2012 NFL Draft: Possible Pittsburgh Steelers Surprises in Each Round
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Considering the draft buildup has been almost as long as the Steelers' 2011 season, everyone knows by now that the Big Three of Pittsburgh's draft needs are nose tackle, inside linebacker and offensive guard.
Not all of the Steelers' 10 picks will address those three areas, however.
Don't be surprised if the Steelers make at least a couple of picks at positions where they don't seem to have a need. Before throwing a bottle of Iron City at the TV, take a closer look.
Here are possible surprise picks for the Steelers in each round of the NFL draft. This is by no means a mock draft. I'd get beaten with bars of soap wrapped in Terrible Towels if I tried to pass this off as a complete mock draft because there are no nose tackles, inside linebackers or guards on this list.
However, one or two of these picks could actually happen because each of these picks would fill an underlying need.
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Round 1 (No. 24): Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
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Weight: 260 pounds
McClellin has been rising on draft boards, closing in on the first round like he closes in on opposing quarterbacks.
The Steelers don't normally go for flavors of the month like that, but if Dontari Poe, Cordy Glenn and Jonathan Martin are gone by the time the Steelers pick at No. 24, or if the Steelers don't feel that Dont'a Hightower is a good value in the first round (CBSSports.com ranks him 41st), they might take a look at McClellin.
Inside linebacker is the Steelers' more obvious need, but they also could use an outside linebacker. James Harrison turns 34 exactly a week after the first round of the draft, and will we ever again completely trust LaMarr Woodley's hamstring?
McClellin made 33 tackles for losses and 20.5 sacks at Boise State, so the Steelers would get a legitimate pass-rusher. Also, while McClellin is more likely an outside linebacker, he does have inside linebacker size.
And how can you not like a guy who, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via CBSSports.com, had to build a fence on the family farm in Idaho in the midst of all this pre-draft hoopla?
Round 2 (No. 56): Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
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Weight: 178 pounds
The Steelers might appear stocked at cornerback with Ike Taylor on one side and Keenan Lewis battling promising second-year men Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen on the other side.
However, it might not be a bad idea to keep supply lines going at such a critical position.
The Steelers need to keep an eye on Taylor, who will be 32 next season, after his epic meltdown in the playoff game at Denver. Could that be the first sign of a decline?
Also, the Steelers could be stronger overall at cornerback if they add a rookie who turns out to be better than William Gay.
If they get Cordy Glenn in the first round to address their need at guard, Dont'a Hightower likely will be picked late in the first round or early in the second round.
In that scenario, if the Steelers feel they'd be reaching with nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu in the second round (he's ranked 81st by CBSSports.com), they might take a cornerback in the first two rounds for the first time since Bryant McFadden in 2005.
Hosley plays bigger than his size, according to CBSSports.com. He had 10 interceptions as a sophomore before an injury-riddled junior season. Hosley also could contribute as a punt returner.
NFL.com says Hosley has late first-round value. If that's true, the Steelers would be thrilled if he dropped to No. 56.
Round 3 (No. 86): Markelle Martin, FS, Oklahoma State
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Weight: 207 pounds
The Steelers would need Martin to be a Week 1 starter.
They wouldn't necessarily need Martin to start any other week, but they would need him to start Week 1 because the Steelers open in Denver and Ryan Clark can't play.
If the Steelers get a nose tackle and an offensive guard in the first two rounds, they could decide that inside linebacker isn't as urgent a need as everyone thinks and instead address another aging area of their defense.
Clark will turn 33 next season, and he's already got one foot in the broadcast booth with his own Pittsburgh radio show.
The Steelers could have used Clark at Denver in January, and if Peyton Manning leads the Broncos to a higher playoff seed than the Steelers, they might want to have a better backup plan if they need to go back to Denver for another playoff game.
Like Clark, Martin is a big hitter. He thrives in the spotlight. In the 2010 Cotton Bowl, he returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown and was named defensive player of the game.
Round 4 (No. 119): Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
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Weight: 252 pounds
Why would the Steelers draft a tight end after acquiring Leonard Pope?
Pope has never caught more than 24 passes in a season. If the Steelers are trying to copy from the Patriots' playbook and make tight ends a significant part of their offense, they need more than Pope to pair with Heath Miller.
Because he's a converted receiver, Egnew is not the best blocking tight end. However, that should be of little concern to the Steelers if they want a short-passing attack that can mimic a running game and give Ben Roethlisberger more options for getting rid of the ball quickly
Egnew caught 50 passes as a senior and is dangerous after the catch.
Round 5 (No. 159): David Molk, C, Michigan
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Weight: 298 pounds
The Steelers hit it out of the park picking Maurkice Pouncey in the first round of the 2010 draft.
However, Pouncey has had durability problems. He's missed the Steelers' last two postseason games, both of which the Steelers have lost.
Unfortunately, a lot of centers on the 2012 draft board have a history of injuries as well. That includes Molk and Wisconsin's Peter Konz, who could slip to the Steelers in the second round since the Packers acquired Jeff Saturday and the Ravens re-signed Matt Birk.
If the Steelers are looking for insurance for Pouncey, they probably can't avoid drafting a center who also has had health concerns. So they're better off spending a fifth-round pick on Molk than a second-round pick on Konz.
Round 6 (No. 193): Nick Foles, QB, Arizona
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Weight: 243 pounds
There's a good chance the Steelers will head into 2012 with no quarterback younger than 30.
Hopefully Ben Roethlisberger has at least five good years left in him, but it's time to start thinking about life after Roethlisberger, the same way a 40-year-old making $50,000 a year needs to start thinking about retirement.
With three compensatory picks in the seventh round, the Steelers can afford to pick a quarterback late on Saturday, but they shouldn't pick one before the sixth round. There's no guarantee Foles will drop this far, but if he does, the Steelers should snap him up.
The Steelers don't need to draft an eventual successor to Roethlisberger, but they need to groom a serviceable backup to one day take over for 37-year-old Charlie Batch. Like any quarterback, Roethlisberger is always just one hit away from a season-ending injury.
Add that to Foles' height and weight, and he sounds a lot like Roethlisberger.
Round 7 Compensatory Pick (Nos. 240, 246 or 248): Blair Walsh, K, Georgia
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Weight: 187 pounds
Among kickers with at least 20 field goal attempts in 2011, Shaun Suisham was last with a 74 percent conversion rate.
The Steelers need an upgrade at kicker.
They should not use their original seventh-round pick, No. 231, on a kicker. It's a drafting sin to spend a pick on a kicker or punter. The Steelers committed that sin by picking Daniel Sepulveda in the fourth round of the 2007 draft.
However, compensatory picks are a different story. With three compensatory picks in the seventh round, the Steelers have a chance to get a head start on the post-draft free agent period.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that process can get pretty crazy.
CBSSports.com ranks Walsh as the top kicker in this draft class, so a lot of teams will have his agent's phone number on speed dial with plans to call him the second the draft ends.
The Steelers can avoid that frenzy by drafting him, sitting back and looking forward to the training camp competition for the kicking job.