2012 NFL Draft: Top 7 First-Round Prospects for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers fans know the drill by now.
No matter who you think Pittsburgh should take in the draft each April, the guys who actually end up in black and gold are almost always the best conceivable fit—even if it takes three years to realize it.
It's the reason the Steelers are always sellers come free agent season, and why almost perennially losing their once-dominant defensive veterans and top flight receivers never seems to faze them.
Although yinzers might have a difficult time saying goodbye to Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Chris Kemoeatu and (possibly) Mike Wallace, Steelers brass consistently rotate in younger and cheaper options dug up in the draft.
Although the team has glaring needs on both lines, at the linebacker position and (depending on who you ask) the secondary and backfield, you can rest assured they'll be addressed somewhere in the draft.
But who might the Steelers be looking at with the 24th overall pick?
7. Devon Still: DT, Penn State
When he was brought home from the hospital after being born, Still was wearing a Steelers jersey—and that was three years before Pittsburgh drafted his cousin, Levon Kirkland.
Current Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton isn't just 34 years old, he's also on his third ACL surgery. Pittsburgh most likely won't come out of the second round without a possible replacement, but if it's looking in Round 1, it could do a lot worse than last year's Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year.
He's had his own ACL and MCL issues, but he could work well either in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
Plus, he apparently already has his own jersey.
6. Mark Barron: SS, Alabama
I know what you're saying.
You're right, the Steelers do still have all-world safety Troy Polamalu and veteran Ryan Clark. But both are on the uncomfortable side of 30, and precautions will need to be taken. Ryan Mundy is coming along, but he can't play in two spots at once.
It's unlikely Pittsburgh would use anything better than a third-round pick on a safety, but if Mark Barron is available (and that's a fairly large "if"), that could change. The Steelers traditionally take the strategy of grabbing the best player on the board, and a double sports hernia could let Barron drop further than he should.
More of a ferocious tackler than a quick coverage guy, he was a linchpin in Alabama's unreal defense last year and figures to be a strong safety as a pro.
It's a long shot he'll be a Steeler, but they do need someone reliable to fill in for Clark when they play at Denver.
5. Mike Adams: OT, Ohio State
You're more likely to see Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes back in black and gold than you are to see the Steelers enter the third round without an offensive lineman.
Injuries have kept tackle Willie Colon off the field for two years, Marcus Gilbert could be moved to left tackle, and someone's gonna have to create better lanes for Isaac Redman if Rashard Mendenhall's torn ACL is worst-case scenario.
At 6'7" and 325 pounds, Ohio State's Adams can play on the right or left side, and flexibility is a plus on an injury-riddled O-line. On the downside, he doesn't move all that quickly and can struggle with speedy edge-rushers.
There are better tackles in the draft, but Adams could be lingering at pick No. 24.
4. Cordy Glenn: OG, Georgia
If Adams has position flexibility, Cordy Glenn is Nastia Liukin.
At Georgia, Glenn played right guard as a freshman, right and left guard as a sophomore, left guard as a junior, and left tackle as a senior. Most experts have him as a guard in the draft, though, and that's the position he'll likely start out at.
But at 6'6", 345 pounds, Glenn is a moving mountain, and a fast one as far as mountains go. His 5.15-second, 40-yard dash at the combine put him squarely at the front of the lineman pack.
Sure, Ben Roethlisberger does his best work while he's being chased, but somebody's gonna have to cut down on his hits before it's too late.
3. Dont'a Hightower: ILB, Alabama
Like they've done for years (if not generations), the Steelers typically have the position depth to ease their draft picks into their roles.
That wouldn't necessarily apply to Hightower.
The Steelers have a James Farrior-sized hole at inside linebacker, and Hightower could slip seamlessly in. He played a similar role in a similar scheme at Alabama where he handled signal-calling, and everyone knows how that defense worked out.
Although he could be iffy in coverage, his 265-pound frame is capable of delivering devastating tackles in the box.
Yeah, Pittsburgh still has Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester on the side. But Hightower is a centerpiece.
2. Dontari Poe: DT, Memphis
The last time the Steelers took a nose tackle with their No. 1 pick, it was Casey Hampton in 2001.
That warranty is almost expired.
Poe was already a perfect fit in the heart of any 3-4, but his 4.98 40-yard dash at the combine sent his stock soaring. He's massive, he's agile, and he's even capable of shifting to defensive end.
Although Pittsburghers might petition for an offensive lineman right out of the gate, the Steelers fared pretty well last year when they snagged Marcus Gilbert in Round 2.
Poe, however, could be to the Steelers what Ndamukong Suh is to the Lions (excluding the questionable hits and even more questionable Subway commercials).
1. David DeCastro: OG, Stanford
This could be wishful thinking.
The Colts like Andrew Luck enough to end their relationship with Peyton Manning, and David DeCastro is one of the reasons Luck looked so good at Stanford.
One of the top offensive linemen in the draft, it's exceedingly unlikely DeCastro will fall to the 24th pick. But he could be one of the only prospects in the draft that the Steelers would consider trading up for.
Often referred to as the second-coming of Steve Hutchinson, DeCastro is a surefire Pro Bowl-caliber player and possibly one of the safest picks of the first round.
If for some reason he's there when the Steelers pick at No. 24, he won't be at No. 25.