10 Draft Prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers Are Already Drooling over
When an NFL team is 0-4 to start a season, the reasons for that poor start become evident pretty quickly. Players everyone thought were ready to step up and play have fallen on their faces. The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled this year and much of that is because of poor individual efforts.
With that, discussion begins about who will be in those spots next year, and that means the NFL draft. Seven months may seem like a lifetime away, but with the college football season in full swing, it is never too early to start talking about potential prospects for the Steelers in 2014.
Here's a list of the top ten prospects the Steelers should be drooling over already this season.
Deone Bucannon, Safety, Washington State
Bucannon is a fascinating prospect because his style is reckless enough that he'll get pushed into day three of the draft, but his skills are enticing. He's got nice size at 6'1" and 215 pounds and shows a complete disregard for his own personal safety or the safety of his opponent.
If Bucannon can be had late enough he would make a very interesting complimentary player to safety Shamarko Thomas. He's a stout run defender and emerging in coverage. He falls very much into the mold of the big NFL safeties more and more teams are using.
Loucheiz Purifoy, Cornerback, Florida
It is still very much up in the air as to just how good Purifoy is or can be. As a first-round prospect he might be a reach, but in the second or third round his athleticism in the secondary would be welcomed. His coverage skills are raw, but he is very natural in his movement and instinctive when the football is in the air.
The Steelers have been mired with less than athletic play from their cornerbacks, and could benefit greatly from someone like Purifoy. It is very hard to grade exactly where Purifoy will be drafted, but if he continues to develop, you can bet he'll keep moving up draft boards.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon
If the Steelers are looking for a cornerback in the first round, Ekpre-Olomu might be their target. He's a little undersized at 5'10" and 185 pounds but makes up for it with a very sound, physical game and a solid resume'. He's got very good speed and can go up and get the football.
Ekpre-Olomu is sure to be one of the fast risers in this draft class and if he works out well, could end up one of the top defensive players taken. For the Steelers he could work at both cornerback and safety until he becomes a full time starter.
Dominque Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Easley was almost a lock for a first-round pick until he tore his ACL and ended his season. But Easley has said he still plans to enter the draft. What this means for the Steelers is they could get their future at defensive end in the third or fourth round, and stash him away for a year while he recuperates.
Easley has moved between defensive end and defensive tackle at Florida, but has the build to be a great 3-4 defensive end, with his explosive first step. The Steelers don't have a player like Easley on their roster now, and the scheme versatility he would give them, would be unique. He's adept as moving inside as a penetrating 3-technique tackle, or out to the edge as a strong side end.
Louis Nix III, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
The experiment of having Steve McLendon as the new nose tackle is a bit shaky. While McLendon is a solid player, he doesn't provide the physical presence a 3-4 defense demands of its nose tackle.
Speaking of a physical presence, no one casts a bigger shadow in the middle of the field than Nix III does. Some might look at Nix's skills and see them as wasted as a nose tackle, but with as much nickel as the Steelers run, he'd have numerous opportunities to make plays. At 6'2" and just north of 340 pounds, Nix would command constant double-teams and be an asset to the Steelers linebackers behind him.
Gabe Jackson, Offensive Guard, Mississippi State
In terms of guard prospects, Jackson makes an excellent case to be the top guard taken. Jones casts a massive shadow at 6'4" and 355 pounds, but he is much more than his size and power. On the field, Jackson shows an excellent football IQ, and is a born leader.
The Steelers look lost at offensive line and Jackson could be a significant contributor. He's not only a strong run blocker and exceptional pass protector, it's his leadership that makes him an attractive pick. This team has been lacking that quality among it's offensive line starters for a long time.
Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
There are two elite offensive tackles in this draft and Lewan is one of them. With how poorly the Steelers' offensive line has played, and the potential high pick that could go with it, one of these players could be their top target.
Lewan is a mauling left tackle who is as hard a worker as any player in this draft. He has gotten progressively better over the past two seasons and is refining his technique to make him a more complete tackle and is building an impressive resume'. Lewan never takes a play off, and never stops competing, which would be a pleasant change for Steelers tackles.
Cyril Richardson, Offensive Guard, Baylor
Other than guard David DeCastro, there is no offensive line spot set in stone for the 2014 season. That means the left guard spot is wide open. Richardson is one of the best combos of strength and finesse at guard in the country.
Assuming Maurkice Pouncey is able to return for form at center, pairing he and DeCastro up with Richardson would make for a very formidable interior offensive line. A pick like this would obviously depend on where the Steelers select in the round, because for all his talent, if the Steelers are picking in the top 10, there is likely a better value at that spot.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tight End, Washington
If a player were to be judged only on talent, Seferian-Jenkins would be a lock as a first-round pick. His combination of size and athleticism is on par with the very best tight ends in the league. Getting 6'6", 267-pound tight ends with skills like his is truly rare.
However, as we've come to understand, character matters. When Seferian-Jenkins plead guilty to DUI, his character became an immediate concern. You can bet he will be under heavy scrutiny by NFL teams pre-draft and could slide. If the Steelers could snatch up Seferian-Jenkins in the second round, he would be of tremendous value.
Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
If there is such a thing as an easy pick for the Steelers it would be Matthews. Assuming the Steelers cannot rally this season and end up with a very high first round pick, Matthews would be the perfect choice. Matthews is the antithesis of what the Steelers have at offensive tackle now.
Matthews is a master technician, dominant athlete and fundamentally sound football player. He's adept at maintaining blocks while a quarterback extends the play and almost never misses an assignment. Matthews would be an immediate upgrade and starter at left tackle for a team in desperate need of offensive line help.