drops all the way to the Bucs at No. 20, which would be somewhat shocking if it happened (and would no doubt have Steelers fans licking their chops if it actually came true). Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, who looked like a candidate to be drafted first overall a couple months ago, drops to the Saints at No. 24, while the Patriots pick Alabama RB Mark Ingram at No. 28.

The draft will begin on Thursday at 8:00 PM Eastern time, with the later rounds taking place Friday and Saturday. 


NFL Mock Draft 2011: Another Mock Has Steelers Picking A Cornerback

The Post-Gazette gets in on the mock drafting fun with an NFL mock draft by Ed Bouchette. The first four picks are ones most folks have settled on by now - Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, and A.J. Green. Mike Pouncey goes, as he usually does now, to the Miami Dolphins with the No. 15 pick. The first unusual selection, in terms of value, is Arizona DE Brooks Reed to the Bucs at No. 20 - Reed doesn't usually go that high. Again, like everyone else, Bouchette has the Steelers taking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams:

Anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows the Steelers need a cornerback.

Well, right, and Williams is the most logical pick based on interest (the Steelers had him in for a pre-draft visit) and where the Steelers will be drafting. There's also a more complete explanation of why Williams will be the pick here.

Alabama running back Mark Ingram falls all the way to the Green Bay Packers with the No. 32 overall pick.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: One Scenario For How The Steelers Could Trade Up To Draft Mike Pouncey

Trade up? Trade down? Stay put? Any and all 2011 NFL Draft scenarios are being discussed by pundits and fans of the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Even though Pete Wilmoth spelled out quite logically here on SB Nation Pittsburgh why he thinks if would be a mistake — not to mention unlikely — for the Pittsburgh Steelers to trade up, I think that it might make sense for the Steelers to sacrifice quantity in favor of quality in the 2011 NFL Draft. Forget the conjecture for a minute though. Let’s turn our attention to how the Steelers might be able to pull of a draft day trade to move up in the first round to land Mike Pouncey, and how much they might have to give up in order to reunite the Pouncey twins in Pittsburgh.

Behind the Steel Curtain published a two round mock draft on Wednesday that included potential trade scenarios. And again, even though Steeler Nation might be divided about the decision, the scenarios laid out on BTSC are undeniably realistic. Let’s take a look.

It begins with the Miami Dolphins trading out of the No. 15 pick.


Miami gets picks 20, 51

Tamps Bay gets picks 15, 79

Then, when the Dolphins were back on the clock at No. 20, the Steelers could make their move.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers (from Miami Dolphins via Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – Mike Pouncey OG/OC, Florida
Team Needs: RG/CB/OT/DE/P/NT

It’s destined to happen. Pittsburgh gets the twin brother of current Pro Bowl OC Maurkice Pouncey, and fills a huge void at RG.

Not that Steelers fans necessarily care, it’s worth mentioning what the Dolphins could still conceivably land a running back late in the first round.

31. Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh Steelers) – Mark Ingram RB, Alabama
Team Needs: QB/RB/FS/TE/LG

Miami’s needs didn’t match with the top talent available at 15, plus they get to re-coup the second round pick they gave up in the Brandon Marshall trade. Miami will then trade back again to get better value for their needs, acquiring another second rounder in the process. Here they take Ingram, who they’ve been linked to throughout the entire draft process, at a much better value and worth a chance given his possible knee issues.

For more Steelers draft analysis and mock draft discussion during the final few days before the draft, be sure to check out Behind the Steel Curtain and SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft.


2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Reportedly Looking For Ways To Trade Up For Mike Pouncey

Jason La Canfora of NFL.com reports that the Steelers are considering trying to find a way to trade up from the No. 31 overall pick to somewhere between No. 16 and No. 20 in order to acquire Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft:

Steelers officials believe moving up to Miami, pick 15, is unrealistic, but the Dolphins could well take a quarterback there and pass on Pouncey.

Pittsburgh’s front office is compiling and assessing what it would take to move up into that range to get Pouncey, and will be prepared to pounce (excuse that horrible pun, but I somehow couldn’t resist). New England, at 17, is also looking for trade action and is never really averse to moving down.

Tomlin has very strong ties to Tampa coach Raheem Morris and swinging a deal with the Buccaneers at 20 could be the best option … if the Steelers are willing to risk that and wait that long.

La Canfora suggests that if the Steelers are unable to move up, pick Pouncey, and unite him with his brother, All-Pro rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, they would instead go with a cornerback like Texas’ Aaron Williams or Miami’s Brandon Harris. (It’s been a while since I’ve heard Harris was a serious candidate, and the Steelers tend to like bigger cornerbacks, so I’m sure they’d rather go with Williams.)

I’m with my own brother on this one. While I’m sure La Canfora’s reporting is probably accurate, the cost of moving up will be very steep for a team with serious needs at cornerback and on the offensive line, as well as future needs on the defensive line. While I’m sure Steelers fans would love it if the team acquired Mike Pouncey, it would be a very tough spot for them if they were to lose their second- and/or third-round picks.


2011 NFL Draft: Forget The Rumors - Steelers Won't Land Mike Pouncey

The cost of trading up to get Mike Pouncey would be too great for a Steelers team that has many needs.


NFL Draft 2011: Five Sleepers For Offensive Line

Mocking The Draft lists five offensive line prospects who qualify as sleepers in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. These are good names to watch if you're a Steelers fan, particularly if the team doesn't end up drafting an offensive lineman in the first round. The five prospects are LSU's Joseph Barksdale, Indiana's James Brewer, Lehigh's Will Rackley, Wisconsin's John Moffitt, and Missouri's Tim Barnes. 

Of course, the Steelers often draft players who have had pre-draft visits with them, and the second-round-or-later offensive linemen who fit that category include Florida State's Rodney Hudson, South Carolina's Jarriel King, Florida's Marcus Gilbert, and Alabama's James Carpenter. Of Mocking The Draft's five sleepers, the only one I remember seeing connected to the Steelers in a mock draft is Brewer, in this one. SB Nation's Steelers blog Behind The Steel Curtain has also profiled Rackley, figuring he'll be a second- or third-round pick, and both BTSC and Mocking The Draft have identified Rackley as someone whose stock is improving heading into the draft on Thursday and Friday.


NFL Draft: Marcus Cannon Reportedly Has Lymphoma

Pro Football Talk reports that TCU offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, who has frequently been connected to the Steelers in NFL mock drafts as a second- or possibly first-round pick, has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Unfortunately, the results of the biopsy showed that Cannon has lymphoma. Doctors had previously been aware of a benign mass that was present for years and is in his stomach/pelvic area.

Doctors are recommending that Cannon will have to undergo chemotherapy, which could be potentially finished in 12 weeks. Even if Cannon has the most advanced stage of the disease, he could be finished with treatments in 24 weeks and the doctors have informed Cannon he could "hopefully" continue with his football career at that time.

