Coming off a huge win in Baltimore, the Steelers are going to be much more concerned about the playoffs than April's NFL Draft. But with that said, it's never to early to get the scouts on the road and make sure you're ready when your team is on the clock.
Pittsburgh's win over Baltimore makes it much harder to project where the team will be picking in about five months but we can get a rough estimate. Assuming the team makes the playoffs, they'll most likely be picking anywhere from the mid 20s to potentially number 32.
If 2012 has taught the Steelers anything it's that depth is of the utmost importance. But for a team in which most starters are over the age of 30, retooling will be the key to keeping the Steelers ship riding smooth.
The Steelers have a lot of options and routes they can go, and a lot of the draft depends on free agency and who the team will be bringing back. Let's check out an early mock draft, heading into the college football bowl season.
If 2012 has been any indication, the Steelers are going to need some depth at safety. And, in all reality, they don't just need depth, but a guy they can groom to be the future for Ryan Clark, 33, and Troy Polamalu, 31.
LSU safety Eric Reid may be the perfect guy to fill those shoes.
Reid has great size (6-2, 210 lbs) and has the versatility and athleticism to play either safety position, despite being listed as a free safety. He's long and athletic in coverage, but may be best utilized playing down towards the box and stuffing the run. Reid has had 10+ tackles twice during the Tigers 2012 season and and at least seven tackles in seven games.
When I watch Reid, I can't help but think of Polamalu. Both players have the ability to make plays all over the field and are exceptionally proficient at or around the line of scrimmage.
It's hard to get a read on where the Steelers will be picking in the first round, but Reid will most likely be on the board. He's got a chance, if drafted by Pittsburgh, to play at least one season behind two very good safeties before it's time to get his chance.
Dion Jordan / OLB / Oregon
Jordan would be a great option for the Steelers but the odds of him falling to them are very slim. Pittsburgh has the tools to move up this year and it could be for Jordan. He's a long, athletic pass rusher; think Aldon Smith of the 49ers. Very raw, but exceptionally gifted.
Alec Ogletree / ILB / Georgia
—Ogletree has garnered a ton of attention of late and may not be on the board by the time the Steelers pick. He's a versatile, sideline to sideline player who may actually be a better fit in a 4-3 scheme at the NFL level.
Sam Montgomery / OLB / LSU
—Montgomery may be a more realistic option for the Steelers if they go the outside linebacker route. He was once garnered in the top tier of pass rushers for this class but has since fallen off after disappearing in some games this season. With coaching, he could be a monster.
The more I watch Mike Wallace, the more I think his time in Pittsburgh is coming to an end. Wallace has struggled all season with dropped passes and couldn't pick up the slack when fellow receiver Antonio Brown missed three weeks with an ankle injury.
Couple that with the contract dispute that is bound to ensue and it's about a 50/50 shot that the former Pro Bowler could be lining up in another city next season.
With that said, Wallace does do a lot of things for the Steelers offense besides just catch passes. He's an immediate deep threat who draws safety help anytime he heads down the field, opening up a lot of other routes for the Steelers' receivers.
Robert Woods was once considered the top receiving prospect in the 2013 draft. Since then, teammate Marquis Lee has taken over the top spot in the Trojans offense, but that doesn't mean Woods doesn't have a ton of value.
At 6-1, Woods would actually add height to a Steelers receiving corps that desperately lacks it. Woods numbers are definitely down from his 111 reception season last year, hauling in 73 passes for 813 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, but the entire USC offense has had its problems.
Woods has the deep threat ability that Mike Wallace brings to the Steelers and if the two sides are unable to come to terms, Woods could be an immediate-impact option. If Woods has a good combine, he could soar back up draft boards, if not, it could actually benefit the Steelers.
T.J. McDonald / S / USC
—If the Steelers pass on a safety in the first, Woods teammate could be a viable option. McDonald is still a little raw in coverage but possess good play in the box and is a great tackler. He would have much needed time to develop behind Clark and Polamalu.
Chase Thomas / OLB / Stanford
—Between injuries and relatively poor play, the Steelers could stand to add a young pass rusher. Thomas has great size and can use it to push the pocket. He's got four sacks in his last two games, both against UCLA.
The Steelers have always been known for their pass rushing prowess and that attribute has brought them a ton of success. But over the last two seasons, Pittsburgh's defense seems to have lost a step.
