Pittsburgh Steelers' Draft: The Best Fit for Pittsburgh at Every Position
As the Pittsburgh Steelers finish their preparations for the 2013 NFL draft, their draft big board is focused on key positions like linebacker or running back. The truth, however, is that Pittsburgh could stand to improve at every position on the roster.
No stone can be left unturned in 2013 if the Steelers are to get back to being an elite, perennial contender in the AFC.
Here's a look at the best fit for Pittsburgh at every position.
Quarterback: Zac Dysert, Miami of Ohio
Zac Dysert is a raw quarterback prospect with some tantalizing skill. He has a good arm and can make all of the throws you'd expect in the NFL. He's mobile and can escape trouble and keep plays alive in the same way as current Pittsburgh star Ben Roethlisberger does.
For Pittsburgh, this is a bit of a luxury pick. The Steelers signed Bruce Gradkowski to be Roethlisberger's backup and could keep Charlie Batch as the third guy for one last season if they want further veteran depth and leadership.
But getting a project quarterback is the smart play. Dysert has flown under the radar because he didn't operate at a big school or in a pro-style offense. Those are drawbacks, but drawbacks that can be corrected with coaching at the next level.
Round: 5th or 6th
Running Back: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball is the kind of running back that an offense can be built around. His all-around talent and cutback ability make him one of the most dangerous players available in this draft. He is not the top running back talent on the board, but he is the best fit for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers need to get a feature back that can carry their offensive load. This has been a serious shortcoming since Jerome Bettis and then Willie Parker departed. Rashard Mendenhall never lived up to the expectations of being a first-round pick.
Ball would allow Pittsburgh to move Jonathan Dwyer, who had a decent showing last season but lacks the ability to be the full-time starter, back to a secondary role. He's big enough to work at the goal line and in special situations.
Wide Receiver: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Even with the decision to retain Emmanuel Sanders by matching the offer sheet he signed in New England, Pittsburgh could use some assistance at the wide receiver position. Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery do not represent long-term answers and there are no guarantees that Sanders will remain beyond this season.
A good way to play defense would be to draft Stedman Bailey from West Virginia. It would be comparable to what Pittsburgh did when selecting Mike Wallace a few years ago. They would get a fast receiver with great hands that can stretch the field.
Bailey will be around in the middle rounds because of the tremendous depth of the wide receiver class this year. He'll be a steal for whichever team manages to snag him.
Tight End: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
With the move to retain Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh is set for the short term at wide receiver. They no longer need to look there in the first round. They need a linebacker or two, but the class is deep enough that they could find a starter in round two if they don't find someone to their liking early.
In short, Pittsburgh could deal the 17th overall pick, move back toward the end of the first round, and then take the best player available. That is their preferred practice.
Tyler Eifert will be one of the best players available at the end of the round and could instantly upgrade the tight end position—that will be missing Heath Miller—to start the season. Pittsburgh could use him as a red-zone target and, when Miller is healthy, could operate one of the most talented dual-tight-end sets in the NFL.
Offensive Line: D.J. Fluker, Alabama
If the Pittsburgh Steelers want to address their offensive line in this draft, the best move would be at tackle, where Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert represent nothing close to a sure thing.
Pittsburgh seems to have moved on from using Max Starks as a crutch when things go wrong with their younger linemen. D.J. Fluker will be available in the late-first and early-second round and represents exactly what Pittsburgh needs.
The Steelers have a very bad time with run blocking and must improve in that area for any improvement to come from the rushing attack. Fluker is an excellent run blocker and can immediately upgrade the Steelers line.
Round: 1st or 2nd
Defensive Line: Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia
With Casey Hampton allowed to leave as soon as he finds an offer and Steve McLendon tendered very low in restricted free agency, Pittsburgh is obviously interested in moving to upgrade the defensive tackle position that is so important to Dick LeBeau's defensive scheme.
Johnathan Jenkins would be the perfect replacement. He's a big guy who's built like a brick wall and cannot be moved once he's dug in. He's a run stuffer and he can take up multiple blockers.
Pittsburgh needs to find ways to make their inside linebackers more free to stop runners and get into the backfield. A player like Jenkins would bring that ability.
Round: 2nd or 3rd
Linebacker: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
By allowing James Harrison to leave by releasing him earlier this year, Pittsburgh is putting the future of their linebacker corps into the hands of Jason Worilds. The fact that Worilds struggles to stay healthy does not inspire much confidence.
Pittsburgh successfully converted LaMarr Woodley from defensive end to outside linebacker when they drafted him. The could repeat the process with Damontre Moore this year. He's a fine prospect with aggressive pass rush skills.
Pittsburgh needs to at least provide incentive for Worilds to perform and add someone to create competition. They also need to upgrade the depth, where Chris Carter is absolutely useless.
Cornerback: Darius Slay, Mississippi State
Pittsburgh allowed Keenan Lewis to depart without an offer in free agency. Now, they will move Cortez Allen into Lewis' spot opposite Ike Taylor and will slide either William Gay, brought back in free agency after a year in Arizona, or Curtis Brown, who has been disappointing in his career so far.
The team would be wise to draft a cornerback in the middle rounds to provide depth and add some competition to a depth chart that has little behind the starters.
Darius Slay is an excellent mid-round prospect who is an aggressive playmaker. He brings a toughness that is reminiscent of Ike Taylor and has plenty of upside once his rawness is polished.
Round: 3rd or 4th
Safety: Matt Elam, Florida
Matt Elam is underrated as a safety prospect. He's aggressive like Ryan Clark and hits like a freight train. He also has Troy Polamalu's ability to appear anywhere and do anything necessary to make a big play. He's one of the best prospects available in this draft.
The trick for Elam is getting to a team like Pittsburgh that can maximize his skills. Pittsburgh will be replacing Polamalu within the next few years. Having a guy like Elam waiting in the wings would be worth the price of a first round pick.
Since Elam will likely be available later in the round, it makes sense for Pittsburgh to move back with a team like San Francisco to accumulate some extra picks.
Specialists: Jeff Locke (P), UCLA
Punter Drew Butler had a great start to the 2012 season before falling off as the season progressed. He seemed to regress by the finish and bringing in competition for him seems like the smart play this year.
While Pittsburgh isn't likely to draft a specialist unless they accumulate a bunch of extra picks late, picking up a guy like UCLA punter Jeff Locke, who coincidentally shares his name with a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, makes sense.
Locke has a strong, accurate leg and can use his ability to pin teams deep. Field position is a huge advantage when a team has an aggressive defense like the one Dick LeBeau runs.
Round: 7th or Undrafted Free Agency