2011 NFL Mock Draft: 7-Round Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions

Nick DeWitt@@nickdewitt11Analyst IApril 3, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: 7-Round Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions

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    With definite and profound needs at both corner and along the offensive line, this year's NFL draft is an essential tool for the Pittsburgh Steelers to repair a team that is very close to being a Super Bowl favorite for the 2011 season.

    Beyond the team's two top needs, there are also depth concerns at linebacker, running back and along the defensive line that the team hopes to be able to address through the draft.

    Here is a full, seven-round mock draft for the Steelers.

Round 1, 31st Overall: Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

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    Pros

    Williams is a ballhawk at corner and has excellent skills, speed, and instincts. He's a play-making corner who is always around the ball. He figures to be an excellent pairing with Troy Polamalu's skills at strong safety.

    Another benefit Williams brings to the game is his intelligence. The system that Pittsburgh runs, with all of its zone blitz packages and sub-schemes, is not a simple one for any player to pick up. With his football smarts, Williams may be able to step into a regular, contributing role sooner than other available players.

    Lastly, he beats Jimmy Smith in this mock because he doesn't have any character issues.

     

    Cons

    Williams may be a better safety in the NFL than a corner. The Steelers could use him at safety, but have a much more profound need at corner, where Ike Taylor is a free agent and Bryant McFadden was horrendously inconsistent last season.

    Williams can also struggle in run support and with open-field tackles. He can be caught with double moves, although this may be solvable issue with coaching.

     

    Why You Should Be Excited

    Williams could bring back the Rod Woodson days of having a play-making corner. Plus, imagine a corner with similar disruption skills to Troy Polamalu. Are you excited yet?

Round 2, 63rd Overall: Stefan Wisniewski, OG/C, Penn State

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    Pros

    Wisniewski is a versatile player that fits the mold of Pittsburgh's best linemen. He can play center or guard.

    He's great on pulls and kick-out blocks, which are both cornerstones of the Pittsburgh scheme. He'd likely start at right guard immediately and eventually slot in at left guard (which does more pulling in Pittsburgh) if the team moves on from mildly disappointing Chris Kemoeatu.

    Another major pro for Wisniewski is that he can sustain blocks over long periods in both run- and pass-protection, something that figures to be very important with Ben Roethlisberger trying to make plays by holding the football.

    His technique, style, and other measurables all put him in an upper echelon for NFL caliber linemen.

     

    Cons

    Wisniewski needs to improve his burst and fire off the snap. He's also slightly undersized, particular on his upper half, and needs to add some strength to take on the tough interior linemen in the AFC North. He's not particularly aggressive, so he doesn't necessarily use aggressiveness to overpower defenders.

    He's also not the best pure athlete, something that means he will have to work harder than some to succeed at the professional level.

     

    Why You Should Be Excited

    The Steelers had a dangerous offense last year with a suspect line. If they can add an impact player again in this year's draft, that line will make the offense all the more dangerous.

Round 3, 95th Overall: Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

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    Pros

    He's got excellent size (6'4", 315 lbs) and strength for the nose tackle position. He isn't going to be an immediate starter and won't need to be in Pittsburgh, where he can sit and learn behind Casey Hampton for a year or two.

    He is excellent at covering two gaps and opening holes for linebackers to come through and disrupt the offense, exactly the type of player Pittsburgh requires at that position.

    He's also excellent at driving linemen back and collapsing the pocket, which will play well in a division that is trending toward pocket passers and away from more athletic, running quarterbacks.

     

    Cons

    He's not quick and not versatile. He won't make a lot of solo plays and isn't a threat to make many sacks.

    He's also not athletic enough to contribute much beyond taking up players at the snap and driving back linemen.

    He's not polished and will need some coaching work at the professional level to develop consistent technique and solid placement skills.

     

    Why You Should Be Excited

    A player who can eventually replace the solid Casey Hampton and who can also help crush the pocket and get lanes open for the team's blitzing linebackers is definitely something to get excited about.

Round 4, 128th Overall: Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida

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    Pros

    He's got excellent size (6'6", 330 lbs) and is a very strong lineman. He's also a decent athlete when you consider his size.

    He's also a versatile player and can slide in and play guard if needed. He's a natural tackle, however, and is an aggressive, mauling blocker who is great at finishing his blocks and holding rushers at bay.

    He's at his best in the running game, but he's also a solid pass-blocker with the ability to hold back faster rushers. He'd likely play very well at right tackle in Pittsburgh's scheme and could be expected to handle the faster edge rushers that seem to pepper the AFC North.

     

    Cons

    He's not quick and can get caught off the snap in some scenarios. He needs work on technique to improve this and also his placement and upper body usage.

    He's not the best pass protector and will need more work in this regard before he's a complete player. He can likely have most of these issues solved adequately with coaching.

    He's not likely to be a very dominant, Pro Bowl type player in the NFL and could end up being a better guard than tackle thanks to his so-so athleticism in pass protection.

