Steelers 2013 Mock Draft: 7 Round Predictions After First Week of Free Agency
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first week of free agency was more about subtraction than addition, as free agents Keenan Lewis and Ryan Mundy found new homes, and veterans Willie Colon and James Harrison were sent packing.
A few replacements did make it onto the roster as Larry Foote, Plaxico Burress and Ramon Foster were re-signed, and Bruce Gradkowski and Matt Spaeth joined the ranks.
Pittsburgh may not be done making pre-draft changes, but there's a much clearer picture of where the team will need to focus during the draft in April.
Here's a fresh mock of what the Steelers will be doing in April.
Tavon Austin NFL Player Comparison
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Whether or not Emmanuel Sanders gets an offer sheet this week from the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh could use some youth and speed at wide receiver.
Austin can serve multiple purposes with Pittsburgh. He can return kicks and punts, freeing up Antonio Brown from a duty he didn't have much success at in 2012. He also can start opposite Brown once he's got a good handle on the routes needed.
Austin has excellent speed, great hands and is one of the best all-around players in this year's draft class. He's going to be an NFL star. Pittsburgh would be wise to nab him as Mike Wallace's replacement. This addition gives the Steelers the league's best wide receiving corps with or without Sanders.
1. Trading out of the first round would be a smart move to accumulate draft picks. If the team doesn't see a player worthy of grabbing at 17th overall, they could move back or out of the round and get two or three more picks.
2. Desmond Trufant, a cornerback from Washington, would be another good pick at this spot. Although, he might be around a few more picks and therefore be a candidate if the Steelers move back. He's a good coverage guy who can make big plays all over the field.
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Khaseem Greene, ILB, Rutgers
Pittsburgh is showing interest in former Denver Bronco Elvis Dumervil, who would serve as an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defensive system. He would be a perfect replacement for James Harrison and would be an unbelievable addition to this defense.
That would allow Pittsburgh to focus their second round efforts on an inside linebacker to eventually replace Larry Foote in the middle with Lawrence Timmons. Greene would be a good fit for this spot.
Greene is an electric player who can disrupt an offense with good rush skills. He slots in as a mid-second round choice, and his style suits the Pittsburgh system perfectly.
1. Manti T'eo is a classic buy-low candidate, but teams may steer clear of him because of his poor production on the field at the combine last month and in the national championship in January. His off-field concerns are relatively minor if he can prove to be a disruptive middle linebacker.
2. Stedman Bailey is another West Virginia wide receiver who will go early in this draft. Bailey boosted his stock with a great combine performance. If Pittsburgh doesn't get Austin in the first round, they could look for Bailey in the second.
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Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Running backs are getting easier to acquire in the middle rounds, as teams shy away from the position early to save money on a spot that has routine turnover due to wear and tear. As passing has become more popular, running backs have become interchangeable for most teams.
Pittsburgh has completely torn up its backfield from 2012. Rashard Mendenhall and Chris Rainey aren't coming back, and Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch and Isaac Redman aren't assured of a spot on the final roster.
Ball would be the guy to lead the backs for the next several years. He's got a tough, slashing style and is an excellent cutback runner. Behind a more athletic offensive line and a new blocking scheme, he could be a star.
1. Barrett Jones from Alabama, who can play all five offensive-line spots, is just the type of athletic run blocker that Pittsburgh needs as they continue to makeover the offensive line. If Pittsburgh feels a need to supplement its blockers, he would be a good choice here.
2. D.J. Swearinger from South Carolina is a good safety prospect. Pittsburgh needs to consider the age of Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu and also needs to find someone to back them up after letting Ryan Mundy walk in free agency.
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John Jenkins, NT, Georgia
Pittsburgh has, for all intents and purposes, bid farewell to Casey Hampton, the team's longtime starter at nose tackle. The position will now likely belong to Steve McLendon, if he isn't snagged by another team in free agency.
Pittsburgh low-balled McLendon with their restricted free-agent tender, so it may not be sold on him as a permanent solution despite an excellent preseason last year.