You can blame injuries to LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison or the fact that Harrison is well past his prime but the fact remains that the Steelers aren't as good at getting to the quarterback as they need to be.
There's a lot of reasons to think Pittsburgh could go for a rush linebacker with one of their first two picks, but if they're going to wait this long, Florida State's Cornellius Carradine is a good guy to pick up.
Carradine has found a lot of success with the Seminoles in 2012. As a defensive end, Carradine has totaled 11 sacks all while missing 2 games this season. Carradine has also added 80 tackles to his resume, not bad for a defensive end.
As I noted, Carradine does currently play defensive end but he very well could make the transition to outside linebacker. He's got a long and athletic frame which he uses to separate himself from opposing tackles.
Shayne Skov / ILB / Stanford
—Pittsburgh's middle linebacker situation is still in question with an aging Larry Foote and an unproven Sean Spence. Skov has good size and is a downhill, physical linebacker who makes plays at and behind the line of scrimmage. He'll fit well as the Steelers BUCK linebacker behind Foote.
During last years draft, the Steelers targeted Alabama middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower, but guard David DeCastro fell to the team's 23rd pick, making him the obvious choice.
Passing on Hightower left a small void for the Steelers in terms of having some youth and a future behind Larry Foote. Foote has played a very good season, but it remains to be seen how long he can keep it up.
Nico Johnson, like Hightower, comes from an Alabama defense that is both phenomenal and is ready-made for a 3-4. Johnson has the size and skill set to be a solid middle linebacker at the next level and, although he's not a terrific pass rusher and he needs some polish, he's very coachable.
Johnson would also bring some leadership to a defense that has been questioned all season long.
Bacarri Rambo / S / Georgia
—The Steelers need to find safety help in the draft and if they're waiting to this point, Georgia's Bacarri Rambo can be a good option. Once considered a top safety, Rambo fell into some off-the-field issues and was suspended for the first few games.
Rambo does have the skills to succeed at the next level, it's just a matter of when someone will take a chance.
Zac Dysert / QB / Miami (OH)
—It might be a little early for the Steelers to take a quarterback, but as we've all seen so far, their backup situation isn't exactly comforting. Dysert has a quick release and, although he's not the tallest, he's still got good game.
Year: Senior (RS)
In 2012, the Steelers drafted former Washington nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu to be the future middle of the defense. With Casey Hampton on the way out, it was most certainly the right call.
But Ta'amu went on a, let's call it a drunken rampage, through the streets of Pittsburgh and was eventually waived by the Steelers a few weeks ago. Now, with Hampton's contract up at the end of the season, the Steelers have a hole behind him.
Meet Brandon Williams.
Williams, who plays at Division II Missouri Southern, is an absolute mammoth in the middle of the defense. He's got elite level size and although he played at the DII level, he dominated, which is something scouts look for.
In his senior season alone, Williams amassed 68 tackles, 16 of which were for a loss and got to the quarterback 8.5 times. Not bad for a nearly 330 lbs man.
In my opinion, Williams stock will be on the rise when we get closer to draft day, but as of now, he should be available for the Steelers...and he could be a steal.
Year: Senior (RS)
If there's one position the Steelers should be set at, it's defensive end. Pittsburgh has taken two ends (Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward) with recent first round picks and Brett Keisel is still playing at a very high level.
But Hood has never developed into the player the Steelers envisioned and Heyward has yet to see major action.
It's no secret Pittsburgh could use a better push up front, but they may not want to spend yet another high pick on a position they've invested so much in. That could be good news for Kapron Lewis-Moore of Notre Dame.
Lewis-Moore is the right size to fit into the Steelers scheme and he's been very productive. He's recorded 6 sacks on the season and has been a big help for the undefeated Irish.
He's never going to be the fastest or the strongest guy on the field, but he can be a nice cog and a good player off the bench if given the right opportunity.
This is actually one of the first seasons in a long time that I don't think the Steelers are in desperate need of an offensive linemen. With that said, every year it seems Pittsburgh suffers a rash of injuries across their offensive front leaving the need for depth.
The Steelers would be best served drafting a guy who can play both guard and tackle and can move around the offensive line. Nixon may be that guy.
Xavier Nixon has struggled with consistency but has made a lot of starts in his Gator career and with the Steelers propensity to give Florida linemen a hard look, we could see Nixon in black and yellow in 2013.