Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Draft Updates: Latest News, Trade Rumors & Predictions
With the Pittsburgh Steelers having significant holes to fill on both offense and defense and no way to pick up quality free agents, the majority of their roster building this year will have to come from this month's NFL draft. There will be no shortage of speculation, therefore, about what the Steelers may choose to do, from their 17th overall first-round pick all the way to their final selection in Round 7.
To make the pre-draft process easier, we've put together a one-stop shop for all of your Steelers needs, including the latest rumors and reports, an all-new seven-round mock draft, trade possibilities and in-depth examinations of some of the biggest storylines surrounding the Steelers' draft, updated constantly until the start of the draft on April 25.
Latest News, Rumors and Reports
April 19: Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says that the Steelers need to find a new outside linebacker this year, but their history at drafting the position early and getting positive returns makes it quite difficult.
April 17: Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review takes a look at the Steelers' wide receiver options in this year's draft, including Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson, whom the team could take in the first round.
April 16: Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review discussed the possibility that the Pittsburgh Steelers draft tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round as ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., thinks they should.
April 15: The Pittsburgh Steelers matched the $2.5 million offer given wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders by the New England Patriots, meaning he'll be around for one more year. His agent claims that it will take a very good deal to get him to sign for the long term, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette; Sanders will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
April 11: Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore is having a pre-draft visit with the Steelers today according to Tony Pauline on Twitter via Dave Bryan at SteelersDepot.com.
April 10: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the offer sheet the Patriots have given Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is a one-year deal worth $2.5 million and not the $4 million speculated earlier in the day. The Steelers have until Sunday to match or beat the offer.
April 10: Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reports that the New England Patriots have given an offer sheet to Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Steelers have five days to match or beat the offer, which is reportedly worth $4 million for one year.
April 8: Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Steelers met with defensive backs Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse) and Will Davis (Utah State) as well as San Diego State offensive tacle Nik Embernate on Monday.
April 4: Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Steelers hosted TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce and UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin.
April 3: Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Steelers brought in two linebackers for pre-draft visits—Michael Mauti of Penn State and Malliciah Goodman of Clemson.
April 2: Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones for a pre-draft visit. It's quite possible that Jones is a Steelers first-round target.
April 1: Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says the Steelers hosted three players for pre-draft visits on Monday—Florida State inside linebacker Vince Williams, Texas A&M running back Christine Michael and Ohio State defensive end/linebacker John Simon. These are the first three confirmed visits for the Steelers prior to the draft.
Latest Mock Draft
The Steelers have eight picks in the 2013 NFL draft—a full complement of picks in Rounds 1-7, plus an additional compensatory pick in the seventh round. The hope is that the Steelers can find players to fit immediate needs who can start right away, a feat they've struggled to accomplish in recent years.
Here's my latest full mock draft for the Steelers (Updated April 15).
Round 1, Pick 17: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Round 2, Pick 18 (48 overall): OG Kyle Long, Oregon
Round 3, Pick 17 (79 overall): RB Johnathan Franklin
Round 4, Pick 18 (115 overall): OLB Corey Lemonier, Auburn
Round 5, Pick 17 (150 overall): S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
Round 6, Pick 18 (186 overall): TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA
Round 6, Pick 38 (206 overall; compensatory): ILB Vince Williams, Florida State
Round 7, Pick 17 (223 overall): P Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
I didn't do much to change the Steelers' full mock draft on my second attempt, except to push wide receiver into the first round and offensive guard into the second. Though the Steelers managed to hold onto Emmanuel Sanders, giving him a one-year deal worth $2.5 million to keep him out of the Patriots' clutches, he reportedly would like quite a bit of money to stay beyond 2013.
That may not be feasible for the Steelers, so they'd be best off by filling the receiver position in the first round and guarantee they have a starter who will stick around for a few years and hopefully eventually get paid once the Steelers' perennial salary cap issue die down. Plus, Cordarrelle Patterson's a better receiver than Sanders with a higher ceiling. Might as well make a splash in Round 1.
Latest Trade Rumors
It doesn't look likely that the Steelers will seek to acquire any new players via trade, considering how valuable their draft picks are in a year where they don't have the cap space to make many free-agency moves. Nor does it seem like they want to trade any of the players currently on their roster—it's not typically their style.
