2013 NFL Mock Draft: An Early Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers' Picks
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Just because we're doing a 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers' mock draft, it doesn't mean we're already giving up on the 2012 season.
A 1-2 record isn't dire enough for Steelers fans to throw up their hands and hope that Pittsburgh gets a high draft pick.
However, the Steelers' early struggles have revealed some needs, and it's never too early to take a look at the college talent.
Round 1: T.J. McDonald, FS, Southern California
Weight: 205 pounds
The Steelers' lack of depth at safety has become painfully evident. So why not celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Troy Polamalu draft by again tapping USC for a safety in the first round?
McDonald is ranked 34th among all 2013 draft prospects, according to CBSSports.com, so this projection shows faith that the Steelers will turn things around and pick late in the first round.
The son of former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl safety Tim McDonald, the USC senior made 89 tackles in 2010, according to ESPN.com, and 67 tackles in 2011. He also intercepted three passes in each of those seasons.
Ideally, McDonald wouldn't have to start right away with Ryan Clark, 33, and Troy Polamalu, 31, continuing to perform at a Pro Bowl level. But he could step in as a rookie and be a better third safety than Ryan Mundy.
Round 2: Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
Weight: 248 pounds
Anybody getting the feeling that it's going to be a while before James Harrison comes back?
Even if Harrison does return, how much longer can the 34-year-old play at an elite level?
With Harrison out of the lineup, the Steelers have just five sacks this season. If Jason Worilds and Chris Carter continue to develop at this plodding pace, the Steelers will need to look elsewhere for an outside linebacker opposite LaMarr Woodley.
Thomas had 52 tackles, including 17 for losses, and nine sacks last season, according to CBSSports.com. This season, he has 20 tackles and two sacks through the first four games, according to ESPN.com.
Round 3: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Weight: 195 pounds
The three-way race for the Steelers' starting cornerback job opposite Ike Taylor didn't quite live up to its billing this summer.
Curtis Brown, drafted in the third round in 2011, dropped out of contention early in training camp. In what became a two-man race, Cortez Allen, a fourth-rounder in 2011, couldn't beat out incumbent Keenan Lewis.
Of course the Steelers cornerbacks would look better with an improved pass rush, but Lewis is in his fourth year. If he doesn't make significant strides this season, the Steelers might need to look for new cornerbacks to compete with him for a starting job.
This doesn't mean the Steelers should give up on Brown and Allen. There's still plenty of time for them to develop. But good cornerbacks are hard to find, and let's not forget that Ike Taylor is 32.
Gilbert had 59 tackles in 2011, according to CBSSports.com. He was second in the Big 12 with five interceptions and had 15 passes defensed.
He's also returned four kickoffs for touchdowns at Oklahoma State.
Round 4: Rodney Smith, WR, Florida State
Weight: 219 pounds
The Steelers will be looking for a wide receiver if Mike Wallace leaves as a free agent. Waiting until the middle or late rounds to draft a receiver has worked for them in the past, so they'll do it again in 2013.
Even if the Steelers keep Wallace in 2013, they'll need new blood at the position. This year's crop of receivers was such a dud that the Steelers decided to keep just four receivers instead of the usual five on their 53-man roster.
Smith has 11 catches for 160 yards and three touchdowns through five games this season, according to ESPN.com. He's caught 79 passes at Florida State with an average of nearly 15 yards per reception.
Smith would bring size to the position. The Steelers' tallest receiver is Toney Clemons at 6"2', but he's on the practice squad.
Round 5: Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
The Steelers' running back situation is similar to their wide receiver situation.
Rashard Mendenhall will be a free agent in 2013. Whether the Steelers keep him or not, it's clear through the first three weeks of the season that they need depth at running back.
Randle rushed for 199 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns in Saturday's 41-36 loss to Texas. He's gained more than 100 yards in each of his first four games this season, according to ESPN.com.
Randle also caught eight passes for 70 yards in a 59-38 loss at Arizona.
Round 6: Shamarko Thomas, SS, Syracuse
Thomas intercepted Matt Barkley, currently CBSSports.com's top quarterback prospect, to help Syracuse give USC a game in the Trojans' 42-29 win this season.
Unless Ryan Mundy improves quickly or Robert Golden emerges, safety figures to be the Steelers' biggest need entering the 2013 NFL draft. Thomas would be their second safety chosen.
Round 7: Quinton Dial, DE, Alabama
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Weight: 304 pounds
After drafting just three defensive players out of nine selections in 2012, the Steelers address their aging defense with five defenders in the 2013 draft.
Despite not starting, Dial had 24 tackles in 2011, according to the Birmingham News.
It's unclear if 2009 first-round pick Ziggy Hood and 2011 first-round pick Cameron Heyward will turn into the players the Steelers thought they'd be. So it's not a bad idea for the Steelers to take a flier on another defensive end in the seventh round.