This form of cancer is treatable, with survival rates of over 90 percent, and perhaps better for a young man like Cannon. Clearly, however, this will have an effect on Cannon’s draft status, and the timing for him, with the draft set to begin in two days, really could not be worse. We at SB Nation Pittsburgh wish Cannon the best of luck.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Another Mock Has Steelers Taking Ras-I Dowling

Our own Michael Bean contributed to the 2011 NFL Mock Draft currently going on at MockingTheDraft.com, and deep in the second round, he found a guy who would make a lot of Steelers fans happy, as Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling was surprisingly still available there. (The Steelers had taken Colorado offensive lineman Nate Solder in the first round.)

Dowling is 6’2" so check on the size front; he’s got 4.3-4.4 speed; he’s physical and tough at 200 pounds; his ball skills are solid; and he’s a high character guy. I don’t see there being any way that he lasts this long next weekend in the draft, and I can tell you that Steeler Nation would be thrilled to see his name still on the board when the six-time Super Bowl champs select late in the second round.

Right. I doubt Dowling will be around to see pick No. 50, let alone No. 63, where the Steelers' pick is. But if he is, and the Steelers take an offensive lineman in the first round, it's obviously a huge win for them. They would be getting a big, physical corner to provide depth at the position and eventually play alongside Ike Taylor, assuming Taylor sticks around.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: SB Nation Files Final Mock Of The Season

It’s been a long and discussion-filled offseason to date. With no free agency to keep NFL fans preoccupied, it’s been all NFL Draft talk, all the time. With the first round beginning on Thursday night, SB Nation squeezed in one final mock draft of the season. The latest version includes a few trades in the first round, a nice twist since there will almost assuredly be some wheeling and dealing by teams in the first 32 picks.

Here’s who the folks at SB Nation selected for the Steelers:

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas. Rather than reaching on an offensive lineman, it makes more sense for the Steelers to target Williams – a physical, ball-hawking playmaker for their secondary.

I can guarantee you this — plenty of folks in Steeler Nation won’t be pleased if the Steelers select Williams in round one. Many believe he lacks the top shelf speed the Steelers need in a new CB acquisition. Others, though, think Williams would be a great selection and a realistic scenario at pick No. 31.

There have been recent reports that the demand for free agent Ike Taylor is sky high around the league. The Steelers have to be accounting for the possibility of his departure when free agency finally does open up again. So most agree that landing a CB, or maybe even two, is a necessity in this year’s draft. However, it’s Ras-I Dowling, not Williams, that most are hoping for, and the speculation has been that the Steelers could probably trade out of the first round to get an extra second round pick and still be able to land Dowling in the early to mid-second.

For more Steelers draft analysis and mock draft discussion during the final few days before the draft, be sure to check out Behind the Steel Curtain and SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft.


2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Front Office Open To Trading Out Of First Round

As the hours before the 2011 NFL Draft wane, it seems as though our recent feature on why the Steelers should trade out of the first round may be prophetic. At the team's pre-draft news conference today, Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert sounded more than willing to trade out of Thursday night's first-round action:

"The pro scouts will be going through their calls to touch base with every team and see who's interested in trading up and trading down. We always tell them we can go either way, and we will depending on who's still available at the top of that first round we might want to go up and get. ... But if there's offers for our picks, we will certainly look at the possibility of going down."

So it's not a huge story, by any means. Teams always touch base with potential trade partners in the days leading up to the draft, because it saves time in a high-pressure situation to have some preliminaries drawn up, in case the teams are dealt certain hands.

Such a deal would mark the first time under Colbert that the team would go without a first-round pick. If Colbert doesn't want to jump up the board to snag a prospect he thinks won't be there at No. 31 (he's shown a willingness to do so in the past with safety Troy Polamalu and receiver Santonio Holmesand he doesn't feel like he's getting good value when he's on the clock, there will be no shortage of potential suitors for a trade. Any number of the quarterback-hungry franchises peppering picks No. 34 through No. 45 might be willing to negotiate with the Steelers if they opt to bypass a top-tier signal caller with their first selection and sneak back into the tail-end of the first round to address the need.

The Steelers are an aging team with a number of problem areas - some related to talent, others related to age - especially in their defensive backfield and along their offensive and defensive fronts. So it could make sense to stockpile draft picks and try to fill the roster with as much youth as possible. Given the the impressive track record of Colbert and his colleagues in recent drafts, we'll have to assume that whatever course he chooses is the right one, until we see otherwise. 


NFL Mock Draft 2011: Could Marcus Cannon Go In The First Round?

Chad Reuter’s latest 2011 NFL mock draft surprisingly has the Steelers taking TCU offensive lineman Marcus Cannon with the No. 31 overall pick:

A big-bodied, quick-footed tackle or guard in the Steelers’ offensive scheme.

Well, maybe, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Cannon projected as a first-rounder, and the Steelers will be able to choose from a bunch more highly-touted talents in the first round, including several who play cornerback, where the Steelers need more help than they do on the offensive line. If they really want Cannon, they can gamble and hope he’s there in the second round, or they can trade down at least a dozen picks.

In the second round, Reuter has the Steelers picking New Mexico State cornerback Davon House, which I guess makes sense if they pick an offensive lineman in the first round and guys like Ras-I Dowling and Curtis Brown are gone.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Who Will Be Available To Steelers In Second Round?

Rob Rang’s latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft at CBSSports.com again has the Steelers taking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, who is becoming an increasingly popular pick for the Steelers as the NFL Draft approaches this week. In the second round, he has the Steelers taking Hampton DT Kenrick Ellis, just as he did two weeks ago.

Elsewhere in this mock, Mike Pouncey goes to the Dolphins at No. 15. Pitt’s Jabaal Sheard sneaks into the first round, going to the Falcons at No. 27.

A number of players in whom the Steelers have shown interest go off the board in the second round. Alabama offensive lineman James Carpenter goes surprisingly early, nearly sneaking into the first round. Pitt’s Jon Baldwin (who isn’t a particularly likely Steelers target, although that hasn’t stopped some folks from at least wondering about the possibility) goes to the Vikings at No. 43, while Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, a potential Steelers pick, goes to the Eagles at No. 54. Texas corner Curtis Brown, another potential Steelers target, goes to the Bucs at No. 51.


NFL Mock Draft 2011: New Mock Has Steelers Taking Aaron Williams (Again)

SB Nation’s latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft has the Steelers grabbing Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, which at this point is a pretty uncontroversial guess, since Williams has visited the Steelers and is generally regarded as a late-first-round pick, and the Steelers need a cornerback badly.

Rather than reaching on an offensive lineman, it makes more sense for the Steelers to target Williams – a physical, ball-hawking playmaker for their secondary.

Elsewhere in this mock, the first four picks are Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus, Von Miller and A.J. Green – no surprises there. But Nick Fairley falls to the Vikings at No. 12, and this particular mock projects various trades that would affect the draft order. For example, the Eagles are projected to trade the No. 23 overall pick to the Bengals so that Cincinnati can grab TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. Mike Pouncey, by the way, falls to the Falcons at No. 27 – if he can fall that far, maybe he can drop just a few more picks?


