Most fans and media members seem to be in agreement that the two biggest needs for the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason are at cornerback and along the offensive line. The debate heats up quite a bit between which is the more pressing priority, and how the Steelers should best go about improving both units. But for now at least, most believe the Steelers will use two of their first three picks on some combination of the two positions.
Behind the Steel Curtain, SB Nation’s Pittsburgh Steelers site, has published the first three rounds of its first full seven-round mock draft of the season. In Round 1, BTSC has the Steelers addressing the cornerback position by taking Jimmy Smith out of Colorado.
Here was the reasoning:
By now every Steelers fan knows their weaknesses and what the team needs to be focusing on come draft day. In the secondary the team needs to find a solid CB to play with Ike Taylor. And Taylor himself is on the wrong side of 30 and a free agent. Bryant McFadden has been very poor in coverage and has become injury prone. Willie Gay is barely serviceable as a nickel CB. Hopefully Crezdon Butler will make strides in his second year but that can’t be counted on.
On the defensive line age has become a very big concern. Aaron Smith has missed a significant portion of the season for the second time in 3 years. After a very slow start to his career Ziggy Hood has come on as of late. But with the run on 3-4 DE prospects there’s just no first round value left at the position. Also NT Casey Hampton will turn 34 by the start of the 2011 season.
The biggest issue by far is on the offensive line. Outside of rookie Maurkice Pouncey, every other position has been a struggle just about all year. Both starting OT’s are currently on I.R. as well. LT Max Starks, even when healthy, is only an above average option and would be better suited at RT. Willie Colon will be a free agent and has been looking to cash in. The most pressing issue has been at RG where we have seen a revolving door of players such as Trai Essex, Ramon Foster, and Doug Legursky unable to stabilize the position or capitalize which their chance to start. Unfortunately Mike Pouncey, who would be the best fit, has already been taken. Don’t be surprised to see the Steelers trade up for him. Of course we could go with local product Stefen Wisniewski who is probably a little better in run support but not quite as athletic.
Please note this pick was not made because of a knee-jerk reaction to the Super Bowl. I went with Jimmy Smith because he represents the best value for the selection and is a good fit for the Steelers defense. At 6’2", 205lbs he has solid size, is good in run support, but most importantly he’s phenomenal in coverage. He’s been rising on many peoples draft boards and depending on how he does at the combine, specifically on the 40 yard dash, he may go even higher than this.
So just to recap, the top targets for the Steelers in the first round of the 2011 draft will be (in no particular order) Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, Florida OG Mike Pouncey, OSU DE Cameron Heyward, Miami CB Brandon Harris, and Baylor NT Phil Taylor. And of course I’m not counting those players who the Steelers have no chance of getting such as Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, and Cameron Jordan.
With a CB taken in the first round this pick will come down to the highest rated offensive or defensive lineman. Gilbert is massive at 6’7", 330lbs., can play both RG and RT, and can probably start right away at Guard.
And finally, BTSC pegged Stanford NT Sione Fua as the Steelers pick in Round 3.
Current Nose Tackle Casey Hampton will be 34 years old before the start of the 2011 season. Fua looked dominate all season at Stanford. He’s listed at 6’2", 307lbs, which is about the same size as current Defensive End Ziggy Hood, but looks much stouter.