2012 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers' Latest News, Rumors

Alexander DiegelCorrespondent IIIApril 16, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers' Latest News, Rumors

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    As the Pittsburgh Steelers approach the NFL draft, it is painfully obvious what weaknesses need to be addressed.

    The defense said goodbye to some aging starters and needs an influx of youth. The offensive line has made Ben Roethlisberger the league's punching bag. Rashard Mendenhall is not expected to be ready for the start of the season, and Isaac Redman is untested as a feature back. 

    So where will the team go from here? Click along and find out. 

Will the Steelers Trade Mike Wallace for a First-Round Pick?

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    Of course, there is one way the Pittsburgh Steelers could fill an extra position of need with some first-day talent: Trade star receiver Mike Wallace. 

    This would be an unpopular move for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' faithful alike, but it would not be unprecedented. Heck, the last two times the Steelers got rid of Roethlisberger's best playmaker (letting Plaxico Burress walk, trading Santonio Holmes) they made it to the Super Bowl the next season and took home one Lombardi Trophy. 

    With Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery, there would still be enough talent to get by in the passing game. And think about a Steelers' defense that would add Dont'a Hightower and Michael Brockers, because I guarantee you the rest of the NFL doesn't want to. 

    I would not condone the move anyway, but it is just another option for your Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Will the Pittsburgh Steelers Take a Defensive Tackle in the First Two Rounds?

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent two of the last three first rounds rebuilding their aging defensive line. Now should be the time for Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward to shine, but there is still the potential for a gaping hole in the middle of the 3-4 defense. 

    Casey Hampton is 35 years old and will be coming off a torn ACL. Hampton has always battled weight and conditioning issues, so even is he is ready for the Week 1, he will likely be out of shape due to the time off taken as a result of the rehab process. Even prior to the ACL tear, Hampton has only played in one full season since 2005 and 11-year veterans do not generally buck that trend. 

    This is one of the deepest talent pools for defensive tackles in years. If Dont'a Hightower is taken before the Steelers select 24th overall, LSU's Michael Brockers should be the pick. If not, expect Pittsburgh to snatch one in the second round. It could trade up for Jerel Worthy or Devon Still or hope one of the two drops to the Steelers' 56th slot. 

Are the Pittsburgh Steelers Looking at Running Backs?

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers are not counting on Rashard Mendenhall to be ready for the start of the season. That leaves them with the young duo of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. 

    Even if the Steelers do feel comfortable with Redman as the feature back, Dwyer is a similar player and leaves them without a change of pace. Veteran Mewelde Moore is more of a third-down scat back than a second runner. If the team does want to go that route, there are some intriguing second-round options. 

    Lamar Miller is one of the fastest backs in the draft and at a solid 215 lbs. has the potential to be a big-time steal. LaMichael James could be the next Darren Sproles and the Steelers have already had a visit from Senior Bowl MVP Isaiah Pead. 

    All of the above-mentioned backs have one thing none of the Steelers' healthy runners have: pure, game-breaking speed. 

Look Who's Coming to Town

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers have already had some prospects visit in preparation for the NFL draft.

    The Steelers have taken a look at BYU run-stuffer Hebron Fangupo. At 323 lbs., he could learn from one of the best before eventually taking over for Casey Hampton.

    Another late-round prospect is Jeremy Jones, a safety from Wayne State. Jones may not have the big-school pedigree, but has something needed from any Steelers' defender: a big-time hit stick. Jones holds the school record for a defensive back with 291 tackles. He was also a playmaker, recording 17 career interceptions.

    As mentioned in the previous slide, Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead stopped by for a visit as well.  

Will the Steelers Draft for the Future in the Later Rounds?

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers have a habit of selecting projects on the second and third days of the NFL draft. Some of the workout wonders prove to be steals (Antonio Brown, Ike Taylor), others are busts (Ricardo Colclough).

    Expect Pittsburgh to continue its low-risk, high-reward approach to the later selections. Ty Hilton is a burner from Florida International that has the potential to replace Mike Wallace should the team let him walk next offseason.   

    The Steelers have needs across the offensive line, so why not draft a big body that can play four of five positions? Pittsburgh's own Lucas Nix has played guard and tackle and would be available in the fifth- and sixth-round range. 

    A cornerback will likely be taken on the second day of the draft and could fit the build of someone like Chase Minnifield. The Virginia product has great size for the position as, again, if you are going to play defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers, you are going to hit someone. Yes, even the cornerbacks. 

    If the defensive tackle spot is not solidified early on, look for the team to take one of the biggest bodies on the board later in the draft to—what else?—clog up space in the middle of that 3-4 defense. 

Is the Next Leader of the Pittsburgh Defense in This Draft?

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    Mel Kiper, Jr. believes Dont'a Hightower is a perfect for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I agree. 

    Hightower has ideal size and speed for the position at the next level and, as the signal-caller of Alabama's championship defense, has the brains to go with it. Hightower will come in right away to compete with Stevenson Sylvester and fill the void left by the release of James Farrior. Hightower would be a lock to start right away, if not for the complexity of Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense. Remember, even Troy Polamalu rode the bench as a rookie.

    Assuming Hightower is available, the question is not if Hightower will be the next star in the middle of the Pittsburgh defense, but when.

    Alexander is a featured columnist for bleacherreport.com You can follow Alexander on Twitter @thesportsdude7 or become a fan on his Bleacher Report profile.