NFL Draft 2011: Could Steelers Take Pitt's Jon Baldwin?

There have been a couple of articles like this one about the possibility of the Steelers picking a wide receiver in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, which kicks off on Thursday at 8:00 PM. In this case, the article is about Pitt wideout Jon Baldwin, who had a pre-draft visit with the Steelers. Such a pick would be very unlikely, the author admits, but if it happened it would boil down to Baldwin's superior tools:

From a talent standpoint, I think Baldwin would be a bargain that low in the first round. He's fast, has overpowering size, a real strong vertical, good hands, and a toughness and dangerousness about him after the catch. He'd finally give us that "big receiver" Ben has been clamoring for, and could be a great red-zone target from day 1.

I don't think Ben Roethlisberger craving a "big receiver" will make a bit of difference, honestly, since he can get by just fine with guys like Mike Wallace, who I wouldn't trade for a raw "big receiver" in a million years. Big receivers are great to have, surely, but they're highly overrated. And the Steelers have a lot of needs right now, so they would have to like Baldwin a lot - more than any other team does, probably - to take him in the first round. In other words, it's not going to happen.


2011 NFL Mock Draft (Update): Who Might Be Available To Steelers In First Round?

Steelers Lounge has a new post up that isn't exactly a mock draft, but actually is somewhat better - it's a list of players the Steelers could potentially pick in each round, along with a guess at that probability that each will still be there when they pick. Here are their lists for the first and second rounds:

1st round (31st  overall)
OT Gabe Carimi, 6-7, 315, Wisconsin, 25%
OT Derek Sherrod, 6-5, 320, Mississippi State, 50%
DE Cameron Heyward, 6-5, 295, Ohio State, 45%
CB/FS Aaron Williams, 6-0, 205, Texas, 55%
CB Brandon Harris, 5-10, 190, Miami, 60%
OT Nate Solder, 6-8, 320, Colorado, 30%

2nd round (63)
CB Curtis Brown, 6-0, 185, Texas, 45%
OT/G James Carpenter, 6-4, 320, Alabama, 45%
RT/G Ben Ijalana, 6-4, 315, Villanova, 40%
G Danny Watkins, 6-4, 310, Baylor, 25%
CB/FS Ras-I Dowling, 6-1, 200, Virginia, 35%
G/RT Clint Boling, 6-5, 310, Georgia, 40%
OG Rodney Hudson, 6-2, 300, FSU, 50%
OG/RT Marcus Cannon, 6-5, 360, TCU, 35%
DE Christian Ballard, 6-3, 285, Iowa, 40%
WR Greg Little, 6-3, 230, North Carolina, 55%
G/OT Orlando Franklin, 6-5, 315, Miami, 30%
CB Johnny Patrick, 5-11, 190, Louisville, 60%
WR Jonathan Baldwin, 6-5, 230, Pitt, 35%
ILB/OLB Martez Wilson, 6-3, 245, Illinois, 40%

Even with a list as conditional as this one, there's a lot to debate. For example, most mocks I've seen recently don't have someone like Dowling lasting after the first 45 picks or so, and yet we know the Steelers are interested, because they brought him in for a pre-draft visit. It seems at least possible that the Steelers could take Dowling in the first round. I also don't think it seems nearly as likely as Steelers Lounge does that Carimi, Sherrod or Heyward will still be available when the Steelers pick in the first round. (Steelers Lounge does note that this list is like a "wish list.") Nonetheless, this is an interesting list that provides a good general idea of what the Steelers could be thinking, and who might be available to them.


NFL Draft: Steelers Fans Should Hope 2011 Draft Resembles Last Year's

Maurkice Pouncey headed a tremendous 2010 draft class.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: A.J. Green Tops List Of Draft Prospects

Dan Kadar at Mocking The Draft posts his list of the top 200 NFL Draft prospects with less than a week to go before picks start flying off the board. Some of his evaluations are a little unconventional, but they're definitely interesting. Cam Newton, for example, is all the way down at No. 15, even though he's a pretty good bet to go to the Carolina Panthers with the top overall pick. (These picks aren't supposed to predict where players will actually be drafted.) Georgia wideout A.J. Green is ranked at the top of the list.

Here are some potential Steelers picks. These are all guys who either came in for pre-draft visits or frequently come up in mock drafts:

30. Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple DT

35. Phil Taylor, Baylor NT

37. Danny Watkins, Baylor offensive line

43. Aaron Williams, Texas CB

46. Brandon Harris, Miami (FL) CB

52. Ben Ijalana, Villanova offensive line

58. Curtis Brown, Texas CB

64. Ras-I Dowling, Virginia CB

72. Kenrick Ellis, Hampton DT

79. Sam Acho, Texas OLB

81. Johnny Patrick, Louisville CB

89. Marcus Cannon, TCU OT

108. Curtis Marsh, Utah State CB

115. James Carpenter, Alabama OT


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers Mock Has Pittsburgh Getting Ras-I Dowling, Sam Acho, Jah Reid

Behind The Steel Curtain has another excellent, intensely-detailed seven-round Steelers NFL Mock Draft for you to sink your teeth into. It begins with the Steelers picking Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling in the first round. Dowling doesn't usually come up in the first round of most mock drafts, but he's usually gone by the middle of the second, so unless they trade down, the first round will be the Steelers' only shot at getting him. And honestly, he seems like a better pick than the cornerbacks who do commonly appear in the late first round, like Texas' Aaron Williams and Miami's Brandon Harris - there really isn't much to dislike about Dowling beyond his injury issues.

BTSC has the Steelers taking Texas OLB Sam Acho in the second round, and it's pretty hard to see the Steelers taking an OLB that high - they already drafted Jason Worilds in the second round this year, and have him to go along with James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley. BTSC has the Steelers picking UCF offensive lineman Jah Reid in the third round.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: New Mock Has Steelers Picking Aaron Williams, James Carpenter

Walter Football's newest NFL Mock Draft has Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus and Von Miller going with the first three picks, as has been common recently. They have the Steelers picking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams recently, and that pick, too, has been very common:

This is a tough spot for the Steelers. General manager Kevin Colbert takes the best players on his board, but the top prospects available are running backs, wide receivers and 4-3 personnel.

The best player who makes sense for the Steelers is Aaron Williams. Williams is a better fit for Pittsburgh's defense than Brandon Harris, and he can play free safety in addition to cornerback. So, if he fails at corner, he could always replace Ryan Clark down the road (think Antrel Rolle).

Looking further into later rounds, Alabama offensive lineman James Carpenter goes to the Steelers in the second round. They then take Miami lineman Colin McCarthy in the third, and Stanford nose tackle Sione Fua in the fourth. These picks all meet Steelers positional needs, and it shows they're paying attention - both Williams and Carpenter visited the Steelers recently.


