The Pittsburgh Steelers active in free agency? That sounds like a Hollywood plot because there's just no way it will actually happen. The Steelers approach free agency as if it is a spectator sport. They love to watch the comings and goings, but do almost nothing of any substance each year.
The Steelers approach the draft with the attention any craftsman pays to his special talent. It is their way of improving, reloading and rebuilding. With that in mind, let's have a look at a new mock draft now that we have some idea of how free agency will play out.
Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
I want the Steelers to move up eight slots to draft Dontari Poe or Fletcher Cox, but I doubt it will happen. With nobody barking up the Mike Wallace tree, the chance that the team could package two first-round picks to move up for one player doesn't seem feasible either.
So what to do at 24th overall?
Glenn is a great player who fills a position of need for the Steelers. The Steelers moved on from Chris Kemoeatu and don't seem entirely sold on Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster. They obviously must improve their run-blocking up the middle.
Glenn might not start this season, but the team is bereft of depth at this point and could use him as insurance the way they intended to use Marcus Gilbert last season.
Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
The Steelers would probably love Poe or Cox falling to them in the first round. Failing that, they still need a long-term plan for the defensive tackle position.
What makes sense, then, is getting somebody in the second round.
Michigan gave the Steelers LaMarr Woodley in the second round once. They could do it again with Martin. Like Woodley, Martin isn't coming out of college with a long list of expectations of greatness. He is a hard worker, however. He also has great skills and the ability to disrupt the middle of an offensive line.
If the Steelers can't get the dream selection first, they can get a guy like Martin who projects as a player who can be a force in the middle for years.
The Steelers don't put a great emphasis on highlight-reel plays from the defensive line. They need solid, steady play and an ability to open holes for the linebacker rush. Martin looks like a player who can provide that.
Audie Cole, ILB, NC State
I've been pushing Dont'a Hightower for the first-round choice, but I'm providing a little different viewpoint this week. If the Steelers aren't sold on Hightower the same way I am, Glenn makes sense in the first round.
Defensive tackle is a bigger need, and not one they can address with depth in free agency. Inside linebacker is a situation where they have an heir apparent to James Farrior (Stevenson Sylvester) and where they have some veteran depth in Larry Foote.
Translation: This can wait if the needs at guard and along the line are bigger.
Cole is a good prospect whose biggest weakness is that he needs to get bigger before he's really ready to take over in the middle. What he does have are great instincts and intangibles. He's also a hard worker.
Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
The Steelers would appear to have a bit of a problem at corner. They aren't pursuing one in free agency. William Gay is likely to leave, although he hasn't latched on anywhere yet. He could come back for whatever the team is willing to pay if no one bites, but he's a player I could see signing in early April.
Assuming no one replaces him from the free-agent pool, that would advance either Keenan Lewis or Cortez Allen to his old job opposite Ike Taylor. It would put the other into the nickel role.
It also leaves some depth issues.
Enter Boykin. He's got tools, and I feel like he could actually develop into a fine starter. He also could go higher in this draft, but I feel like there are a lot of guys ahead of him right now and only so many corner spots up for grabs.
He'd instantly be competition for Curtis Brown and the nickel back guy, and he could end up being one of those mid-round gems the Steelers are famous for finding.
Case Keenum, QB, Houston
I like Keenum, and I loved the way he was able to dismantle Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl at the end of the year. Nothing against Penn State. I'm a big fan of the Blue and White, but that was masterful work by a quarterback facing a really, really good defense.
Keenum, however, doesn't seem to have experienced any uptick in his draft status. He's a solid mid-rounder who I think is probably a better quarterback than a few that seem to be projected above him.
That misconception (if it's not me who's wrong) could be the gain of a team that has no real depth at quarterback. The team's three backups are all free agents. They haven't been brought back. Troy Smith was brought in on a futures deal, but he doesn't inspire anything but amusement to me.
Keenum could be a long-term answer behind Ben Roethlisberger. He has the savvy and skill, although he doesn't have the physical tools most teams are looking for. He's not anywhere near the perfect bar. He does have a future, however.
That future might just be in Pittsburgh.
John Cullen, OT, Utah
Here's a newsflash for anyone who hasn't been reading the depth chart recently.
Jonathan Scott is the guy who's expected to substitute in should Willie Colon have a third straight year on the bench with an injury. He's also the first guy up if Marcus Gilbert is injured or can't handle left tackle.
If you don't see the problem, I can't help you. It's obvious that Scott is not an NFL player. He's one of the worst tackles the Steelers have employed (along with Todd Fordham).
The Steelers might be entertaining ideas of resigning Max Starks as a primary backup as he recovers. That's possible, but risky, and there's been no official discussion of it yet. There aren't many back-up tackles in free agency that are attractive.
So perhaps the Steelers will draft Cullen late. He could be a good player with time, and I think he might be a good bet to someday step in for Colon permanently should he age or leave. He's underrated and is buried on the prospect list at his position.
Lennon Creer, RB, Louisiana Tech
The Steelers are not planning on having Rashard Mendenhall at full strength this season. They as yet have not pursued any depth options in free agency. It appears as though it will come down to Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch and John Clay behind Isaac Redman.
The Steelers would likely be wise to add a free agent there just to give some veteran depth.
If nothing else, they'd be suited to adding a runner late in the draft. Creer is an interesting prospect, and he could be a guy that can succeed in a Pittsburgh attack that is now operated by Todd Haley.
The seventh round is often a gamble, so there's no saying he must stay and win. But he could. Potential is what the draft is all about.