Pittsburgh Steelers' Day 2 Draft Primer
Day 1 of the 2014 NFL draft is in the books. Pittsburgh did what it always does—it adhered to its board and drafted its top player, regardless of position. And with it, the Steelers brought some criticism onto themselves.
Drafting Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier might have left some folks scratching their heads, but in the big picture, Shazier makes a ton of sense. Nevertheless, drafting a player like this means that as we look ahead to Day 2, there are still some significant needs out there to be filled.
Let's be happy with what happened Thursday night and turn our attention now to how to continue to make this team better on Friday night.
Day 1 Recap & Analysis
The Pittsburgh Steelers sat tight at the 15th pick and selected Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier. This pick might seem like something of a mystery, but when you consider that Shazier can play inside or outside and adds incredible speed and athleticism, you understand what the goal is.
When Pittsburgh went on the clock at No. 15, there were multiple players it could have selected, including Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard and Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin.
However, the Steelers understood that in terms of immediate impact, Shazier was the guy. They also understood that positions like cornerback are deep in this draft, and there was no reason to pull the trigger too soon on one if a better all-around player could be had instead.
It's easy to second-guess this pick, but because the Pittsburgh defense struggled so much last season, getting an athlete like Shazier was just too tempting to pass on.
Updated Needs for the Steelers
Well, the only need we can take off the board at this point is a linebacker. It was a top need, so looking toward the Steelers' second- and third-round picks, there isn't much movement.
Cornerback: Pittsburgh still needs to add a dynamic player in the defensive secondary. This is a very thin unit, and it's not getting any younger. Look for the Steelers to try to get a cornerback with their second-round pick.
For all the talent in this cornerback class, if a few more come off the board, then the bottom will fall out for immediate impact players. If the Steelers front office looks at this as a top need, it might even need to move up to get one.
Wide Receiver: The Steelers could likely have several very talented wide receivers on the board when they pick in the second. There could be much more interesting, albeit unproven, players in the third.
If the Steelers are serious about getting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a big receiving option, they should have several to choose from. However, there's a real possibility that the need for a wide receiver is more of a media creation than a team creation.
Tight End: There's a real possibility that with the current wide receiver depth chart, tight end would be an easier fit into the offense. Beyond Heath Miller, there is very little talent at the position.
It would no doubt be tempting if a player like Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro was there when Pittsburgh picked in the second round. Should it pass there, all is not lost. There are always several more third-round prospects who could supplant the backups on this roster.
Defensive Line: If the addition of Shazier means more base defense, the Steelers need to commit a pick on Day 2 to either a true nose tackle or an athletic 5-technique end. With both Ra'Shede Hageman and Stephon Tuitt still available, Pittsburgh could get a genuine steal here.
Top Day 2 Targets
As of now, Pittsburgh has two selections on Friday. Here are several prospects at each position the Steelers should target on Day 2.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: Amaro would provide the Steelers with a huge target between the hashes on offense. Amaro has a tremendous catch radius and can get open with his size or deceptive on-field speed.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame: The massive nose tackle prospect slid and could be exactly what the Steelers need to shore up the middle of their defensive line. This would be the second pick committed to what was the weakest part of the Steelers defense in 2013.
Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood: Desir is a small-school star with tremendous length and ball skills. If the Steelers want to add a cornerback, Desir might be the best of those remaining.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: If Pittsburgh decides that adding a defensive end is a top need early on Day 2, Hageman would be a tough one to pass on. The Minnesota product is enormous and powerful. He can play outside as an end or slide inside on passing downs.
Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada: It's tough to gauge how important the Steelers front office deems an offensive lineman here. Nevertheless, if it want one, Bitonio and his elite resume would be a nice get.
DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State: Jones is another huge man with surprising athleticism and some scheme versatility. He could start on the outside and grow into his more natural nose tackle spot.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: Matthews was incredibly productive on an offense with very little around him. He had some drops, but when you consider he had very little talent at quarterback throwing to him, it's hard to put that all on him.
Dexter McDougle, CB, Maryland: McDougle is a real sleeper prospect at cornerback. His natural ball skills are excellent, and his speed is elite. He might not be prepared to start right away, but he would be an athletic addition as a nickel cornerback.
What Are the Experts Saying
Bleacher Report's lead NFL draft writer, Matt Miller, is one of the few guys who puts out full seven-round mock drafts. Here's what Miller predicted for the Steelers in the second and third rounds.
Second Round: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
This pick would have made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, the Carolina Panthers liked Benjamin so much that they drafted him in the first round. Nevertheless, the logic of the pick is sound, and no one should be shocked if Pittsburgh goes for a wide receiver here as well.
Third Round: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
There's a genuine possibility that Gaines will be available at this pick. Pittsburgh could do much worse than the aggressive and physical man cornerback. Gaines is a little bit undersized but makes up for it with excellent technique.
3 Predicitions for Day 2
Pittsburgh will look to trade
After sitting tight in the first round, the Steelers are going to get the itch to move on Friday. With the talent still on the board, Pittsburgh could opt for a move backwards and haul in an extra pick or two.
The Steelers won't pass on Nix
Something tells me that if Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III is on the board when the Steelers go on the clock in the second round, he's the pick. This team has missed a player like Nix since Casey Hampton left, and with the pick of Shazier, Pittsburgh seems clear on a commitment to getting more stout in the middle of the defense.
A tight end is not a target
With the talent still out there, I am predicting that will push the tight end position into the third day of the draft. A player like Amaro would be great, but it just doesn't feel like a Steelers pick. Even though fans don't like the depth at tight end, the coaching staff might think differently.
Updated Steelers Mock Draft
Second Round: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
As I said before, Nix is going to be hard to pass up. His massive body and strength would work well being flanked by defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Steve McLendon.
Third Round: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
This might be the last chance in this draft for Pittsburgh to get a cornerback who can really come in and play right away. Gaines is a little on the short side but makes up for it with a high football IQ and excellent technique.
Beyond these picks, this mock draft is largely unchanged from my previous predicition.
Fourth Round: Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
The Steelers get an underrated, huge target for Ben Roethlisberger.
Fifth Round: Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
Pittsburgh snatches up a Heath Miller clone in the fifth round.
Fifth Round: Dakota Dozier, OG, Furman
Small-school mauler with great feet and the potential to play four spots on the offensive line.
Sixth Round: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Developmental prospect with tons of upside and room to grow. Dominant physical tools but needs refinement.
Sixth Round: Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh takes back-to-back Hokies here. Exum could end up as a real steal this late in the draft with his physical coverage skills.
Seventh Round: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
Converted quarterback with tremendous athleticism and natural physical gifts. A project.