NFL Mock Drafts: Todd McShay's Three Scenarios For The Pittsburgh Steelers

We’re just over one week away from the opening night of the 2011 NFL Draft. Round one takes place in prime time next Thursday night. Mock drafts are being filed fast and furious as the draft rapidly approaches, including Todd McShay’s sixth installment ($). McShay’s format is to provide three scenarios for each of the 32 teams, with a brief explanation of how and why that scenario might unfold. Here’s what he had as Scenario No. 1:

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
Scenario 1: Harris is not an elite playmaker but he’s more physical than his size suggests and as the athleticism to help upgrade the cornerback unit and push for the No. 2 job.

Interesting, but I can’t say I’m holding my breath hoping that this scenario becomes reality next Thursday night. After reading this compelling argument against Brandon Harris as a good fit for the Steelers, I’m sold on there being better options at CB for the Steelers.

McShay’s second scenario involves picking the best available offensive lineman. Danny Watkins (G, Baylor), Benjamin Ijalana (T/G, Villanova), James Carpenter (T, Alabama), and Will Rackley (G/T, Lehigh). Rackley is a guy who Behind the Steel Curtain profiled on Wednesday ,in fact.

For more Steelers commentary, mock draft discussion, and NFL Draft prospect profiles, check out Behind the Steel Curtain and SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft.


2011 NFL Draft: Alabama Tackle James Carpenter Visits Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers recently hosted Alabama tackle James Carpenter, who is at least the third offensive line prospect the team has met with lately after recent visits with Marcus Cannon of TCU and Keith Williams of Nebraska, leading up to the 2011 NFL Draft.

Chip Smith, who trained Carpenter at Competitive Edge Sports in Georgia was effusive in his praise of the prospect:

"He's a great athlete. James has got great change of direction, really good feet, really good base, long arms. He has all the things a great offensive lineman needs to compete."

Those certainly do sound like the ingredients for a competent tackle, particularly in pass protection, where Pittsburgh's line has struggled against blitz-heavy defensive fronts, leading to eye-popping sack numbers against quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

In addition to the left tackle spot he filled for the Crimson Tide, Carpenter also possesses the versatility to line up at guard, and you have to figure he's capable of playing right tackle, too, assuming he can adjust his footwork accordingly. That kind of flexibility could go a long way in improving his stock going into the Draft weekend, especially for teams like the Steelers who have numerous question marks along their offensive front. Carpenter reportedly visited with seven teams besides Pittsburgh. 

NFL Draft Scout projects Carpenter as a mid-second round pick, so it seems like if the Steelers are to take him, they'll have to trade up from selection #63 or trade down into the second round from their first pick at #31. Either way, Carpenter looks like he could be a good value for Pittsburgh, especially if they opt to select a cornerback or defensive lineman early.


2011 NFL Draft: Aaron Williams Visits Steelers

Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, who has appeared as the Steelers’ first pick at No. 31 in many mock drafts, had a pre-draft visit with the team on Wednesday. This seems to indicate that the Steelers think he could be a viable first-round pick, and also suggests it’s possible that they could use their first-rounder on a cornerback, which is what many fans want.

He is one of several cornerbacks to make pre-draft visits so far, including Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling, Texas’ Curtis Brown, Utah State’s Curtis Marsh, the Citadel’s Cortez Allen, Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Buster Skrine, and Louisville’s Johnny Patrick.

The Steelers also held visits with San Diego State wideout Vincent Brown, South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, and Virginia Tech safety Davon Morgan.

Brown is a likely late-round pick. While the Steelers have shown interest in a few receivers, such as Boise State’s Austin Pettis, it’s unlikely they would pick one in the first few rounds, given the depth they have at the position and the needs they have elsewhere.

Saunders and Morgan are also potential late-round picks.


2011 NFL Draft: Andy Dalton's Red Hair Is, For Some Reason, A Concern

From Peter King (and a hat tip to Mocking The Draft for spotting this before I did), it appears that some NFL team is actually concerned about drafting TCU quarterback Andy Dalton because of the color of his hair. And, to answer your next question, yes. Really.

At least one team is thinking not just about Dalton's brains but also about what's on top of them. "Has there ever been a red-headed quarterback in the NFL who's really done well?" a coach asked one reporter last week. "It sounds idiotic, but is there any way that could be a factor? We've wondered."

I'm not sure whether to praise that team for being thorough, or lambaste it for just being idiotic. Well, no, actually I'm pretty sure it's the latter. Either way, though, hair dye is cheap, and NFL contracts are worth millions. Maybe Dalton should consider dyeing it black before next Thursday?


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Potential Second Round Picks For Pittsburgh Steelers

At this point in time, we’ve seen what seems like a million first round mocks. But what about who the Pittsburgh Steelers might be targeting in round two? Well, SB Nation has released its latest two round mock draft and here’s who they’ve pegged as a potential pick at No. 63:

63. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida. Gilbert is a riser with the ability to play either side. He’s also a former teammate of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.

I personally think that Gilbert is not quite worthy of a second round pick. Yes, the Florida tackle would fill a need for the Steelers, but I really don’t see any way possible that Kevin Colbert and his army of scouts will consider him to be the best player available if he’s still on the board at the end of round two.

If the Steelers were to draft Gilbert, I’d prefer it if they traded up in round three to nab him. I don’t see how more than three or four rookies make the ‘11 squad, so why not forfeit a fifth or sixth round pick in order to get four picks in the first 100 selections? We’ll see what happens, but thankfully all the speculation will be coming to an end in just over a week and a half.

For more coverage leading up to next week’s NFL Draft, check out the latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft at SBNation.com and visit our blog, Mocking The Draft.


Steelers Host Offensive Line, Wide Receiver Prospects

The Pittsburgh Steelers recently visited with Greg Little, wide receiver from UNC, as well as Marcus Cannon of TCU and Keith Williams from Nebraska - two offensive line prospects. Pittsburgh is a franchise whose front office consistently and competently builds through the draft - not through making big splashes in free agency. This is a crucial year for the Steelers, who have a number of old veterans in their starting lineup and desperately need an infusion of young talent in next Friday's NFL Draft.

Offensive line is perhaps chief among those needs, so it's no surprise to see Cannon and Williams get some attention from Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, and offensive line coach Sean Kugler - even if you've never heard of the youngsters before. Cannon is a tackle prospect with tremendous strength - he recorded 33 reps in the bench press at the NFL Combine - and is expected to be a second-round selection, meaning Pittsburgh would likely have to trade up from the 63rd selection to snag him. We know a little less about Williams, who started only 13 games at guard for the Cornhuskers, although he looks to be a proficient run-blocker. Look for him to come off the boards in the middle rounds.

Little posted some athletic numbers at the Combine and has adequate size to go up against NFL cornerbacks (6-3, 231). In addition to the Steelers, Little has also met with the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccannears, Philadelphia Eagles, and two of Pittsburgh's AFC North rivals, the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. With that many suitors, it seems like some interested party will have to be aggressive in the third round to secure Little's services.

