7 Names Every Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Should Know Ahead of 2014 NFL Draft
Whether it is attending a pro day or bringing a prospect to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit, the Steelers are making sure to get every final detail on the players they are interested in adding to the team come the draft in May.
As we have learned over the years, the Steelers take pre-draft visits seriously. Last season, they drafted four players who visited and signed another after the draft.
The draft may be just under a month away, but it is not too soon to piece some of the clues together to see which players the may be members of the Steelers in just a few weeks. Here are seven names that every Steelers fan must know ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Cornerback remains one of the top priorities for the Steelers as they approach the draft. With the 15th selection in the draft, they will be in good position to address this need with one of the top two cornerbacks in the draft.
While Justin Gilbert may be the most athletic cornerback in the draft, Darqueze Dennard is arguably the most physical defender and would be a great fit in Pittsburgh’s defense. The front office has taken notice, as they have scouted Dennard at his pro day and have brought him to Pittsburgh for a visit.
With Ike Taylor likely in the final year of his contract and no quality young cornerback on the roster besides Cortez Allen, Dennard is a likely target in the first round.
Dennard’s abilities in coverage would be a welcomed addition to Pittsburgh’s secondary after they struggled in this area last season. In addition to his coverage skills, Dennard is not afraid to step up in run support and is a strong open-field tackler, which is a must to play in this defense.
Dennard has potential to develop into a No. 1 cornerback and for this reason, will be one of the hottest names connected with the Steelers for the 2014 draft.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
A depleted defensive unit means that the Steelers offense will have to carry the load in 2014, and that means putting more points on the board.
That will be easier said than done after Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery left via free agency. To replace them, the Steelers signed Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey—two receivers that will not strike fear in a defense.
Rather than settle for a mediocre receiving corps, the Steelers may look for the big-bodied wide receiver that Ben Roethlisberger has been missing since Plaxico Burress’ first stint in Pittsburgh. The man to fill that role is Mike Evans.
Evans has terrific size at 6’5” and 231 pounds, and that presents a huge advantage when matched up against smaller defensive backs. Even without elite speed, his size has assisted him in becoming an excellent playmaker. Last season, he averaged 20 yards per reception and had 12 touchdowns.
Though he may not start as a rookie, Evans’ presence would provide an immediate threat in the red zone. Eventually, he would project as a starter opposite of Antonio Brown. His size and physical play would be a perfect complement to Brown’s speed and quickness.
Wide receiver may not be the top need, but it is hard to believe that he would not be the best player available on the board if he fell to the Steelers. It would be too hard to pass up adding this type of weapon for Roethlisberger.
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Besides Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers do not have a definitive starter at inside linebacker.
Vince Williams had a respectable rookie season, but he has a long way to develop if he is going to be a full-time starter. Sean Spence must show that he can still play the game after suffering a major knee injury as a rookie.
As the only inside linebacker worthy of a first-round selection, C.J. Mosley is easily the best player at his position. He had a productive college career while at Alabama and could step in and challenge for a starting job as a rookie.
Mosley has the athleticism to play as a three-down linebacker, which would be a stark contrast from what the Steelers have had lately. The defensive would be much more versatile with two inside linebackers capable of dropping into coverage.
However, inside linebacker is not a position necessarily worth the 15th pick. As we saw last season, a sixth-round selection can step in and play as a rookie. As a result, the Steelers may not have him as high on the draft board as Dennard or Evans.
That does not mean he will not be on their radar. Mosley is a terrific prospect at linebacker and has Pro Bowl potential. Combined with Timmons, the Steelers would have one of the most athletic inside linebacker pairs in the league.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Despite spending two first-round draft picks on the position in recent years, Pittsburgh is extremely thin at defensive end.
Given their two- or three-year developmental schedule, it is tough to justify selecting a defensive end in the first round. A second-round pick isn’t out of the question, especially if Stephon Tuitt is available.
The Steelers already have one powerful in Cameron Heyward and Tuitt would provide yet another disruptive force on the defensive line. At 6’5” and 304 pounds, he already has a prototypical frame for the position.
The knock on Tuitt is that he wasn’t consistent last season, but that may not be much of a problem. The Steelers will strip him down from everything that he knows and teach him how to play defensive end to fit their system. The key is that Tuitt has all of the physical tools that a coach could ask for.
A potential combination of Heyward and Tuitt on the defensive line would be a step in the right direction of rebuilding the front seven. That should have fans excited.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
The addition of two free-agent receivers may have eliminated the possibility of drafting a receiver in the first round. Instead, the Steelers could wait until the second or third, where Donte Moncrief provides an intriguing option.
Moncrief had a private visit with the Steelers and would provide them with an excellent combination of size (6’2” and 221 pounds) and speed (4.40 in the 40-yard dash). This would make him a deep threat for Roethlisberger.
In addition to his physical attributes, Moncrief is a willing blocker for the ground game. This figures to be an important part of the offense with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in the backfield.
Given their willingness to draft receivers in the third round (Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton), Moncrief would be a logical option if he fell that far. However, given his talent, they’d likely have to spend a second-rounder on him.
The fact that they have brought him in for a visit means that they are interested, and he fills a need. Pittsburgh likes receivers with speed, and Moncrief has it. The size just happens to be an added bonus.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
With Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in the backfield, the Steelers seemed to have cornered the market on big, powerful runners. Now they need to add a change-of-pace back with breakaway speed.
One name to consider is Lache Seastrunk. He was one of the prospects that the Steelers brought to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit and profiles as a third- or fourth-round selection.
In two years at Baylor, Seastrunk was a big-play threat. He averaged 7.57 yards per carry and scored 18 touchdowns. Despite his ability to break long runs, he is not a well-rounded back. He had just nine receptions in 2012 and none last season.
Even with a lack of production as a receiver, the Steelers will be interested because of his speed. Though he only ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the combine, he improved that time to 4.37 seconds at his pro day.
As a potential third-day prospect, Seastrunk would fill the void as a speed back and would provide a nice third option behind Bell and Blount.
Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota
When it comes to late-round draft picks, finding a player who is versatile is particularly appealing. That is why Brock Vereen is an interesting prospect for Day 3 of the draft.
As the younger brother of Shane Vereen, Brock has NFL bloodlines. He is known for being an intelligent player who has played both cornerback and safety while at Minnesota. The ability to play both positions has to be a draw for the Steelers.
Vereen has good size (6’0” and 199 pounds) and speed (4.47 40-yard dash) to play either position in the NFL. According to his combine results on NFL.com, he was a top performer at his position in the 40-yard dash, bench press, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
Vereen would provide an immediate boost to the special teams unit while providing a quality developmental player in the secondary. He has already visited with the Steelers and is certainly a Day 3 prospect to keep an eye on.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com, draft rankings are courtesy of CBS Sports, and all pre-draft visit information is courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (subscription required). All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
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