Pittsburgh Steelers: Top 7 First-Round Prospects After the Combine
The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine has now concluded and a number of prospects have either solidified themselves as first-round prospects or moved up the draft boards. As with every other team in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers will sort through all of the workout numbers as they continue to develop their draft board.
With so many needs, the Steelers have a number of possible directions that they could go in the first round, whether it is solidifying the offensive line, adding playmakers for Ben Roethlisberger or getting younger on the defensive side of the ball.
While the Steelers cannot get caught up in the workout numbers, they are certainly worth looking at as they evaluate who they will take in the first round.
Here is a look at seven potential first-round selections for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Will the Pittsburgh Steelers take yet another lineman in the first round this season? There is a chance if a player such as Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper falls to them.
Warmack should be the first guard off the board leaving Cooper as a potential draft pick for the Steelers.
Even though the Steelers do not have an immediate opening at left guard, Cooper is an athletic lineman who is a terrific fit for what offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. wants to do with the line.
Though he is on the shorter side at 6’2”, Cooper bulked up to 311 pounds, but still moves quite well. While he had a 5.07 40-yard dash, Cooper had a respectable 7.78 seconds in the three-cone drill and had a strong showing in position drills.
Cooper also put up an impressive 35 reps of on the 225-pound bench press and demonstrated his explosiveness with a 108-inch broad jump.
Though it may be a long shot for the Steelers to select another lineman in the first round, Cooper will certainly be under consideration.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
The Steelers are in dire need of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball and there is no shortage of quality receivers in this year’s draft.
Tavon Austin may have been one of the stars at the combine running a 4.34 40-yard dash, but he lacks the size that Patterson brings to the table.
Patterson has good size at 6’2” and 216 pounds and he ran very well, completing the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. His leaping ability was also impressive, reaching 37.0 inches in the vertical jump.
There are few players in the draft with the type of potential that Patterson has. While at Tennessee, he did it all.
Patterson excelled as a receiver, but also as a returner and a runner. He is a multidimensional threat who will have no problem making an impact somewhere on the field as a rookie.
But while his potential is high, Patterson has some work to do on his overall game.
Patterson will have to refine his route running and develop his skills catching the ball away from his body. But his deep threat ability as an outside receiver is a lot to get excited about.
It will take time for Patterson to develop into an NFL receiver, but he is the type of big-bodied receiver that the Steelers need to complement the smaller, quicker Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Whether Heath Miller can return for the regular season should have no impact on if the Steelers take a tight end early in the draft. However, if he can return, having two quality tight ends would add a new dimension to the Steelers offense.
After the combine, Tyler Eifert firmly established himself as the top tight end prospect.
While he won’t do much as a blocker early in his career, Eifert is the type of tight end that can create huge mismatch problems for a defense in the passing game.
Eifert is 6’5” and ran an impressive 4.68 40-yard dash this past week. He also had a 35.5-inch vertical and had strong numbers in his other drills.
With his combination of size and speed, Eifert will be a threat lined up from the traditional tight end position or split out wide. He would help an ailing red zone offense and could contribute immediately.
Tight end may not be the Steelers' top need, but he would help make the offense more dangerous and give Roethlisberger an excellent weapon for the passing game.
Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
The Steelers are in desperate need to upgrade their pass rush, and Dion Jordan is one player who could be the answer.
At 6’6”, Jordan would give the Steelers a much different look at outside linebacker. His tall, lean body would be a stark contrast to the compact and powerful bodies of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
In fact, at only 248 pounds, Jordan may need to add some weight to be effective against the run in the Steelers defense.
But besides his size, Jordan had some terrific numbers including his 4.60 40-yard dash. He is one of the best pass rushing athletes in this year’s draft.
Jordan would require time to develop to fit the Dick LeBeau’s scheme, but that should not be much of an issue as the Steelers will either keep James Harrison for one more year or go with Jason Worilds next season.
It is difficult to pass up a player with the upside of Jordan and if he is available, he could provide the Steelers with one of the best young pass rushers in the league.
Ezekiel Ansah, OLB, B.Y.U.
Dion Jordan may be a pure speed rusher, but Ezekiel Ansah could be considered a freak of nature.
Ansah’s stock has been on the rise ever since his performance in the Senior Bowl and the combine did nothing to change things.
At 6’5” and 271 pounds, Ansah displayed his tremendous athleticism by running a 4.63 40 and had the best 20-yard shuttle among defensive linemen at 4.26 seconds. He also displayed his explosive abilities with good numbers in the vertical and broad jumps.
Ansah is still developing and will need a year in the Steelers system, but that is no different than any other outside linebacker that they would select anywhere in the draft.
At this point of his career, Ansah is strong against the run, but will need to develop moves as a pass rusher and demonstrate the ability to drop into coverage.
Ansah may have the biggest upside of any player in the draft, and the Steelers will consider him in the first where he can develop next season as their next great outside linebacker.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Cornerback is not at the top of the Steelers list as far as needs go.
Ike Taylor is still playing very well and Cortez Allen looks like he can develop into an excellent cornerback in the next year or two. If they re-sign Keenan Lewis, the Steelers will go three deep at cornerback.
However, you can never have enough good corners in today’s NFL, and Desmond Trufant is a terrific prospect who could eventually develop into a shutdown cornerback.
Trufant has good size at nearly 6’0” and 190 pounds. When you combine that with his 4.38-second 40-yard dash, Trufant has many of the physical attributes that any team would want in their top cornerback.
Besides his measurables, Trufant has two brothers already playing professional football including Seattle Seahawks starting cornerback Marcus Trufant.
Trufant has been an experienced, durable cornerback who started 45 straights prior to missing one this season and performed well in college.
Though he is not the most physical cornerback, Trufant makes up for this with his quickness as demonstrated at the combine.
If the Steelers select him, he will compete with Allen for the nickel role and would eventually take over for Taylor as a starter.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Kenny Vaccaro may just be the type of safety that the Steelers could use to replace either Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark.
Though he ran a disappointing 4.63 40, Vaccaro told Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller he had cramps prior to running.
What makes Vaccaro a valuable asset to the Steelers is his ability to play free or strong safety as well as his ability to defend against the run or pass.
Vaccaro played in a pass-happy Big 12 conference, so he has plenty of experience against high-flying offenses.
Vaccaro will need time to develop and learn the Steelers defense, but he will have the opportunity to work with an excellent defensive backs coach in Carnell Lake and sit behind two of the best safeties in the game.