As Sam pointed out in today's feature, this talented draft class has plenty of depth at positions of need for the Steelers. It should be fun to sit back and see who Pittsburgh can lock up.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Peter King Picks Cam Newton First Overall, Steelers To Pick Brandon Harris

In Sports Illustrated’s NFL Draft preview, Peter King has a mock draft of the first round. Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus, and Von Miller go with the first three picks (to the Panthers, Broncos and Bills, respectively), while TCU quarterback Andy Dalton makes it all the way up to the Dolphins at No. 15. King has Mike Pouncey going with the No. 17 pick to the New England Patriots.

He has the Steelers picking Miami quarterback Brandon Harris with the No. 31 overall pick. While he’s not the first NFL mock drafter to guess that the Steelers will pick Harris, Harris’ size (5-foot-9) may steer the Steelers away. The Steelers like taller corners. King doesn’t have Texas’ Aaron Williams in the first round, and my guess would be that the Steelers would take Williams first. It’s also worth pointing out that they brought in Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling and Texas’ Curtis Brown for pre-draft visits, and neither of those cornerbacks are likely to be available when the Steelers pick at the end of the second round.


2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Have Pre-Draft Visits With Offensive Linemen Marcus Cannon, Keith Williams

The Steelers had pre-draft visits with offensive linemen Marcus Cannon (TCU) and Keith Williams (Nebraska) on Tuesday, the Post-Gazette reports. Cannon has been connected to the Steelers in a few mock drafts, and is probably a second-round talent. He might be a good choice there, particularly if the Steelers pick a cornerback or defensive lineman in the first round. Williams is less highly-rated, and probably projects as a middle-round talent. NFL Draft Scout has him listed as a fifth-rounder. Here’s a draft report on Williams that questions his mental toughness but asserts that the talent is there if he’s able to pull himself together:

… Williams is inconsistent and lacks mental toughness, competitiveness and effort.

The same profile suggests that Williams could be a good NFL player if he takes the game more seriously. It sounds like the Steelers stand to learn a lot about him by bringing him in for a visit.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: SB Nation's Two-Round Mock Has Steelers Picking Cornerback, Offensive Lineman

SBNation.com’s latest two-round NFL Mock Draft lists the first three likely picks as Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus and Von Miller. After that, Mike Pouncey goes to the Dolphins at No. 15 – it’s increasingly common for him to turn up there. Pitt’s Jabaal Sheard goes to the Falcons at No. 27. SB Nation has the Steelers selecting Texas cornerback Aaron Williams:

This might be a touch high, but Williams is physical and a playmaker. The Steelers need both.

In the second round, SB Nation has Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor, who did a pre-draft visit with the Steelers, falling all the way to the Chiefs at No. 53, and another possible Steelers target, Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, going to the Texans at No. 42. The Steelers’ pick is Florida offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert:

Gilbert is a riser with the ability to play either side. He’s also a former teammate of Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.

Gilbert did a pre-draft visit with the Steelers as well, and the Steelers will surely be looking for offensive linemen, so this pick makes some sense.


NFL Mock Draft 2011: New Mock Has Steelers Taking J.J. Watt

Russ Lande of the Sporting News has a new NFL Mock Draft up at his own website, and it's definitely an unconventional one. Cam Newton goes to the Carolina Panthers first overall - nothing crazy about that. But then he has offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo going all the way up at No. 5 (to the Cardinals) and quarterback Ryan Mallett going at No. 7 overall.

The Chiefs take Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard at No. 21 overall. Slipping all the way to the Steelers at No. 31 is Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt. Lande seems to like Watt a lot less than a lot of mock draft gurus do, as most of the ones I've seen have him going in the middle of the first round. If he does fall all the way to the Steelers, he would make a lot of sense for them - cornerback is a more pressing need, and the offensive line arguably is too, but Watt would be a great value for the pick, and the Steelers do need more youth on their defensive line.


2011 NFL Draft: Could Steelers Take Mark Ingram?

Steelers Depot has an interesting post about whether the Steelers could draft Alabama running back Mark Ingram, if Ingram is still on the board when the Steelers pick No. 31 overall. The idea is that he could potentially fall that far due to concerns about his knee and the fact that he recently changed agents. Even though they have a good starting running back in Rashard Mendenhall (and some depth in Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer), the Steelers have recently shown interest in drafting running backs like Da'Rel Scott.

The issue, though, is that all the talk about the Steelers drafting a running back that I've heard assumes they will wait to pick a running back until the later rounds - even though the Steelers went to the Super Bowl this year, their needs at cornerback and other positions are great enough that taking a running back in the first round could be an opportunity they might later regret. The question, when it comes to Ingram, is how the Steelers feel about his knee and whether he would be too good a value to pass up at the end of the first round. It's a longshot for lots of reasons, but it's worth thinking about.


NFL Mock Draft 2011: Rang: Steelers Could Take Aaron Williams

Rob Rang’s new NFL Mock Draft has Cam Newton going first overall to the Carolina Panthers, followed by Marcell Dareus, Von Miller and A.J. Green. Blaine Gabbert falls to the Cardinals at No. 5. At No. 31, he has the Steelers taking Texas corner Aaron Williams:

The Steelers’ secondary let them down in the Super Bowl and their top cornerback — Ike Taylor — is scheduled for free agency. Whether he remains on the team or not, Pittsburgh will almost surely address their defensive backfield on draft day. Some teams believe Williams can remain at cornerback. Others see his best fit at free safety. Both are concerns for the Steelers, making Williams a logical candidate at this spot.

Williams typically turns up at the end of the first round or the beginning of the second in mock drafts, and the Steelers do need a cornerback.

Moving into the second round, Rang has Pitt’s Jabaal Sheard going to the Broncos at No. 36 overall, and Jon Baldwin going to the Raiders at No. 48. Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, in whom the Steelers are known to be interested, goes to the Eagles at No. 54. With the No. 63 overall pick, Rang has the Steelers taking Hampton DT Kenrick Ellis, which makes sense – the Steelers have had him in for a pre-draft visit already.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: New Mock Has Steelers Taking Marcus Cannon

A recent 2011 NFL Mock Draft by CBSSports.com’s Chad Reuter has Cam Newton, Marcell Dareus and Blaine Gabbert going with the first three picks, as has been the norm in many mock drafts recently. Mike Pouncey goes with the No. 21 overall pick to the Indianapolis Colts, and Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard goes to the Jets at No. 30.

Reuter has the Steelers picking TCU offensive lineman Marcus Cannon at No. 31 overall. This is the first time I’ve heard of Cannon going in the first round, and most mocks project him to be a second-rounder. Reuter has Baylor NT Phil Taylor going at No. 34 to the Bills, and it seems unlikely the Steelers would pass on Taylor in order to pick Cannon, since they had Taylor in for a pre-draft visit.