     

    Why You Should Be Excited

    Gilbert and Wisniewski could help stabilize the Steelers' once-vaunted line. If they can get both, next year the Steelers running game could be even better and their passing game could be hard to stop.

Round 5, 162nd Overall: Derrick Locke, RB, Kentucky

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    Pros

    He's a pure play maker who can score any time he touches the football. He'd instantly be a great speed and pass-catching threat that could replace Mewelde Moore, who is a free agent and may look for an expanded role elsewhere.

    Locke brings a skill set that compares with what Darren Sproles does for the Chargers. He could also work on kick and punt returns and be a home run threat there as well as on offense.

    While not a starter-type running back, he could be a solid change of pace player that Pittsburgh currently lacks in the backfield.

     

    Cons

    Locke has poor size and strength measurables when compared with other running backs and is not going to be able to play every down at the professional level.

    He's got a really bad and really long injury history that includes some nasty spots.

    Locke isn't a lock (excuse the pun) to succeed at this level, but he figures to be a great role-player.

     

    Why You Should Be Excited

    Remember Willie Parker's blazing 75-yard touchdown run in the Super Bowl? Locke is even faster and has the potential to do that every time he gets a handoff.

Round 6, 196th Overall: Alex Henery, K, Nebraska

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    Pros

    Henery has a strong leg and kick and punt when necessary. He's also an extremely accurate kicker who is experienced at kicking outside.

    He's also the top-rated player in the draft at his position(s) and could pull double duty for Pittsburgh and allow the Steelers to open up a roster spot for extra depth.

    Henery is also a steady, quiet player who would fit well in Pittsburgh. After the character issues of Jeff Reed, don't underestimate that intangible. A steady, heady player might fit much better at Heinz Field as well.

     

    Cons

    Anytime a college kicker goes to the NFL, there's a tremendous chance that they won't succeed. That's not a knock on Henery specifically, but more on the type of leap any kicker/punter makes when moving to the professional level.

    Also, Henery has next to no experience kicking in poor weather or swirling winds, both of which plague the Steelers and every AFC North team.

     

    Why You Should Be Excited

    The Steelers haven't had a do-it-all kicker since Norm Johnson or Gary Anderson. Filling that void would give the Steelers a lot more insurance for those times when Roethlisberger and company can't close the deal.

Round 7, 234th Overall: Henry Hynoski, FB, Pittsburgh

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    Pros

    He's a large, physical player who can both run and catch the ball. He is listed as a fullback, but has the size and strength to play as a third tight end as well. That versatility could free up a roster spot and allow the Steelers to let Matt Spaeth leave via free agency.

    Hynoski has all the tools of a large running back with the ability to block in the running game added in for good measure.

    Hynoski is also a smart player who isn't easy to fool in pass or run protection. He gets downfield quickly, especially given his large frame, and can be an effective lead blocker when on the move.

     

    Cons

    Not a knock on Hynoski, but fullback isn't a premium position and the Steelers may do better to draft someone at a higher impact spot like linebacker or wide receiver.

    Specifically with Hynoski, he doesn't have a huge college resume to examine, so he may not be as ready or adaptable to professional football as people think.

     

    Why You Should Be Excited

    The Steelers love versatile offensive weapons and Hynoski brings that and more with his skill set.

Alternatives for Each Round

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    Here is an alternate pick for each round in case the Steelers don't get their primary target:

    1st Round: Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida

    If there are no corners available, the Steelers could opt for an offensive linemen. Taking Maurkice's twin brother would be an excellent way for the team to improve their linemen.

     

    2nd Round: Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

    Brown is Aaron Williams' opposite number and is an excellent corner in his own right. He's been improving his draft stock and could go in the second or third round. He's not the play-making corner that Williams is, but he would be a very solid pickup.

     

    3rd Round: Ian Williams, DT, Notre Dame

    Williams is a little undersized and may be a better defensive end in the NFL, but he's likely to be an impact lineman at the professional level. He'd be a solid mid-round pick and could sit behind Hampton and learn for a couple seasons.

     

    4th Round: Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia

    Like Locke, Devine is a home run-threat running back who can easily score whenever he gets the ball. He's got a better injury history and could go higher that this, but he'd be a solid change-of-pace back for the Steelers' system.

     

    5th Round: Greg Lloyd, ILB, Connecticut

    The Steelers thrived with Lloyd's father (also Greg) disrupting the middle. The younger Lloyd is a player in the same disruptive, aggressive mold. He could sit and learn and then compete to replace James Farrior when the time comes.

     

    6th Round: Willie Smith, OT, East Carolina

    Smith is a good project lineman and could eventually develop into a disruptive NFL tackle. He needs some work and coaching, but could be just what the doctor ordered for Pittsburgh. They need more than one lineman this year.

     

    7th Round: Josh Jasper, K, LSU

    Jasper is the number two-rated kicker in the draft. If Alex Henery is gone and the Steelers are focused on taking an impact player, they may opt for Jasper, another accurate, strong kicker.