Pittsburgh Steelers: Scouting Combine Tracker for Steelers' Potential Targets

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers: Scouting Combine Tracker for Steelers' Potential Targets

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have an aging roster that needs to get both better and younger in order to contend in 2014 and beyond. After the NFL Scouting Combine, the team will have a good idea of which prospects it can draft to improve immediately.

    Despite a strong finish to end the 2013 season at 8-8, the Steelers clearly still have a number of big needs across the board. In reality, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger represents one of the few certain starters on either side of the ball.

    Still, the team has invested a lot on the offensive line in recent drafts, and it is unlikely to add someone early unless there is an elite option available. Additionally, a few other positions are solid enough to avoid using an early-round pick.

    This narrows down the options at the combine for team personnel to focus on. The squad can then key in on the drills and interviews of these players to ensure they get the right man for the job.

    Here is a look at which prospects should be a focus for the Steelers as well as results for each of them at the combine as they become available.

     

    Note: All combine height and weight information courtesy of Walter Football. Until official, information based on estimates from CBS Sports. Round info based on assorted media outlets and personal projections. Drills results courtesy of NFL.com.

Priority No. 1: Defensive Backs

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    There are a bunch of needs on the defensive side of the ball, but the Steelers have to make sure to add both a safety and a cornerback at some point in the draft.

    The big question is what the team does in free agency. If Ryan Clark is allowed to leave, it creates a big hole at safety. The same could be said at cornerback if Ike Taylor does not take a pay cut and is released.

    In either of these situations, it would be almost a necessity to grab the best player available in the first round. On the other hand if these veterans return, the Steelers should at least draft a mid-round prospect that can develop later.

    Here is a look at the top options the team should be looking at during the combine in various rounds.

    NamePos.SchoolProj. RoundHeightWeight
    Darqueze DennardCBMichigan State15'11"191
    Justin GilbertCBOklahoma State16'0"202
    Ha Ha Clinton-DixFSAlabama16'1"208
    Calvin PryorFSLouisville15'11"207
    Stanley Jean-BaptisteCBNebraska26'3"218
    Terrence BrooksFSFlorida State35'11"198
    Pierre DesirCBLindenwood36'1"198
    Ahmad DixonSSBaylor46'0"212
    Phillip GainesCBRice66'0"193

     

    The top names are truly game-changing players and can all be immediate starters from Week 1.

    Darqueze Dennard has proven the skill to be a shutdown cornerback, while Justin Gilbert has the athleticism and playmaking ability of a star. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor are both hard-hitting players who can excel against both the pass and the run.

    If the Steelers have an opening in the secondary come draft day, they should grab one of these players without hesitation.

    On the other hand, there are a number of top options later in the draft who could develop to be stars in the future. Pierre Desir is someone who can truly impress at the combine after struggling to get noticed at Lindenwood.

    He is one of a few second-day options to watch in Indianapolis

     

    Name40-Yd DashBenchVert. JumpBroad Jump3-Cone Drill20-Yd Shuttle60-Yd Shuttle
    Dennard4.5115-----
    Gilbert4.373035.5 126 6.92
    Clinton-Dix4.5811331197.164.1611.63
    Pryor4.5818 34.5 116 -
    Jean-Baptiste4.6113 41.5 128 4.33
    Brooks4.421038119 7.35
    Desir4.5911 35 133 6.864.3011.60
    Dixon4.6414321117.554.5012.01
    Gaines4.381136.51226.624.04 

     

    Combine Takeaways

    If the Steelers are looking to add a starter in the secondary, there will certainly be a few available in the middle of the first round. 

    Gilbert and Dennard will battle for the next few months to see who will be the first taken, but Gilbert is the one who stood out in Indianapolis. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash among everyone at the position and should why his upside is so high.

    At safety, Pryor was a bit smaller than anticipated but he still showcased his strength and overall athleticism at the combine. He and Clinton-Dix should both be taken early in the draft, as noted by Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen:

    4.58 40 for both Clinton-Dix & Pryor is fast enough at the safety position given their game tape. Two 1st round prospects.

    — Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) February 25, 2014

    The Steelers would be fine with any of these four players and be satisfied in the first round.

    After that, Desir and Philip Gaines both put themselves on the map as potential steals in the middle rounds thanks to great performances on the on-field drills.

Priority No. 2: Wide Receiver

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Once again, this is highly dependent on what the Steelers do in the next few months. Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders are both unrestricted free agents, and they could be worth more on the open market than in Pittsburgh.

    If these two players are off the roster, the squad will need someone to line up opposite Antonio Brown in the offense.

    Based on Brown's skill set, it would be smart for the team to look at someone with above-average size to complement the No. 1 target. The Steelers need someone to go up and get the ball, especially in the red zone.

    With that in mind, here is a look at players the team should be examining at the combine.