Reuter has Pitt’s Jon Baldwin going at No. 49 overall. With the Steelers’ next pick, he has them taking Utah corner Brandon Burton. Burton represents a decent value for that pick, and if the Steelers do indeed go with an offensive lineman or defender in round one, they could go with a corner in round two. (Reuter has Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling, another player who keeps coming up in connection with the Steelers, going to the Cowboys at No. 40 overall.)


2011 NFL Draft: Is Stefen Wisniewski Physical Enough?

SB Nation’s New England Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit, has a new NFL Draft profile of Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski that suggests that Wisniewski, who for the past several months has mostly been regarded as a second-round or perhaps a late first-round pick, is slipping in the draft and could go in the middle rounds.

Wisniewski seems to be dropping down a lot of draft boards and, after watching his tape, I can see why. He doesn’t play like a first- or second-rounder with a lot of upside. He plays like a mid-rounder who is what you get from Week 1. I don’t see him drastically improving because his technique is solid- it’s his overall body and that won’t change too much.

Pats Pulpit isn’t the first to opine that Wisniewski lacks upside. That’s in Walter Football’s evaluation of him, too. Both point out his relative lack of strength, which will hurt him, particularly against nose tackles.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: New Mock Connects Steelers To Danny Watkins

SBNation.com’s new 2011 NFL Mock Draft suggests that the Steelers will take Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins. The idea is that, as a 26-year-old, Watkins could potentially start right away. The downside is that, as a 26-year-old, there isn’t a ton of upside there.

Fitting a 26-year-old interior lineman into the first round of a mock draft doesn’t happen a lot, but it makes sense for a Pittsburgh team that needs reinforcements along its line, and immediate impact from its top draft pick.

This mock has Texas corner Aaron Williams going with the very next pick to the Green Bay Packers. Williams would arguably fit the Steelers’ needs better, as cornerback is probably the Steelers greatest position of need.

This mock has Cam Newton going to the Carolina Panthers with the first overall pick, followed by Marcell Dareus, Von Miller, Blaine Gabbert, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green. Florida guard Mike Pouncey moves all the way up to the Dolphins at No. 15 overall.


2011 NFL Draft: How Badly Do Steelers Need A Cornerback?

James Walker of ESPN.com suggests that the Steelers’ need for a cornerback in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft is particularly intense because, well, a team needs lots of them, and behind Ike Taylor, the Steelers are incredibly shallow at corner:

According to ESPN’s Stats and Information, NFL offenses are increasingly using three or more receivers, which dictates personnel on defense. In 2010 teams lined up three or more receivers on offense 48.2 percent of the time, up from 46.1 percent in 2009 and 45.7 percent in 2008 …

The Green Bay Packers, who run a West Coast offense, won Super Bowl XLV in February primarily by utilizing multiple-receiver sets to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s lack of secondary depth. Passing teams like the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots also were able to expose this weakness last season.

Well, right. The Packers repeatedly targeted weak spots in the Steelers secondary in the Super Bowl. And as Walker points out, backup cornerbacks like William Gay and Anthony Madison can’t really get the job done for the Steelers. Heck, starting corner Bryant McFadden hasn’t really gotten the job done. There’s no doubt the offensive and defensive lines will be priorities for the Steelers in the upcoming draft, but cornerback is probably their greatest position of need.

Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling seems to be the name currently on everyone’s lips as a potential cornerback draft target for the Steelers.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers Select Nate Solder

Mocking The Draft is in the midst of a detailed, pick-by-pick 2011 NFL Mock Draft that features input from SB Nation’s team bloggers. The Steelers’ first-round pick is up, and it’s Colorado offensive lineman Nate Solder:

Simply put, Kevin Colbert will do backflips up and down Carson Street if the Pittsburgh Steelers get an opportunity to draft Nate Solder. Did I mention that he grades at 94, one of the Top 15 college football players in the country? And don’t just take Scouts, Inc.’s word for it. Mike Mayock, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper all have Solder being drafted before the Steelers get to the podium. Add the character element and the need factor, and we folks, have ourselves a no-brainer.

Mocking The Draft, however, notes that Solder might not be ready to start in his first year in the league, which could be a problem for the Steelers. Still, he certainly represents a great value with the No. 31 overall pick in the draft.


2011 NFL Draft: What Clues Do Steelers' Pre-Draft Visits Provide?

Steelers Depot looks at the Steelers’ pre-draft visitors, and what the Steelers’ interest in those players might mean in the upcoming NFL Draft. Among the conclusions:

-P- Cornerbacks, for obvious reasons, will be a big deal in this draft. The Steelers have interest in two players in Ras-I Dowling and Curtis Brown who are unlikely to last until the Steelers’ second-round pick, and one possibility is that the Steelers could trade out of the first round to get an earlier second-round pick and another pick or two later in the draft, and then draft Dowling or Brown. There are also several other corners the Steelers could take in the later rounds.

P The Steelers could use a middle-round pick on a nose tackle like Kenrick Ellis or Frank Kearse.

-P- Also, offensive line will obviously be a priority.

-P- The Steelers have shown some interest in wide receivers and running backs and could take those types of players, but probably only in the late rounds.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: New Mock Argues For Ras-I Dowling In First Round

Here’s another cool NFL Mock Draft, this one with Steelers picks only. This one has the Steelers taking Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling (who is mentioned about 80 times in this storystream, in case you were wondering) with the No. 31 pick in the first round. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Dowling taken this early, but the author’s argument for Dowling (instead of, say, Miami corner Brandon Harris) is compelling:

Before the season started he was considered the top CB prospect in the nation and a top 10 lock. Folks, his play didn’t drop, and for anyone that has ever had an ankle injury, continuing to play often results in other leg injuries from your body compensating to protect the injured part. He is a shutdown corner with a great size/speed combination. As a DB Coach I can tell you, he has great hips, great ball skills (as indicated by his interceptions and PBU) and more importantly is the most physical corner in the draft and an eventual successor to Ike [Taylor] as our #1 CB.

Dowling is pretty widely regarded as a second-round pick, so if he’s the Steelers’ top choice, they might consider trading down to get him.

This mock has the Steelers picking Indiana offensive lineman James Brewer in the second round and Hampton nose tackle Kenrick Ellis in the third.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Could Steelers Wait For Ras-I Dowling In Second Round?

Behind The Steel Curtain is back with one of its massive seven-round NFL Mock Drafts. Blaine Gabbert goes to the Panthers with the first overall pick, followed by Marcell Dareus and Cam Newton. After that, BTSC has the Steelers grabbing Temple DE Muhammad Wilkerson with the No. 31 overall pick:

I know a lot of people in Steeler Nation would prefer Texas’ Aaron Williams or Miami’s Brandon Harris but the simple truth is that the Steelers draft based on value and not on need and Wilkerson is the better overall prospect. However that doesn’t mean the Front Office won’t take either for the CB’s. From a schematic standpoint Aaron Williams would be a better fit for the Steelers defense than Brandon Harris.

