2012 NFL Draft: 4 Prospects Who Can Help Fix Pittsburgh Steelers

Jesse FeldContributor IIIJanuary 31, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: 4 Prospects Who Can Help Fix Pittsburgh Steelers

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    After getting Tebow-ed out of the playoffs on Wild Card Weekend, the Pittsburgh Steelers are forced to move on and work on making the team better for next year.

    The Steelers ended the regular season at 12-4 and were expected to be a contender in the AFC. While as a whole the team was good, there are specific places that need some work.

    With seven returning defensive starters over the age of 30, the Steelers will need to pick up players who can start in the future and add depth right now.

    The offensive line is another concern for the Steelers, who will want to strengthen the group in order to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and make running room for Rashard Mendenhall.

    The Steelers have the 24th pick in this year's NFL draft. I'd like to point out some players the team should take if they want to improve for next season.

Kevin Zeitler: OG, Wisconsin

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    While traditionally known for their ability to run the ball, the Steelers were a pass-first team in 2011.

    If they are trying to get back to the old ground-and-pound days, Kevin Zeitler would be a good pickup to strengthen the O-line.

    A three-year starter at Wisconsin, Zeitler has played in a pro-style offense that is based on running the ball. This means he would be able to step in and contribute early.

    The Steelers struggled with injuries and inconsistent play from the line. Maurkice Pouncey has been solid and made his second straight Pro Bowl.

    Pouncey was also a late first-round pick, and taking the 6'4", 315-pound Zeitler would make the line younger and stronger.

Dontrai Poe: DT, Memphis

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    Casey Hampton has been a big part of the Steelers defense and their ability to stop the run since the team drafted him in 2001.

    He has been named to five Pro Bowls and signed a three-year contract with the Steelers in 2010.

    He will be around for a couple more years, but the Steelers need to get working on finding a replacement for Hampton, who is now 34 years old.

    Dontrai Poe is not a household name, coming out of the abysmal University of Memphis football program. Poe is choosing to forgo his senior year to enter the draft.

    While Poe only had five sacks in his college career, he also had 21.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, which is a stat the Steelers like to see out of the nose tackle position.

    Poe might jump up some teams' draft boards after the combine, but if he falls to Pittsburgh they will be hard-pressed not to pick him up.

Vontaze Burfict: ILB, Arizona State

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    Vontaze Burfict is a fast, athletic linebacker who compiled 228 tackles in just three seasons at Arizona State.

    The last time Pittsburgh spent a first-round pick on an inside linebacker, the choice was Lawrence Timmons, and it has worked out well.

    After six consecutive seasons with at least 100 tackles, James Farrior finished the 2011 campaign with just 78.

    No, this is not a huge drop-off, but considering that Farrior is 37, it could become a trend for the years to come.

    If Burfict is available, the Steelers will most likely take him and slowly breed him into another All-Star linebacker, like they did with Timmons and even Lamarr Woodley.

    There are other options at inside linebacker in this draft. National champion Dont'a Hightower will be an intriguing player Pittsburgh will keep an eye on.

Janoris Jenkins: CB, North Alabama

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    The Steelers secondary was better than expected last season with the emergence of William Gay as a starting cornerback.

    Still, the team could use another playmaker in the secondary to complement Troy Polamalu's ball-hawking abilities.

    Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the Florida Gators for misconduct and ended his collegiate career at North Alabama.

    Nevertheless Jenkins finished with 10 total interceptions, and with Ike Taylor's bricks for hands, the Steelers could use a corner who can intercept passes.

    This could also be another example of how the Steelers slowly bring guys into the defense. Jenkins might be looked over by teams because of his misconduct, but the Steelers have been known to take a chance every now and then.