2013 NFL Draft: Could Star Lotulelei Fall to the Steelers in the 1st Round?

Mike BatistaContributor IApril 25, 2013

Star Lotulelei was named All-Pac 12 first team in 2012.
Star Lotulelei was named All-Pac 12 first team in 2012.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On the eve of the 2013 NFL Draft, Peter King of SI.com and Mike Mayock of NFL.com both released their mock drafts.

Both had Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei getting past the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have the No. 17 pick in the first round.


King has Lotulelei going to the Green Bay Packers at No. 26 and Mayock has him going to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 18.

Both King and Mayock project Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones to go to the Steelers at No. 17. So does Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, as well as Pete Prisco and Clark Judge of NFL Draft Scout.

Jones has been mentioned in the same breath as the Steelers during much of the pre-draft buildup. But would the Steelers still take Jones if Lotulelei were available?

NFL Draft Scout ranks Lotulelei as the No. 5 overall prospect, and their analyst Rob Rang predicts he will go to the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 4 in his mock draft. At the low end, Prisco and Judge have him going to the San Diego Chargers at No. 11.

While it would be surprising to see Lotulelei slip to No. 17, in recent years the Steelers have been there to catch players who fall in the first round.

Rashard Mendenhall was expected to go in the top half of the first round in 2008. WalterFootball.com was five years early predicting he would go to the Arizona Cardinals, projecting him to be taken with the No. 16 pick.

Mendenhall dropped to the Steelers at No. 23, and Pittsburgh put aside its need for offensive line help and took him.

Last year, David DeCastro was supposed to be a top-15 pick. He went to Arizona at No. 13 in King's mock draft, but tumbled to No. 24, where the Steelers took him.

If Lotulelei is still on the board when the Steelers are on the clock at No. 17, they might abandon their need for a pass-rusher or safety depth if they consider Lotulelei the best player available.

The 6'3", 311-pounder has the versatility to play any position on the defensive line, according to NFL Draft Scout, and the athleticism to blow up plays.

Lotulelei had 11 tackles for loss in 2012 along with five sacks, four passes defended, four recovered fumbles and three forced fumbles.

Concerns about Lotulelei's heart arose at the NFL scouting combine, but since then he's passed a battery of heart tests, according to Rob Rang.

The Steelers might not seem to have a need on the defensive line. They signed Steve McLendon, Casey Hampton's heir apparent at nose tackle, to a three-year contract. They also have Alameda Ta'amu and Hebron Fangupo to back him up.

They might need another defensive end in the near future, however. Ziggy Hood, who hasn't exactly dazzled anyone, is entering the final year of his contract. Brett Keisel will turn 35 next season and Cameron Heyward doesn't seem ready to win his starting job.

Defensive line could be an underlying need for the Steelers, and a falling Star might get that unit some attention.