    NameSchoolProj. RoundHeightWeight
    Mike EvansTexas A&M16'5"231
    Kelvin BenjaminFlorida State16'5"240
    Allen RobinsonPenn State26'3"220
    Jordan MatthewsVanderbilt26'3"212
    Davante AdamsFresno State36'1"212
    Martavis BryantClemson36'3"211
    Kevin NorwoodAlabama66'2"198
    Jeff JanisSaginaw Valley St.66'3"219

     

    Sammy Watkins will likely be off the board by the time the Steelers draft in the first round, but Mike Evans could be available. If he is, the team has a chance to grab a player who can win almost any jump ball, giving Ben Roethlisberger a reliable target every game.

    Kelvin Benjamin could be another strong option as someone who has elite talent but is a little raw. Still, you cannot replicate his combination of size and speed.

    After that, there is a long list of reliable players who put up big numbers this past season. Although college statistics are not always good indicators of future success, each of these players has proven to be consistent contributors who will help any roster around the league.

    Jordan Matthews especially should be a solid target for the Steelers thanks to the strong impression he made at the Senior Bowl and his ability to make plays on the ball in the air.

     

    Name40-Yd DashBenchVert. JumpBroad Jump3-Cone Drill20-Yd Shuttle60-Yd Shuttle
    Evans4.511334.5122.07.084.2611.58
    Benjamin4.611332.5119.07.334.3912.08
    Robinson4.60-39.0127.07.004.0011.36
    Matthews4.462135.5120.06.954.1811.84
    Adams4.561439.5123.06.824.30-
    Bryant4.421639.0124.07.184.15-
    Norwood4.48833.0121.06.684.3211.46
    Janis4.422037.5123.06.643.98-

     

    Combine Takeaways

    Not only does Mike Evans have great height for the position, but he also showcased extremely long arms at the weigh ins, as noted by Chad Parsons of Football Guys:

    Mike Evans with >35" arms, top WR in my database back to '99. Wow. Plus came in at 231.

    — Chad Parsons (@ChadParsonsNFL) February 21, 2014

    This gives him a wide catch radius and he would immediately be a quarterback's best friend.

    Also notable is Kelvin Benjamin, who displayed good size weighing in at 240 pounds. He appeared skinny while playing for Florida State, but his strength could help him in the NFL.

    Penn State's Allen Robinson also emerged on Sunday, posting a vertical jump of 39 inches and a broad jump of 127 inches (10'7"). His 4.60-second 40-yard dash could hold him back, however.

Priority No. 3: Defensive Tackle

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    After ranking 21st in the league in run defense, it is clear the Steelers need an upgrade on the defensive line. Ziggy Hood is a free agent and Steve McLendon was only mediocre at the position, leaving room for improvement.

    With a solid veteran group of linebackers already on the roster, Pittsburgh must add a tackle who can take on blockers and let the others make plays. 

    Here are some players who can do just that, all of whom should be ready to have strong performances at the combine and raise their stocks. 

     

    NameSchoolProj. RoundHeightWeight
    Louis Nix IIINotre Dame16'2"331
    Aaron DonaldPittsburgh16'1"285
    Timmy Jernigan Florida State16'2"299
    Will SuttonArizona State26'0"303
    Kelcy Quarles South Carolina36'4"297
    George Uko USC56'3"284
    Ryan Carrethers Arkansas State66'1"337
    Deandre ColemanCalifornia66'5"314

     

    Although this class does not have any can't-miss prospects, it is a deep group in the first few rounds. Louis Nix and Timmy Jernigan especially fit perfectly into the system as nose tackles who can clog the middle of the line.

    While Aaron Donald projects better as a 4-3 player, he has the type of talent that could be used in any system. That kind of versatility is invaluable and opens up various options in terms of play-calling.

    Meanwhile, there should be a few Day 3 prospects with the size and strength to succeed with the right coaching. Ryan Carrethers and Deandre Coleman are two to watch out for at the combine to see if they have the athleticism necessary to make it in the NFL.

     

    Name40-Yd DashBenchVert. JumpBroad Jump3-Cone Drill20-Yd Shuttle60-Yd Shuttle
    Nix5.42-25.597.08.29--
    Donald4.683532.0116.07.11--
    Jernigan5.062729.5102.0---
    Sutton5.362428.599.07.93--
    Quarles5.032723.5102.0---
    Uko4.991829.5110.0---
    Carrethers5.473226.088.07.89--
    Coleman-24-----

     

    Combine Takeaways

    Nix weighed in at 331 pounds, which is down 14 from his previous weight. After missing the end of the 2013 season to repair his torn meniscus, it's a good sign to see the defensive tackle show up in good shape. Scouts will have to consider his conditioning since he's a prime candidate to have to take plays off.

    A local product, Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald was awfully impressive on Monday, running the 40-yard dash in blistering pace and excelling in the other workouts. Donald put up 35 reps on the bench press, leaped 32 inches on the vertical jump and posted an excellent time in the 3-cone drill.

    It's safe to say that Donald will be a coveted prospect this spring.