With Jarvis Jones in the fold at outside linebacker after last night’s first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers can turn their attention to other needs in tonight’s second and third rounds. This draft is essential to the team’s future prospects for success.
With that in mind, both picks tonight must be impact players who can make a difference before the end of this season and become starters in 2014, at the latest.
Here’s a look at five potential selections in the draft’s third round.
There’s a lot of tread on those tires already, but there is also no way to deny that Montee Ball is one of the top running backs in this draft class because of his do-it-all ability and bruising running style.
Pittsburgh tried, and failed, to get a cutback runner with the ability to gain yards in the middle and on the edges when they drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the ill-fated 2008 draft. They could try again with Ball, who is twice the player Mendenhall was on his draft day.
Pittsburgh could go with a running back in the second round like Johnathan Franklin or Eddie Lacy, but if they do not, the third round is the place for one to be taken.
Wide receiver is a huge need for Pittsburgh. Emmanuel Sanders is back, but may leave next year just as Mike Wallace did this offseason. If he does, the void at the position would be enormous.
Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery are great possession guys who can fill in when needed and be impact players in certain spots, but they are not starters at this point in their careers. Sanders could be, but his injury history is scary.
Stedman Bailey would be an excellent addition to the team even if Sanders stays beyond this season. He’s a speedy target who runs excellent routes and can stretch the field either on the outside or in the slot. He might end up being a better pro than teammate Tavon Austin, who went to the St. Louis Rams in the top ten last night.
There’s no law against going with two players at the same position in the same draft. Pittsburgh has done it before to shore up the offensive line. With Jarvis Jones already in at outside linebacker, Pittsburgh could move to address the inside linebacker position.
One interesting player who may be on the board is Sio Moore. He’s athletic enough to slot in at any linebacker spot in the 3-4 alignment and has played some corner as well. He’s the kind of player Dick LeBeau loves to build schemes around.
The selections of Moore and Jones could give Pittsburgh one of the most athletic and dangerous linebacker corps in the NFL by 2014.
After going to Georgia for first-round pick Jarvis Jones, could Pittsburgh go back there for a safety to develop behind Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark? Shawn Williams would be a perfect fit for Dick LeBeau’s defense.
Williams is a creative player who can do damage in coverage. He’s also dangerous at the line of scrimmage and can make stops in the running game or burst into the backfield for a sack.
The trend for Pittsburgh seems to be heading toward youth and athleticism after Pittsburgh elected to extend Steve McLendon up front rather than drafting a big 3-4 nose tackle to replace Casey Hampton. Getting a physical, versatile safety who could eventually replace Clark or Polamalu in the secondary would be a great way to spend the third selection they have in this draft.
Running back is the only position that lacks a clear starter at this point. There isn’t a player on the roster who is even guaranteed to be there when the music stops at the end of training camp.
Stepfan Taylor could follow David DeCastro from Stanford to Pittsburgh.
Taylor is a good running back with a diverse skill set. He’s more powerful than fast, but his speed isn’t to be taken lightly. He’s shifty and can get away because he keeps his feet moving after contact and doesn’t go down easily.
If the Steelers are looking to run more of a two-back system, they probably should look for a speedier runner like Johnathan Franklin from UCLA. If they want a feature back, a player like Taylor makes sense in the second or third round.