Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-Round Mock Draft
The Pittsburgh Steelers have got a lot of work to do if they’re to return to contention in 2014.
The team’s already parted ways with the likes of Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Jonathan Dwyer, Ziggy Hood, Al Woods, Larry Foote and LaMarr Woodley. Brett Keisel and Ryan Clark also seem more unlikely to return with each passing day.
Wow, that’s a mouthful.
Clearly, the Steelers have high hopes for this year’s draft class. Now, the question becomes who the team is targeting and at what positions.
Will the Steelers look for Ike Taylor’s successor on Day 1? Or will they prioritize a wide receiver to replace Sanders and Cotchery? What about the lack of depth at linebacker and on the defensive line?
Read on to find out some possible solutions to those questions.
Author’s Note: I’ve included compensatory third- and fifth-round selections in this mock draft. Those projections are per Philly.com’s Jimmy Kempski. Kempski does a wonderful job of explaining the logic behind why teams are awarded these compensatory picks.
Round 1: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
That being said, the Steelers couldn’t ask for a much better consolation prize than Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard. Mike Mayock says that Dennard is the draft's best corner.
It’s no secret the Steelers are interested in getting younger and better in the secondary this offseason. The team added Mike Mitchell to replace Ryan Clark, and they were also briefly courting Alterraun Verner, according to ESPN's Scott Brown.
With Verner and most other starting-caliber corners off the market, Pittsburgh will likely look to the draft for Ike Taylor’s eventual replacement.
Dennard, one of the premier players on the Spartans’ great defense this past season, is known for his physical playing style. He also flashed solid ball skills, with at least three picks in each of his three seasons as a starter.
Round 2: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Even before the departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, it had long been rumored that the Steelers were in the market for a big wide receiver.
Allen Robinson, who virtually carried Penn State’s passing game for the past two seasons, fits the bill at 6’3”. Robinson was considered a fringe first-rounder but may have ran himself out of the first round after posting an unspectacular 4.60 40-yard dash.
That’s all the better for the Steelers.
Robinson tore up the Big Ten to the tune of 2,450 receiving yards and 17 scores over the past two seasons. And that was while catching passes from a walk-on in Matt McGloin and a freshman starter in Christian Hackenberg.
Just imagine what he could accomplish with Ben Roethlisberger.
Round 3 (Compensatory): Christian Jones, ILB, Florida State
After the cuts of LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote, depth at the linebacker spot has become crucial to the Steelers.
With former sixth-rounder Vince Williams penciled in to start next to Lawrence Timmons, the team’s top reserves are Terence Garvin and Sean Spence.
Spence has yet to play an NFL down, and Garvin’s claim to fame is a monster block on a punter.
Christian Jones is one of the few incoming rookies who boasts the athleticism to be a true three-down linebacker. He’s also been lauded for his versatility, a trait that should be highly coveted by a team lacking depth and experience amongst its linebackers.
Round 4: Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
Defensive line wasn’t considered a major need for the Steelers prior to the onset of free agency. But, with the departures of Ziggy Hood, Al Woods and the uncertainty regarding Brett Keisel, it’s certainly become one.
Ed Stinson won’t offer much as a pass rusher, but fortunately he won’t be expected to either. Where Stinson really shines is in run defense, an aspect of the Steelers’ game that fell off significantly in ’14.
Round 5: Prince Shembo, OLB, Notre Dame
As previously mentioned, the Steelers are sorely hurting for linebacker depth. The most experienced backup at the outside ‘backer spot is Chris Carter. Carter’s yet to register a sack in three professional seasons.
Prince Shembo was inconsistent at times, but he also flashed the ability to be a quality pass-rusher at the next level. That much is evidenced by his 19.5 career sacks at Notre Dame, as well as his three games with multiple quarterback takedowns.
Round 5 (Compensatory): Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
It appears the Steelers finally found their workhorse in Le’Veon Bell during last year’s draft. However, with the suddenly alarming lack of depth in the backfield, the team will likely be targeting a back in this year’s draft as well.
Johnson was key to UCF's surprising resurgence. In his lone year as a starter, he notched 17 total scores and also flashed some receiving ability with 30 receptions.
Round 6: Ryan Carrethers, NT, Arkansas State
With the recent acquisition of Cam Thomas, the Steelers may feel comfortable at the nose tackle spot. However, if the team is considering a position switch for Steve McLendon, as ESPN’s Scott Brown suggests, that could change.
Even if McLendon stands pat, Pittsburgh has a need for large, able bodies along its defensive front. At 337 pounds and mighty strong to boot (32 reps on the bench press), Carrethers fits the bill.
Round 7: Wesley Johnson, OL, Vanderbilt
The Steelers have seen David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey succumb to debilitating injuries in successive seasons. As a result, they’ve surely realized that there’s no such thing as too many offensive linemen.
Wesley Johnson is durable, as proven by his Vanderbilt-record 51 starts. He’s also versatile, with experience at every position along the offensive line. Both qualities should appeal to the Steelers.