10 Players Pittsburgh Steelers Should Target on Day 2
The Steelers drafted Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones with the No. 17 pick in the first round Thursday night.
Now that Jason Worilds has some needed competition as James Harrison's replacement, the Steelers can turn their attention to running back and wide receiver. They also have long-term needs at safety, inside linebacker, cornerback and tight end.
Two more college prospects will become Steelers Friday night. The Steelers have the 16th pick in the second round (No. 48 overall) and the 17th pick in the third round (No. 79 overall).
Here are the players whose game tape the Steelers should be poring over as they try to scratch more items off their shopping list.
Heights and weights are from NFL Draft Scout.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Weight: 231 pounds
It's a safe bet that the Steelers will take a running back at some point in this draft, and it might be in the second round.
Rashard Mendenhall's departure leaves Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer as the Steelers' top two running backs. Neither is a difference maker.
For the first time since 1963, no running back was taken in the first round of the NFL draft.
The Steelers could be the first team to take a running back in this draft if Eddie Lacy falls to them at No. 48.
Lacy thrived in the spotlight at Alabama. He gained a career-high 181 yards and scored two touchdowns in the Crimson Tide's 32-28 win over Georgia in the 2012 SEC Championship Game. He ran for 140 yards and scored two touchdowns (one running, one receiving) in Alabama's 42-14 rout of Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game.
For the season, Lacy amassed 1,322 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and scored 17 touchdowns.
There's no guarantee Lacy will drop to the Steelers at No. 48, but if he does, the Steelers would have a shot at the best of a mediocre running back class.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Weight: 205 pounds
The Steelers would be faster at the running back position if they draft Franklin. His 4.49 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine was fourth among running backs and first among running backs expected to go in the first two days of the draft.
Franklin had his best season as a senior, gaining 1,734 yards on 282 carries (6.1 yards per carry) with 13 touchdowns. His ball security improved after he fumbled six times in 2011. He'll have to keep working on that, because hanging onto the ball could become a problem again at the next level.
Going by NFL.com's scouting report, the Steelers would get very little pass protection out of Franklin. There's a chance he's not an every-down running back, but he has skills that Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer don't have.
There's a realistic chance Franklin will be available to the Steelers with the No. 48 pick.
Robert Woods, WR, USC
Weight: 201 pounds
Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are the Steelers' top two wide receivers, but there's little depth behind them.
Jerricho Cotchery, who has caught just 33 passes in two seasons with the Steelers, is in position to be the No. 3 receiver.
The Steelers need to beef up the position in the draft, especially since Sanders becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2014. It wouldn't be surprising if the Steelers drafted more than one receiver.
They can only hope Robert Woods is still there at No. 48.
Woods isn't the fastest receiver around, and he's been dogged by ankle injuries throughout his career, but he caught 252 passes at USC. That includes 76 for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012.
NFL.com says that Woods runs a complete route tree and can take a hit over the middle without dropping the ball.
NFL Draft Scout says Woods isn't afraid to run block and that he's a team player who works hard in practice.
Whichever team drafts Woods won't be getting a diva receiver.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Weight: 185 pounds
Johnthan Banks is another player who could be gone by the time the Steelers pick at No. 48 in the second round. If he's still waiting for a phone call, however, the Steelers could use him.
On the surface, the Steelers seem set at cornerback. Cortez Allen is slated to start in place of Keenan Lewis—who went to the Saints as a free agent—and the Steelers reunited with William Gay to replace Allen as the nickelback.
The Steelers need to start thinking about life after Ike Taylor, however. Taylor will be 33 next season and is coming off the first major injury of his career.
Banks intercepted a school-record 16 passes at Mississippi State. That should get the attention of the Steelers, who forced just 35 turnovers in 2011 and 2012 combined.
Banks' versatility could come in hand. He came to Mississippi State as a safety before moving to cornerback.
NFL Draft Scout says Banks is a "vocal team leader with strong football character, work ethic and ambition."
He sounds like a Steeler. Well, a pre-2011 Steeler, at least.
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
Weight: 214 pounds
Montee Ball might be a little bit of a reach for the Steelers with pick No. 48 in the second round, but he'll probably be gone by the time they choose at No. 79 in the third round.
The best way to get Ball would be to trade back a few spots in the second round and pick up an extra mid-round pick who helps the Steelers get in on this draft's depth.
Ball knows how to find the end zone. He ran for 33 touchdowns in 2011 and tied Barry Sanders' NCAA record with 39 total touchdowns while running for 1,923 yards.
He followed that up last season by rushing for 1,850 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns.
Ball isn't a flashy running back, and the wear and tear from his extensive use in college could be a concern, according to NFL.com.
Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
Weight: 204 pounds
Quinton Patton would be the Steelers' first player chosen from Louisiana Tech since Troy Edwards in the first round of the 1999 draft.
Terry Bradshaw also came from Louisiana Tech. If the Steelers draft Patton, they wouldn't necessarily expect him to be a Hall of Famer like Bradshaw, but they might want him to accomplish more than Edwards.
NFL Draft Scout says Patton has reliable hands and catches the ball away from his body, which scouts like. He's tough after the catch and has the savvy to get his feet in bounds on sideline throws.
NFL.com says Patton is a solid run blocker and is enough of a team player to run routes convincingly when he's not likely to get the ball.
Patton caught 79 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011 and improved to 104 catches, 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012.
He's a second-round value for the Steelers.
Phillip Thomas, FS, Fresno State
Weight: 208 pounds
The takeaway-challenged Steelers can't ignore a player who was in on 20 turnovers in college.
Phillip Thomas intercepted 13 passes, forced six fumbles and recovered one at Fresno State.
Thomas led the nation with eight interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns in 2012. He did all that after coming back from a broken leg and dislocated ankle that wiped out his 2011 season.
NFL Draft Scout says Thomas is a physical safety and a reliable tackler.
Troy Polamalu is 32, and Ryan Clark turns 34 next season, and the Steelers lost their safety depth when Will Allen and Ryan Mundy left as free agents.
The New Orleans Saints drafted Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro at No. 15, so the Steelers didn't have to choose between Vaccaro and Jones in the first round. It would behoove them to take a safety somewhere in this draft before it becomes a glaring need next season.
The Steelers might be able to trade back a few spots in the second round, pick Thomas and add a pick or two later in this deep draft. Since he hasn't always faced elite competition in college, there's also a chance Thomas falls to No. 79.
Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Weight: 202 pounds
Giovani Bernard easily could come in and beat out Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer as the Steelers' starting running back.
Bernard had to redshirt in 2010 after tearing his ACL. He overcame that injury and ran for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011.
Despite a change to an up-tempo, shotgun offense under new coach Larry Fedora, Bernard gained 1,228 yards with 12 touchdowns in 10 games in his redshirt sophomore season. He missed the first two games with a shoulder injury.
Bernard isn't an elite speedster, according to NFL Draft Scout, but he uses an array of moves to avoid defenders.
If he can stay healthy, Bernard could be a multipurpose threat in the NFL. He also caught 45 passes in 2011 and 47 in 2012. He averaged 16.4 yards on punt returns in 2012.
Bernard would be a tempting pick in the second round, but this would be a good situation to trade down from the No. 48 spot and pick up an extra pick to tap into this draft's depth. Bernard will probably still be there later in the second round or early in the third. He might even be there at No. 79.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Weight: 230 pounds
Le'Veon Bell is second in both height and weight among running backs in this year's draft class.
Although he's hard to bring down and fights for the extra yard, NFL Draft Scout says Bell is "not overly powerful despite his size."
Bell led the Big Ten in rushing in 2012 with 1,793 yards, beating out Wisconsin's Montee Ball. He also scored 12 touchdowns and caught 32 passes.
Bell needs to work on his pass protection and pass-catching technique, despite the receptions on his resume.
He's a third-round value for the Steelers.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Weight: 189 pounds
Even though NFL.com compares him to Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton has the potential to replace Mike Wallace as the Steelers' top vertical threat.
Wheaton, who also ran track at Oregon State, is the school's all-time leader with 227 receptions. That's more than Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
As a senior, Wheaton caught 91 passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. NFL Draft Scout says he "recognizes holes in zone and settles nicely, keeping himself alive to aid his quarterback."
That could come in handy, especially with the way Ben Roethlisberger plays.
Wheaton is a third-round candidate for the Steelers.
Players to Avoid
Keenan Allen, WR, California
How far Keenan Allen has fallen. NFL Draft Scout says he "might be the best all-around wide receiver prospect in this class." However, he suffered a knee injury in October and wasn't able to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine. He worked out for teams April 9, but it was apparent he wasn't at full strength.
Allen could be available to the Steelers in the second round. But a former first-round prospect who drops to the middle of the second round because of an injury sounds an awful lot like Limas Sweed. That might not be fair to Allen, but the Steelers don't want history to repeat itself.
This includes Zach Ertz of Stanford, Travis Kelce of Cincinnati and Vance McDonald of Rice.
NFL Draft Scout says Ertz "seems to have at least one drop each game." That's not good.
Kelce is too much of a character risk. He was suspended for all of 2010 for a violation of team rules.
NFL.com slaps the "at least one drop or bobble per game" label on McDonald.
Gavin Escobar of San Diego State would be a better choice for the Steelers, but they could take a chance on him being available in the fourth round.
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