Pittsburgh Steelers Potential Prospects: Mark Barron, SS

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IApril 12, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Mark Barron #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide intercepts a pass intended for Brett Brackett #83 of the Penn State Nittany Lions at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is always known around the league as one of the best there is. In 2011, the Steelers defense was ranked first in the NFL

To go along with that, they finished ranked first in the league against the pass (172 yards per game). Part of the reason for that is having a future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu.

Much of the credit also has to go to Ryan Clark. Clark and Polamalu together make up one of the most ferocious safety tandems in the NFL.

When the Steelers are without Polamalu, it is obvious that the defense is not the same unit, as losing a player the caliber of Polamalu would do to any team.

The Steelers learned in the 2011 NFL playoffs that without Ryan Clark in the secondary, things are not much better, as Tim Tebow threw for a career game, defeating the Steelers in overtime.

I'm saying all that not only to prove the value the Steelers have in their secondary, but to show the importance of depth at the position.

Though the Steelers have Ryan Mundy as a backup to Polamalu and Clark, it is a huge step down in play, and one of the possible solutions to this problem may be available when the Steelers are on the clock in the first round.

Mark Barron.

Barron is all over the board in terms of mock drafts. Some people have him going to the Cowboys at pick 14, while others have him falling to the end of the first round.

With no way to have a clue if Barron is even going to be available when the Steelers select, there is no way to know if he is even on the Steelers' radar.

In addition to that, there are a lot of other positions at which the Steelers need help, and some people say taking Barron would be a "luxury" pick.

But, as I have said before, and will again, when the Steelers make their selection, it is not based on need, but based on "best available player."

The reality is that the Steelers secondary is very young. With the exception of Polamalu, Clark and Ike Taylor, the youth in the Steelers secondary is almost scary.

The Steelers used two draft picks in last year's draft on corners, both of whom have come along nicely, affording the Steelers the ability to cut Bryant McFadden and allowing Will Gay to leave with out so much as even trying to sign him.

Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen both figure in the long-term plans at corner for the Steelers. They will likely both be competing for the nickel role on the Steelers defense.

That is because fourth-year player Keenan Lewis is likely to be named starting corner opposite of Ike Taylor.

All of these young men are at least 6'0", and all are known to be fast. At the safety position, the Steelers backups don't have near the upside that the corners do.

Besides Mundy, the Steelers have Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, who has not shown that he is capable of even being a fill-in to this point. The Steelers also signed the smartest guy in the NFL, Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle.

Again, as there is potential there, none have shown that they are capable of being consistent contributors in the Steelers' long-term plans.

And when you have players like Polamalu and Clark, both on the wrong side of 30, you need to have someone who is ready, willing and able to take their place, and that is a "luxury" the Steelers simply don't have.

The biggest knock on Barron is his coverage ability, but with a coach like Carnell Lake, who has made improvements with all of the secondary players since joining the coaching staff before the 2011 season, Lake could turn a player like Barron into a combination of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu.

He's a ball hawk who also likes to hit people. That is a deadly combination if you ask me.

And certainly one that is worthy of a first-round pick.