If he's still on the board, Dont'a Hightower will be the Steelers' first-round draft pick
This is it, the final few days before the NFL draft finally begins. For the Steelers, that means the addition of 10 new players to the ranks of the Black and Gold. Here is my final, full, seven-round mock draft for the Steelers and a brief breakdown as to why I chose each player.
Round 1, Pick 24: LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
At this point, the only way I see the Steelers going in a different direction than linebacker Dont'a Hightower in the first round is if another team has already taken him. The Steelers need another option besides Larry Foote to fill the starting spot vacated by James Farrior, and Hightower is almost tailor-made to be a Pittsburgh linebacker.
Round 2, Pick 56: OG Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
I will admit that Kevin Zeitler could be well off the board when the Steelers pick in the second round, but regardless of who is or is not spoken for, I believe Pittsburgh will be going for an offensive lineman with this pick. Youth and durability are two must-haves for their offensive line. If not Zeitler here, then Kelechi Osemele works as well.
Round 3, Pick 86: NT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington
Finding a long-term solution at nose tackle will be a top priority for the Steelers this year. Casey Hampton may miss all or most of the 2012 season and, as an unrestricted free agent in 2013, may never line up for the Steelers again.
Though they have some workable players on the roster currently who could fill Hampton's spot—Steve McClendon's and Ziggy Hood's names have come up as potential starters this year—they would be better off bringing on a natural nose tackle like Ta'amu rather than hoping they can fit a square peg into a round hole.
Round 4, Pick 119: FS Trenton Robinson, Michigan State
At some point in this draft, I see the Steelers picking up a safety. If they do so in the fourth round, then I think Trenton Robinson is a good candidate for their selection. He's a good tackler and best-used in defending the run. He's worth developing, considering he could eventually become a starter, with Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both being in their 30s. In the meanwhile, he can contribute on special teams.
Round 5, Pick 159: WR T.Y. Hilton, Florida International
The Steelers might as well start planning for the future this year considering the wealth of wide receiving talent in this draft class. They may be without the services of Mike Wallace after this season, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown will both be restricted free agents and Jerricho Cotchery has but a two-year deal.
Might as well pick up a receiver like T.Y. Hilton who is worth developing in 2012; his top-tier speed also makes him an excellent kick and punt returner and could relieve Sanders and Brown from their duties in that area.
Round 6, Pick 193: OT Joe Long, Wayne State
Joe Long (brother of Jake) is a sleeper offensive tackle in this year's draft, and if the Steelers can nab him in the sixth round, they may have found themselves an eventual starter at incredible value. He started 45 consecutive games in college, proving that he's durable. He's also talented enough to play both guard and center. He's got Steelers offensive linemen written all over him.
Round 7, Pick 231: TE James Hanna, Oklahoma
James Hanna didn't have the kind of production a passing tight end should have in Oklahoma's offense, but he has a ton of potential and notched the fastest 40 yard dash time of any player at the position in the scouting combine. The Steelers would be well-served to add a tight end to their roster this year, and Hanna's just the kind of player worth their time developing.
Round 7, Picks 240, 246, 248 (Compensatory Picks): FB Cody Johnson, Texas; RB Davin Meggett, Maryland; K Danny Hrapmann, Southern Miss
With Todd Haley as the new Steelers offensive coordinator, they may choose to bring in a fullback to handle blocking duties for the run game. Using one of their three seventh-round picks on the position would thus be a smart move. Texas' Cody Johnson is one of the best blocking fullbacks in the draft, and though his contributions elsewhere are marginal, if that's what they want him to do, he'll be able to handle it from day one.
The Steelers may also look to bring on a running back with one of these later picks. Davin Meggett could have had better production during his time in Maryland, but his 5.2 yards-per-carry average last season makes him worth a look.
Finally, the Steelers may get a new kicker in the draft. Without these three compensatory picks, they likely would have addressed the position via undrafted free agents, but they can afford to select one late this year. Danny Hrapmann has a huge leg, one that has gotten him into trouble. By taking fewer risks, he could have potential to be a long-term starter.