That’s a fair point, and I also agree with the assessment that Williams would be a better pick than Harris. In the second round, BTSC has the Steelers taking Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling. The Wilkerson pick makes a ton of sense if the Steelers can be reasonably sure that Dowling will fall to them in the second round, and clearly the Steelers are interested, because Dowling has a pre-draft visit with them.

BTSC’s mock has the Steelers taking Central Florida offensive lineman Jah Reid in the third round, followed by West Texas A&M wideout Stephen Burton in the fourth.


2011 NFL Draft: Ras-I Dowling Visits Steelers

The Post-Gazette has notes on more players who the Steelers will welcome for pre-draft visits. One is Boise State wideout Austin Pettis, who we already knew about. The others are running back Da’rel Scott of Maryland, the Citadel corner Cortez Allen, and Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling. Also, Auburn tackle Zach Clayton will visit as well.

Pettis, Scott, Allen and Clayton all project as late-round picks. The headliner here is Dowling, who looks more like a second-rounder. There has been some speculation about the possibility that the Steelers could trade out of the first round, take Dowling with a pick somewhere in the second round, and grab another pick or two late in the draft. That would be unlikely, of course, but if they don’t make a deal, it’s an open question as to whether Dowling will reach them in the second round.

Dowling also had a pre-draft visit with the Detroit Lions today.


2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Have Pre-Draft Visits With Frank Kearse, Johnny Patrick

Steelers Depot notes that the Steelers have arranged predraft visits with Alabama A&M nose tackle Frank Kearse and Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick. Also, earlier reports that the Steelers’ list of pre-draft visits also includes Boise State wideout Austin Pettis and Utah State corner Curtis Marsh have been confirmed.

NFL Draft Scout projects that Patrick will be a third- to fourth-round pick.

Kearse, meanwhile, has supposedly gotten interest from the Patriots and Ravens as well as the Steelers. Both those teams will choose just before the Steelers in each round, so getting him might be tricky. The Steelers’ immediate needs are at cornerback and on the offensive line, but Casey Hampton isn’t getting any younger, so it’s certainly possible they could take a nose tackle in the later rounds.

Fifteen teams attended his Pro Day workout where he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.2 and 5.3 seconds and recorded a 30-inch vertical leap, an 8-7 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 22 times.

Kearse didn’t appear in Behind The Steel Curtain’s recent seven-round mock.


2011 NFL Mock Draft Has Steelers Picking Miami Cornerback Brandon Harris

Walter Football’s latest NFL mock draft has the Steelers taking Miami cornerback Brandon Harris. Some fans have worried that Harris will merely be a nickel cornerback since he’s only 5-foot-9, but Mocking The Draft thinks he’s first-round worthy:

For good and bad, Harris has skills that cannot be coached. His short area play is great he’s incredibly instinctual for a early entrant. The bad trait that can’t be helped is his height. Because of his size, some teams may only view Harris as a nickel cornerback in man coverage schemes. Still, he’s relentless and remains confident against bigger receivers.

On a zone team, Harris will have to be given some time to learn. As instinctual as Harris is, you’d expect him to be more comfortable when he has to cover a wide area in zone. Instead, he’ll need safety help over the top. It also doesn’t help that Harris’ hands are lacking. Still, he has the agility and playing ability of a first-round pick.

The Walter Football mock has Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert going first overall, Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt moving all the way up to the Cowboys at No. 9, and Mike Pouncey going to the Patriots at No. 28. Several players who have been mentioned as potential Steelers picks (Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor, Mississippi State offensive lineman Derek Sherrod, Temple DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Colorado offensive lineman Nate Solder, Oregon State DT Stephen Paea) go in the ten or so picks before it’s the Steelers’ turn


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Cam Newton At First Overall, Aaron Williams To Steelers?

Here’s SB Nation’s latest NFL mock draft. Cam Newton goes to the Carolina Panthers with the first overall pick, and SB Nation notes that the Panthers are very likely to pick either Newton or fellow quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Further down, Pitt’s Jabaal Sheard goes to the Tampa Bay Bucs at No. 20 overall:

A second straight pick with a fringe first-rounder surging safely into the Top 20? Sheard is a vastly underrated prospect, and with all of the top edge rushers off the board, Tampa may feel alright “reaching” on an end that’s nearly as enticing as the higher-profile guys.

Mike Pouncey goes to the Bears at No. 28 overall, and SB Nation has the Steelers picking Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, a very popular Steelers mock draft target.

Aaron Rodgers ripped the Steelers’ vaunted defense – their secondary in particular – to shreds in Super Bowl XLV. The team needs reinforcements on the back end, and Williams has the requisite physicality and playmaking ability to excel in Dick LeBeau’s system.


2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Bring In Potential Late-Round Picks For Pre-Draft Visits

Steelers Depot has some news on who the Steelers are bringing in on pre-draft visits - the Steelers have talked with offensive linemen Marcus Gilbert (Florida), James Carpenter Jr. (Alabama) and Jarriel King (South Carolina), and they will also talk to Boise State wideout Austin Pettis and Utah State cornerback Curtis Marsh.

NFL Draft Scout projects that Gilbert and Carpenter project to be taken around the third round, while King is a potential late-round pick. That might or might not be an indication that the Steelers could address some other position in the first round. Of course, the most likely position would be cornerback, and Marsh is also projected as something like a third- or fourth-round pick. (If the name is familiar, that's because his father Curtis Marsh Sr. was briefly a wideout for the Steelers in 1997.)

The Steelers have no immediate needs at wide receiver, so if they were to take a wideout like Pettis, it would certainly be in the late rounds. NFL Draft Scout projects that Pettis will be a fourth- or fifth-round pick.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: What Might A Seven-Round Draft Look Like For Steelers?

There's some stuff in this epic mock draft in a FanPost at Behind The Steel Curtain that is certainly arguable, but one of the best things about the internet is that it gives crazy fans a forum to do crazy things like write up a seven-round mock draft.

This mock has the Steelers taking Miami cornerback Brandon Harris at No. 31 overall. After that, it's TCU offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, then Hampton nose tackle Kendrick Ellis. From a positional standpoint, all these picks make sense. The Steelers need a corner to accompany Ike Taylor, since Bryant McFadden and William Gay haven't really gotten it done. Offensive line was an issue most of the year. And though the Steelers don't need a nose tackle immediately, Casey Hampton won't be around forever.

With their late-round picks, the author has the Steelers grabbing New Mexico State corner Davon House, Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged, Nebraska kicker/punter Alex Henry, and Stanford fullback Owen Marecic.


New 2011 NFL Mock Draft Has Steelers Picking Ben Ijalana

A new Sports Illustrated mock draft is the latest to project that the Steelers will pick Villanova offensive lineman Ben Ijalana. Ilajana rarely pops up in the first round of mock drafts, but whenever he does, it seems like he's going to the Steelers with pick No. 31.