If the Steelers aren't sold, Jenkins could be the answer. He's a big guy like Hampton and has the ability to take up multiple blockers to open up holes for pass-rushers, while also being able to shut down the running game by clogging the middle.
1. Jordan Poyer from Oregon State is a good cornerback prospect that could fit well in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have Cortez Allen to replace Keenan Lewis and William Gay to replace Allen in the nickel, but they could use another young prospect to groom for the future.
2. If Pittsburgh hasn't grabbed a running back yet, they could take a flier on Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina. Lattimore was injured in a gruesome way last year, but he should be healthy for the beginning of the 2013 season, if not sooner.
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Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State
Even if the Pittsburgh Steelers somehow sign Elvis Dumervil or another outside linebacker in free agency, they could use some new depth at the position.
Jason Worilds is currently the starter that replaces James Harrison. The jury is out on Worilds, who must prove that he's able to stay healthy and be effective as a regular. He had a nice tour as a substitute in 2012 once he was healthy, so there is something to build off of there.
Chris Carter represents the top backup. That's bad news after he couldn't cut it in 2011 or 2012. Carter simply doesn't have NFL talent as a linebacker and is best as a special teams guy.
Hodges is an under-the-radar guy that could be excellent in the right system. He's overshadowed in the Penn State pool by Michael Mauti's excellence, but he's got the chance to be every bit as good.
1. If Pittsburgh still wants a quarterback to develop behind Ben Roethlisberger and new backup Bruce Gradkowski, they could hit a home run with Miami (Ohio)'s Zac Dysert. The product of Roethlisberger's alma mater, Dysert is a raw thrower with excellent athleticism but needing to learn how to compete in a pro-style offense.
2. Jake Stoneburner of Ohio State is an interesting tight end prospect. He is a great blocker that can also contribute in the passing game. He's just the type of versatile tight end that Pittsburgh has done wonders with in the past.
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Jarred Holley, S, Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers have to get younger at safety. Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are heading toward the end of their respective careers. Pittsburgh could jump on a safety like Matt Elam or Kenny Vaccaro early in the draft, but it does have other needs that are more pressing at this point.
Assuming they wait on a safety, Pitt product Jarred Holley would be a good pickup late in the draft. He will fit best at free safety as a roaming guy similar to Polamalu. He's very raw and doesn't have the ability to create splash plays with great regularity, but he does give solid coverage.
With Clark and Polamalu entrenched together for at least one more season, Holley would have time to learn before he would be needed as a regular and could benefit from the coaching of Carnell Lake, who has given the Steelers a solid defensive backfield.
1. Brandan Bishop is another good safety prospect. The South Carolina product has playmaking skills and could surprise and become an NFL star. He had a good performance in 2012 and in the East-West Shrine game to move himself up draft boards.
2. If Pittsburgh is still looking for rush linebacker help, Michael Buchanan would be an interesting choice if he's still available. He has top-end speed and is very athletic. He could develop into a star for Pittsburgh with good coaching from Keith Butler and is reminiscent of a young LaMarr Woodley.
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Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
The Pittsburgh Steelers found out in 2012 just how bad things could be without an effective, sturdy backup quarterback for Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger may be the toughest quarterback in the NFL, but he's only played all 16 games once in a season (2008).
Last year, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch couldn't cut it and torpedoed the team's playoff hopes. Bruce Gradkowski was brought in as the new top backup and represents a younger player that has experience and knows how to be a good backup.
Scott is a guy that could come in as the new third quarterback to be developed behind the other two guys. He has some nice talent and is a mobile guy with a decent arm. He would also be another guy that fits Todd Haley's system.
1. Baker Steinkuhler of Nebraska is a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end for Pittsburgh. He's not a big-play guy, but he is steady and can occupy blockers by using his size and strength. Pittsburgh isn't sold on Ziggy Hood or Cameron Heyward and may need to start thinking about life after Brett Keisel.
2. Pittsburgh swung and missed on Chris Rainey last season. Theo Riddick of Notre Dame is a good prospect who could fit the same dual-threat role as a runner and receiver. Even if Pittsburgh gets a guy like Montee Ball or Marcus Lattimore, Riddick would be a good second addition as a change of pace guy.