As we move through April and are now only weeks away from the NFL draft, team needs and draft boards are starting to become more clear. Free-agent dust has mostly settled. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been almost eerily quiet, but their big show is always the draft.
Here's a look at the latest seven-round projections for the Steelers.
Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Steelers are not necessarily looking for an immediate starter at inside linebacker. All indications are that Stevenson Sylvester, entering his third year, will get every opportunity to be the guy that replaces James Farrior.
But the Steelers would be foolish to pass on a guy like Hightower, who seems almost built for the Steelers' defensive scheme. He reminds me of Greg Lloyd in a lot of ways, not the least being his intensity. He'd be a good fit.
Even if he doesn't start right away, he would be a good guy to push Sylvester, who has plenty to prove still.
Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
This is the perfect draft for finding Casey Hampton's eventual replacement. He's on the far side of 30 and coming off ACL surgery, so there are absolutely no guarantees that he'll be ready to go. Steve McLendon represents a good backup, but little more.
The draft is deep at this spot. Martin is a guy who in other years might be one of the top players available at his spot, but this year he's likely a second-round prospect. He needs a bit of work to adjust to the NFL level, but he's been very successful at Michigan.
He should sit for a year and learn and could be the team's starter by 2013.
Lucas Nix, OG, Pittsburgh
The Steelers need to get better against the run. They brought back Ramon Foster on a one-year deal, so they aren't buying into anything there long-term. Getting a guy like Nix that they can work with for a year or two will be a great way to build up their line.
Nix has great skills and was part of a very good rushing offense at Pitt. He could end up being a very valuable pick at this spot who could start as soon as 2013 and maybe even next year if needed.
The Steelers can't afford to ignore offensive line this year. They've committed a lot to it the last two years and they need to continue that so they can get back to having one of the best lines in football.
Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon
The Steelers have no immediate need at outside linebacker, but they do need some more defensive youth and flexibility. James Harrison is older and there's no guarantee he'll be able to hold out for many more years with his vicious style of play.
The Steelers love to develop linebackers and Kaddu is a guy who could be a diamond in the rough. At the fourth round in this mock, they've addressed major concerns and can afford to take the best player available. That could be Kaddu.
Outside of that, the Steelers may look at a corner, but none really jump off the page right now.
Omar Bolden, CB, Arizona State
The Steelers will likely advance one of Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen or Keenan Lewis to the starting job in 2012. That will sabotage their young depth at the cornerback position. They've drafted defensively in recent years and that's helped, but they are still searching.
Bolden is raw (but who isn't really in the later rounds). He does have some nice playmaking skill and some great tools, so he's a guy who can be a project player. The Steelers took Allen last year when he wasn't that big of a name and came out with a potential star.
Who's to say they won't do that again?
Case Keenum, QB, Houston
Keenum doesn't have the buzz of any of the big-name quarterbacks, but he has some wonderful numbers in his Houston career. The Steelers happen to have a big hole behind starter Ben Roethlisberger.
The school of thought is that you want an experienced backup. The Steelers can achieve that with Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich. The problem is that neither of those guys is really playing that long for the NFL. Also, neither is very good at staying off the injury report.
Keenum is a player who is likely to be available and could develop into a nice backup that could be around for awhile.
Blair Walsh, K, Georgia
The Steelers have Shaun Suisham, but there isn't much comfort in that. Suisham doesn't have the leg strength you'd like to see in a kicker and his accuracy is iffy at times. The Steelers need a solid kicker for Heinz Field and for their offense, which doesn't always punch it in with regularity.
Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia
Tandy is another good corner prospect that can be worked on as the Steelers try to find a good corner combination that no longer includes Bryant McFadden or William Gay. He's very raw but has skills that could eventually develop into something useful.
Josh Oglesby, OT, Wisconsin
The Steelers need some depth at the offensive tackle spot and could get some quickly by drafting a guy like Oglesby. He's clearly a project without any guarantees, but he has the talents to quickly supplant a guy like Jonathan Scott, the current swing tackle.
Mike Ball, RB, Nevada
Why not take a late flyer on a running back with some speed? Ball is an interesting pick and he could end up undrafted as well, but he does add a dimension to the Pittsburgh backfield that it doesn't seem to have right now: speed.