We mockers have the Steelers all over the map, but offensive line and cornerback are the obvious areas of need. Texas cornerback Aaron Williams may wind up playing safety in the NFL at some point, so the value for Pittsburgh at No. 31 seems to be at offensive line. Just a hunch, but Ijalana looks like the next best tackle prospect after [Mississippi State's Derek] Sherrod comes off the board.

SI has Blaine Gabbert going to the Carolina Panthers at No. 1 overall, followed by Marcell Dareus, Cam Newton and A.J. Green. Mike Pouncey goes to the Eagles at No. 23, and in a new development, this draft has TCU quarterback Andy Dalton going to the Seahawks at No. 25. Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor, who apparently is making a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh, goes to the Jets at No. 30 overall.


2011 NFL Draft: Could Steelers Trade First-Round Pick?

It’s not especially likely that the Steelers could trade their first-round pick in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft, but over at Behind The Steel Curtain, big_jay71 is doing a good job describing possible scenarios like that one, even though he acknowledges that they’re unlikely.

In my opinion the new draft format implemented last year, where the draft is broken down into three days, will aid the Steelers in getting more value in return for their draft pick. Teams looking to trade up because they are targeting someone specific will be too impatient to wait another day to get him. With the Patriots holding onto the first pick of the second day (pick 33), and knowing they’ll trade it to the highest bidder, some team will get nervous enough to offer the Steelers more than pick 31 is worth to jump ahead of the pick 33 auction for someone they are dying to have.

Jay thinks this is possible for quarterbacks in particular, and that the Steelers could trade their No. 31 overall first-round choice to get a pick around No. 40 overall (which they’d use to select someone like Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling, who doesn’t project as a first-rounder) and an additional pick or two later in the draft. It’s an interesting idea, and it could allow the Steelers to add additional picks late in the draft (where they do a pretty good job getting value) while sacrificing little in terms of the quality of their first selection. It probably won’t happen, but it’s worth thinking about.


2011 NFL Draft: Steelers Coaches In Draft Meetings

The Steelers’ coaches and scouts have begun meeting to discuss the draft, the Post-Gazette reports. In these meetings, they’ll do “readings” to give each draft prospect a grade, which they’ll use when the actual draft comes up.

The same post has a note about mock drafts:

I love these mock drafts everyone does starting about two months before the real draft. Fantasy football at its ultimate.
There were, what, more than 9 million entries in ESPN’s bracket contest on the NCAA and two got the Final Four correct? That’s about the record of all these mock drafts when it’s said and done. Maybe two would be high.

Well, the NFL Draft is a lot more predictable than March Madness is. It’s not like we’ll have some guy who had been perceived as a seventh-round talent being selected first overall, at least not completely out of nowhere. I take the author’s point, though, about mock drafts being nearly as unreal as the name “mock” implies. But that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. They help us understand who all the players are and what the goals of each team are, so that when the real NFL Draft comes around, we understand what teams might be thinking.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: New Mock Has Steelers Picking Danny Watkins

SBNation.com’s latest mock draft has Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert going first overall and Nick Fairley, Da’Quan Bowers and Cam Newton following him. After that, Georgia receiver A.J. Green falls all the way to the Redskins at No. 10, and Florida’s Mike Pouncey leaps all the way to the Dolphins at No. 15.

Further down, Pitt defensive end Jabaal Sheard goes to the Falcons at pick No. 27. At No. 31, SB Nation has the Steelers picking Baylor offensive lineman Danny Watkins:

Pittsburgh’s offensive line will be getting better simply because it will be getting healthier, but reinforcements are still needed. Mike Pouncey would be the obvious target, but Watkins is an intriguing prospect that may be able to play right away if necessary.

I guess, but again, Watkins is 26. The Steelers’ evaluations of players tend to be unconventional and they tend to be right a lot, so I feel like they’d have to really love Watkins to draft him over some diamond in the rough who might have more upside than Watkins does, due to his age.


2011 NFL Draft: Could The Steelers Trade Up?

Behind The Steel Curtain has an interesting article on the possibility of the Steelers trading up in the draft to pick up a higher-rated talent other than Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey (who has pretty much been Steelers' fans go-to guy in draft discussions, for obvious reasons), such as Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, Wisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan or Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor.

As far as all of these prospects are concerned I wouldn’t mind if the Steelers front office made a play for any of them. They all have something to contribute to the team. Prince Amukamara is basically a pipe dream. The cost involved in trading into the top ten would be too much for the Steelers to consider no matter how good he is or how dire the need. Of all the offensive tackle prospects with a first-round grade, Gabe Carimi fits the style of lineman the Steelers seem to prefer.

I agree with the author regarding Amukamara. I don't see any way the Steelers will be willing to pay that price. Historically, the Steelers' evaluations of draft picks have been both iconoclastic and sound, so I doubt they would sacrifice a bunch of late-round picks - which they stand a pretty good chance of getting value from if they get to use them - in order to grab one player near the top ten. This is especially true given that, for a Super Bowl team, the Steelers have a fair number of holes.

Trading up to get someone like Carimi or Jordan (or Pouncey) might make a little more sense, because the cost to the Steelers in a trade would be a bit less. I'm still not sure they would actually do it, given that they're likely to have at least a few interesting cornerbacks and offensive linemen to choose from at pick No. 31. But it's an interesting idea.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Possible Picks For Steelers At Cornerback, Offensive Line, Defensive Line

Walter Football's Consensus Big Board, which averages the results of 2011 NFL Mock Drafts by Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock and others, is a neat little tool that might give us a sense of who could be available when the Steelers pick 31st overall. Of course, it isn't a mock draft itself and doesn't purport to be - just because a player goes at, say, No. 15 doesn't mean that the team who drafts at No. 15 will have a need for that player.

Anyway, the list has LSU corner Patrick Peterson, Georgia wideout A.J. Green and Texas A&M OLB Von Miller as the top three. Let's move further down to where the Steelers will be picking, though. The Steelers' greatest needs are at cornerback, offensive line and defensive line, so here are some players who Walter Football has listed a few picks before or a few picks after.

Cornerbacks: Brandon Harris (Miami - 27), Jimmy Smith (Colorado - 29), Aaron Williams (Texas - 36). This makes sense - these guys are the next tier of cornerback talent after Peterson and Nebraska's Prince Amukamara.

Offensive line: Nate Solder (Colorado - 22), Mike Pouncey (Florida - 25), Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State - 31), Danny Watkins (Baylor - 32). Pouncey would be an obvious candidate to be taken by the Steelers if he fell to them, but not many mock drafts I've seen have him falling that far. A couple have predicted the Steelers would take Sherrod. Watkins is 26 years old, and I'd prefer the Steelers avoid him purely for that reason.

Defensive line: Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple - 21), Corey Liuget (Illinois - 23), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State - 24), Stephen Paea (Oregon State - 35). Wilkerson has gone to the Steelers in some recent mocks. Paea is a combine monster who broke the bench press record.

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