The only option is perhaps a trade of picks once the draft itself is underway, and even then, it probably won't come in the first two or three rounds unless they truly want to guarantee they get a player on their board.
Pass-Rusher vs. Pass Protector in Round 1
Aside from the quarterback himself, the positions of greatest priority and in most demand in the first round of the NFL draft are those who protect the quarterback and those whose job it is to hit him.
The Pittsburgh Steelers should have a fairly strong assortment of both protectors and pass-rushers to choose from with their 17th overall first-round pick, which has thus made for great debate about what they'll end up doing.
Though the Steelers already have the on-field replacement for James Harrison on their roster—that would be Jason Worilds—as well as another capable outside linebacker in Chris Carter, their depth isn't so great. Taking one of the draft's premier pass-rushers, if available, would help boost the ranks and not make them beholden to Worilds as their guaranteed starter.
At the same time, the Steelers are dealing with their yearly lack of depth on the offensive line. They have but two starter-worthy tackles in Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert—neither of whom could stay healthy in 2012—and they aren't necessarily in good shape at guard or center, either.
At pick 17, the Steelers probably won't be able to get in on the draft's best offensive tackles (the top three or four prospects could be gone before the 10th pick), but they can certainly find a great guard. Like last year, when David DeCastro fell to them, the Steelers could very well be in the running for Jonathan Cooper, Larry Warford or even Chance Warmack.
Chances are, if any of these three guards are available, the Steelers will likely prize them over any remaining pass-rushers. This year's draft is a deep one at many positions and they can easily find a developmental outside linebacker in later rounds.
What to Do at Running Back?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have three running backs on their current roster—Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman (who received but has yet to sign his tender offer) and Baron Batch—but they certainly need to add more, perhaps someone fast and shifty with good receiving and blocking abilities.
Though the Steelers are still talking with free agent Ahmad Bradshaw, his injury history as well as the Steelers' salary cap limitations could keep them from ultimately signing him. Even if they do, they'll need to add insurance via the draft.
With other needs more pressing, the Steelers probably won't look to grab a running back in the first two rounds of the draft. Rounds 3 or 4 seem like a good spot for them to address the position.
Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell could be in play but he does carry with him some issues, such as being overworked in college and the fact that he runs with his shoulders held high make him look destined for injury. He'd only fit in a committee situation in Pittsburgh, which is what they will likely be forced to run if they draft him.
A better fit would be UCLA's Johnathan Franklin. Franklin's stock is on the rise, however, so the Steelers may not be able to snag him in the third round; however, if he's still on the board, the Steelers cannot pass him up.
Franklin possesses good speed, pass-catching ability and—most importantly—is a very good blocker, especially against the blitz. This type of all-around talent is what the Steelers need to complete their current stable of backs as well as to provide them with a long-term solution at the position.
The Tyler Eifert Question
ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., has the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round of this year's draft (subscription required), eschewing other popular choices ranging from offensive guards like Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack, pass rushers such as Jarvis Jones and wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin.
The reasoning for this is fairly simple: Current starting Steelers tight end Heath Miler is recovering from his late-2012 ACL tear which could keep him off the field for the start of the season and, even when he is healthy, the Steelers will benefit from having two tight ends for quarterback Ben Roethisberger to throw to.
Plus, in Eifert, the Steelers would be getting a dynamic receiving presence as well as help in run blocking and pass protection—something that they wouldn't be guaranteed should they sign Patterson or Austin to boost their receiving ranks.
The question, however, is whether or not the Steelers are interested in fielding two tight ends, even though the formation is becoming more popular among offenses around the league.
While it would certainly fit in with Todd Haley's ball-control offense, which doesn't rely heavily on deep passing, if the Steelers were truly interested in having two receiving-capable tight ends on the field, they wouldn't have let Weslye Saunders walk last year in favor of blocker Leonard Pope, who played only 82 snaps in 2012 and was thrown to just three times.
Though Eifert is likely one of a handful of players the Steelers could be considering taking with their 17th-overall first-round pick, it seems more likely they'd take Patterson or Austin if they want another receiving target for Roethlisberger, just based on the Steelers' recent draft history as well as the nature of their current offense.