Pittsburgh Steelers Mock Draft: Final 7-Round Predictions with Analysis
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The 2012 NFL draft is almost here.
Just one more day before Roger Goodell announces the name of the newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
The Steelers rely on the draft to keep those towels waving—they haven't had a first-round bust this century.
The Steelers need to get it right again with their first-round pick, and they need to find some gems in the later rounds as well.
This is an aging team, but 10 draft picks should give the Steelers the young bodies they need.
Otherwise, those Terrible Towels are in danger of remaining deep in the drawer next to that hideous sweater that Grandma knitted for you.
Follow me @Steel_Tweets.
Round 1 (No. 24): Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
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Weight: 345 pounds
Glenn addresses one of the Steelers' Big Three needs.
Protecting Ben Roethlisberger becomes more important as he enters his 30s, and the Steelers can take another big step in building a decent offensive line after drafting center Maurkice Pouncey in 2010 and left tackle Marcus Gilbert in 2011.
Glenn has what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin calls "position flexibility." He'll be needed to step in at guard for the Steelers, but he can play tackle as well. CBSSports.com says Glenn is strong in both pass blocking and run blocking.
Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe will fall in the first round, but he won't fall to the Steelers at No. 24, and it's probably for the best that he doesn't. The Steelers just don't make risky picks like that in the first round. They'll have to address their need at nose tackle later.
Dont'a Hightower probably will be available to the Steelers at 24, but Glenn is rated higher on both NFL.com and CBSSports.com. Besides, inside linebacker is not as urgent a need as guard for the Steelers.
Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler has been moving up draft boards and goes to the Steelers in Peter King's mock draft.
Unlike Glenn, however, Zeitler doesn't have the versatility to fill in at tackle and isn't the greatest pass protector according to an NFL evaluator via Pro Football Weekly. The days of ground and pound for the Steelers are as gone as the days of dial-up Internet, and they need better pass protection.
So Cordy Glenn is their man in the first round.
My previous first-round picks:
Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis (1/27)
Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama (3/30)
Round 2 (No. 56): Mychal Kendricks, ILB, California
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Weight: 239 pounds
If you've been listening to draft analysts and reading scouting reports over the past couple of months, you've probably come across the term "motor" a few times. According to USA Today, "motor" means "great intensity."
Both Pro Football Weekly and CBSSports.com say Kendricks has a high motor, which will make him a much needed spark plug for the Steelers' aging defense.
If Kendricks is available, they can't pass on the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Pro Football Weekly says Kendricks "smells blood in the water." That should be enough for the Steelers to look past Kendricks' lack of height and injuries to his shoulder and thumb in 2011.
I'll take that.
My previous second-round picks:
Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin (1/27)
George Iloka, FS, Boise State (3/30)
Round 3 (No. 73 from Dolphins): Alameda Ta'amu, NT, Washington
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Weight: 348 pounds
The Steelers don't get a nose tackle in the first two rounds, and that's arguably their most dire need, especially if Casey Hampton isn't ready for the start of the season after his ACL surgery.
Therefore the Steelers can't risk missing out on the second-best pure nose tackle in the draft. To ensure the Steelers get Ta'amu before he's off the board, they need to trade up in the third round.
I'm predicting a trade with the Dolphins because Miami currently possesses the 72nd and 73rd picks in the draft, so they're in a prime position to give up one and get some later picks.
The Steelers likely would have to give up their third-round pick (No. 86) as well as their fourth-round pick (No. 119) and their original seventh-round pick (No. 231).
Picking Ta'amu in the second round would have been a reach for the Steelers, and they'd have to pay second-round money to a player with third-round value. CBSSports.com ranks him 85th on its board.
Part of the reason the Steelers have been so successful in the draft is that they don't reach. If there's a player they really want who has third-round value, they don't panic and take him in the second round.
It could be seen as a panic move to give up picks to trade up in the third round, but this way the Steelers address their three major needs in the first two days of the draft.
Poe would have been a risky pick in the first round, but Ta'amu is no slam dunk, either.
Here's what CBSSports.com says:
"It's almost as if he's a pass rushing three-technique stuck in a zero-technique's body, struggling to make much of an impact."
A "three-technique" is a defensive lineman who lines up on the guard's outside shoulder, while a "zero-technique" is a classic nose tackle who lines up directly over the center.
Ta'amu has struggled with his weight, reaching 390 pounds at one point, but he seems to have straightened out his act in that department.
