5 Best-Case Scenarios for Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014 NFL Draft
The Pittsburgh Steelers have recovered nicely from a miserable start to free agency. The team saw numerous key players depart in the period’s opening days, but it has rebounded nicely to replace (most of) those lost and has even made a splash or two along the way.
Now, it’s time for the Steelers to set their sights on the 2014 NFL draft.
The team could go any number of ways with its selections, but only a few would qualify as ideal. But, of course, much of that depends on the moves made by the 31 teams selecting around them.
So, what are the best-case scenarios for the Steelers in this year’s draft? And how might they come about?
Read on to find out.
An Early Run on Quarterbacks
There are a number of top-flight prospects spearheading this year’s draft class. And with the 15th overall pick, the Steelers should get a shot at one of the best.
Whether or not that will wind up being a top-15 or top-10 prospect depends largely on the action in front of the Steelers. There are four quarterbacks (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr) who are considered by most to be first-round-caliber players.
If two or three signal-callers are selected in the top five, it could result in a tumble for some immediate-impact players.
In 2011, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were each selected between picks eight and 12. No one from that trio has proven worthy of his draft stock to date.
The same can’t be said of the players who were selected after them. Picks 13-17 were Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, Mike Pouncey, Ryan Kerrigan and Nate Solder.
If teams at the top panic and overdraft quarterbacks again in ’14, the Steelers would benefit.
Tuitt Slips to Day 2
Along with wide receiver and cornerback, many analysts have pegged offensive line as one of the Steelers’ biggest needs. However, the situation is actually far direr on the other side of the trenches.
At each of the other three positions mentioned, Pittsburgh could at least field a capable unit. They could stand to add talent at each position, but the only spot where it’s truly needed is at defensive end.
The departures of Ziggy Hood, Al Woods and the potential departure of Brett Keisel have left the Steelers without either opening-day starter at the 5-technique. Of course, former first-rounder Cameron Heyward is set to take over one spot, but the other is still vacant.
Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt is considered a fringe first-rounder by most, but based on most years, he’d be an easy candidate to be off the board by Day 2. If Tuitt falls to the Steelers, as WalterFootball.com suggests, he’d be a no-brainer for Pittsburgh.
No Run on Receivers
It’s been speculated far and wide that the Steelers are targeting a big wide receiver early in the 2014 NFL draft. But, with several pressing needs on defense, not to mention a very deep wide receiver class, the Steelers might hold off on selecting one at 15 overall.
Should the Steelers elect to wait on a receiver until Day 2, though, they’ll have to cross their fingers on a worthwhile target being there at either 46 or 97. That rings especially true if, as proposed previously, Tuitt slides to the middle of Round 2.
No, the Steelers don’t have to take the big defensive end, but considering the depth and need at each of the two positions, it would be the smart choice. The only drawback is that they’d have to wait through 50 picks before seeing the podium again.
In that time, numerous wide receivers will hear their name called. Barring a major run at the position, though, the Steelers should have a chance at a solid, if unheralded, prospect like Donte Moncrief, Martavis Bryant or Brandon Coleman.
Finding a Worthwhile Trade
The Steelers aren’t traditionally a team that wheels and deals its way through the draft. Then again, they haven’t usually been active in free agency prior to this offseason.
If the aggressive fashion in which the Steelers have approached free agency this offseason is any indication, they should at least be open to entertaining trade offers.
Whether that be a move up or down obviously depends on who’s still on the board as the Steelers' pick nears.
If Justin Gilbert or Mike Evans is still available when the New York Giants are on the clock, the Steelers may have to jump the St. Louis Rams for a shot at them. The Steelers’ first-, fourth- and sixth-round picks would likely make the deal a go and net them a player ready to contribute right away.
Or, suppose the San Francisco 49ers, a team with few legitimate needs, want to join the two-tight end craze and pair Eric Ebron with Vernon Davis. Offering the Steelers their first-, (one of two) second- and fourth- or fifth-round picks might be too enticing to turn down.
Gilbert or Evans Falls
As previously mentioned, cornerback and wide receiver are two of the Steelers’ biggest needs heading into this year’s draft. Thus, it stands to reason that corner Justin Gilbert and receiver Mike Evans would be among their top targets.
Gilbert and Evans are considered to be among the best at their positions by a number of analysts, including Mike Mayock of NFL.com. That means, unfortunately for Pittsburgh, that both could well be off the board by the time pick 15 rolls around.
Of course, projections only carry so much weight as it pertains to the draft. We’ve seen guys like Aaron Rodgers slide well past their projected draft slot. Contrarily, players like Tyson Alualu and the Steelers’ own Mike Mitchell leapt up at least one team’s draft board.
Where Gilbert and Evans land remains to be seen, but Pittsburgh would likely be thrilled if either slid to them.