With James Harrison's release, will the Steelers take a pass rusher with their first round draft pick?
The Steelers have the 17th-overall selection in the first round, a perfect spot for the team to find a difference-maker at myriad positions. Here's what five draft experts—ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay, CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan, WalterFootball.com and Drafttek—each predict the Steelers will do with their first round pick this year.
Mel Kiper, ESPN: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Considering the Steelers lost wide receiver Mike Wallace in free agency and tight end Heath Miller may not be available in the opening weeks of the season while he continues to rehab his 2012 ACL tear, the team certainly needs to add pass-catching playmakers, which is why Mel Kiper believes they'll take Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert with their first round pick.
Kiper notes that the mismatch issues that Eifert poses to opposing defenses—too tall for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers—would make him a versatile weapon for the Steelers, which is certainly something they need.
However, with their other issues on defense, Eifert may be a luxury pick for the Steelers in the first round. Kiper notes this as well, saying that safety, linebacker and defensive line are also in play at 17th overall.
Todd McShay, ESPN: LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Todd McShay thinks the Steelers will focus on improving their pass rush now that James Harrison is gone and LaMarr Woodley's production was inconsistent in 2012. He notes that Jones, who is a bit undersized for his position, fits the mold of Steelers linebackers. The only concern is Jones' medical history and whether or not the Steelers would want to take a risk on him with a first round pick.
It's true the Steelers need to upgrade their ability to get to opposing quarterbacks. If Jones checks out medically and he's still on the board when the Steelers make their selection, he'd be a perfect fit and meet an immediate need.
Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan also has the Steelers addressing the pass rush in the first round of the draft, but has them taking Texas A&M's Damontre Moore instead of Jones, who he has going with the sixth overall pick to the Cleveland Browns.
Though Moore played 4-3 defensive end in college, his size makes him far better suited to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. In 2012, he had 85 total tackles and 12.5 sacks, but he also has off-field issues that could turn the Steelers away from selecting him. His poor Scouting Combine, in which he ran the 40-yard dash unexpectedly slowly and completed only 12 bench press reps, also harms his draft stock.
The Steelers haven't shied away from risky players in recent years, but it also hasn't entirely paid off as hoped. They might take a pass at Moore at 17th overall if another, less concerning pass rusher is still on the board.
WalterFootball.com: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
WalterFootball.com also believes the Steelers will focus on the outside linebacker position in the first round of the draft and they agree with McShay that Georgia's Jarvis Jones will be their target.
With general managers already concerned about Jones' health, his draft-day slide could be big enough to have him still on the board when the Steelers make their selection. If they aren't turned off by his medical risks, then they'd be smart to snag him in the first round.
While Jones carries with him some very real concerns, his ability to rush the passer would provide an upgrade to Pittsburgh's defense.
Drafttek: OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU
It's pass rush again, with Drafttek predicting the Steelers will take LSU outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo in the first round.
Like the other mock drafts who had the Steelers going with an outside linebacker, Drafttek has them selecting the best-available player still on the board. They believe this will be Mingo, who had 4.5 sacks in 2012. That number isn't impressive, but his overall ability to bring pressure to quarterbacks makes him a perfect first-round selection.
Clearly, the majority opinion is that the Steelers will address their pass rushing ability in the first round, and considering the caliber of talent available at outside linebacker this year, it makes sense for them to do so.
Who do you think the Pittsburgh Steelers should take in the first round of the draft?
With a crowded field at the top—Jones, Mingo, Moore as well as Bjorn Werner, Dion Jordan, Ziggy Ansah among them—who the Steelers take to fill that position depends on who is still on the board when they pick. A number of teams would like to add a pass rusher this year, but they also have other big needs, which makes it very unpredictable where this crew of pressure specialists will land.
The Steelers could also very well address the receiver or tight end position as Kiper noted, as well as other positions on defense, but at this point, pass rushing outside linebacker seems to be where they are headed in the first round.