Here's what Pro Football Weekly says:
"He's a strong, inside player. He was lazy early (in his career), but he has really shaped up. It means more to him."
There are no can't-miss nose tackles in this draft. But with Casey Hampton turning 35 and coming off ACL surgery, the Steelers can't wait until next year to pick one.
My previous third-round picks:
Dwight Jones, WR, North Carolina (1/27)
My previous fourth-round picks:
James-Michael Johnson, ILB, Nevada (1/27)
Senio Kelemete, OG, Washingon (3/30)
Round 5 (No. 159): Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State
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Weight: 246 pounds
Outside linebacker might not seem like an immediate need for the Steelers, but James Harrison will be 34 next season.
The Steelers are getting old everywhere on defense. In this mock draft, they go from 10 picks in the draft to eight after trading up in the third round, and I think at least five of those picks must be defensive players.
Tennessee running back Tauren Poole was tempting here. Isaac Redman has done well when called upon, but he hasn't had to carry the load as a starting running back for a full season. The Steelers could use a running back in the draft, but it'll be one of the positions they have to sacrifice after the trade. Having a healthy Baron Batch would serve the same purpose as drafting a running back anyway.
Burris led the Mountain West Conference in tackles for a loss in 2010 and 2011, according to Pro Football Weekly.
According to NFL.com's assessment, Burris doesn't have a ton of upside. He's sort of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy. What the Steelers would be getting is a high-effort, versatile guy who can help on special teams and end up stepping in at inside linebacker in case Kendricks is a bust.
My previous fifth-round picks:
Markus Zusevics, OT, Iowa (1/27)
Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami (3/30)
Round 6 (No. 193): Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech
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Wide receiver isn't a need this year for the Steelers, but it could be in 2013 when Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown become free agents.
Coale wouldn't exactly replace Wallace or Brown if the Steelers lose one of those guys next year as he projects as more of a possession receiver. But with Hines Ward gone, the Steelers could use someone like that.
Also, Ben Roethlisberger needs to get rid of the ball quicker to reduce the number of sacks he absorbs. Coale would give him a short-passing option.
Coale was a four-year starter at Virginia Tech, and he brings added value because he punted in four games. That could come in handy considering the Steelers' calamities at punter in recent years.
My previous sixth-round picks:
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (1/27)
Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, NT, Baylor (3/30)
Round 7 (No. 240): Quinton Richardson, FS-CB, Washington
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Weight: 204 pounds
The Steelers dealt their original seventh-round pick in this mock draft. That leaves them with three compensatory picks in the seventh round.
For some reason, my last two Steelers mock drafts have included two players from Washington. In this mock, Richardson joins former teammate Alameda Ta'amu at Steelers camp.
Free safety is a Steelers draft need that's not getting a lot of attention. Ryan Clark will be 33 next season, and the Steelers already can count him out for Week 1 when they open in Denver.
Richardson played more at cornerback in college than free safety. He might not be a perfect fit for the Steelers' need at free safety, but at least he has the versatility the Steelers seek.
Richardson wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at Washington's Pro Day on March 8.
My previous seventh-round picks:
Eddie Pleasant, SS, Oregon (1/27)
Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State; Beau Reliford, TE, Florida State; Sean Cattouse, S, California; Aaron Corp, QB, Richmond (3/30)
Round 7 (No. 246): Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
Weight: 320 pounds
Offensive line is another position the Steelers should double up on in the draft.
Willie Colon is slated to be the Steelers' starting right tackle in 2012, but he's played just one game in the last two seasons because of injuries.
Jones has had his share of injury problems as well, missing 17 games in college. However, at this point in the draft this is the best the Steelers can do if they want an offensive tackle.
According to Pro Football Weekly, Jones had the upper hand on 2011 No. 2 overall pick Von Miller during a game in his junior season.
Jones likely won't get a chance to lock horns with Miller again when the Steelers go to Denver in Week 1 but the Steelers would be happy if he can make the practice squad.
Round 7 (No. 248): Derrick Shelby, DE, Utah
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Weight: 266 pounds
Shelby had his best career game at Heinz Field. That's a good starting point.
He was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week in Utah's 26-14 win over Pittsburgh. He had seven tackles and 1.5 sacks and also returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown with under two minutes left and Utah leading 19-14.
A four-year starter, Shelby played defensive tackle and defensive end at Utah, but he might end up as an outside linebacker in the pros.
That would be fine. The Steelers like outside linebackers.