NFL Draft 2011: 15 Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Line Prospects

Joseph BrunoCorrespondent IApril 18, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: 15 Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Line Prospects

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line is routinely one of the best in the league with Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton. However, they are also one of the oldest.

    Although 2009 first-round pick Ziggy Hood played well for the injured Aaron Smith in 2010, the Steelers still need to get younger on the defensive line.

    I do not think Nick Eason will be brought back and Chris Hoke is solid, but is actually the oldest defensive lineman on the Steelers.

    This is a list of 15 defensive linemen that I think the Steelers have interest in, not including prospects that I have already mentioned in other articles so that we can take a look at some different guys.

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT

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    I am starting off the list with the guy I think is the least probable to actually fall to the Steelers at 31; however, when teams start trading back into the first round to get quarterbacks, he could be one to slide a bit.

    Wilkerson would be perfect in the Steelers 3-4 defense, and has the size and quickness to play at both end and tackle if needed.

Cameron Heyward, DE

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    Cameron Heyward could end being one of the biggest steals from this draft class. Although he still may go in the first round, you do not really hear any hype about him and yet I think he will turn out to be a solid player for whoever drafts him.

    Heyward is another guy who is versatile enough to play end or line up inside. He even showed in college that he could drop back in coverage, as he did have an interception in his career.

Marvin Austin, DT

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    If not for character concerns, Marvin Austin would be a lock first-round pick. I have actually seen him in some recent first-round mocks.

    Austin could become a premier defensive tackle in the NFL, in my opinion, and will be a steal for anyone who grabs him after the first round.

Jarvis Jenkins, DT

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    Jarvis Jenkins may end up going in the third round of the draft, but I think if the Steelers really want him, they would have to take him with their late second-round pick.

    Jenkins is stout against the run and would be a good, young guy to develop to take the place of Casey Hampton when he retires.

Christian Ballard, DE

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    Christian Ballard has not gotten much hype because of his teammate Adrian Clayborn; however, he has the potential to become a solid 3-4 defensive end.

    Ballard has good quickness for the position, and I believe he could provide some pass rush from the defensive line.

Terrell McClain, DT

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    Terrell McClain has great quickness and a non-stop motor; however, he will need to work on his balance at the point of attack.

    He has the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield, yet needs to work on his tackling to make sure he can finish those plays.

Ian Williams, DT

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    Ian Williams would need to sit and develop for a while; however, the Steelers have that luxury by having both Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke ahead of him.

    He has enough power to be able to sit down and not let offensive linemen move him off his spot in the run game and has the potential to be able to push the pocket in the passing game.

Jurrell Casey, DE

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    Casey is probably better suited to be an end in the 3-4; however, he could bulk up a bit and be able to develop into a tackle.

    He is a little short for the position, however, that is never a huge concern for me and I am more concerned with him cleaning up his technique.

Lawrence Guy, DE

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    Lawrence Guy has not shown much of a pass rush in his career to this point. The Steelers defensive ends aren’t really expected to contribute much in that area anyway and anything he could bring would be a plus.

    He has the awareness to know when to get his hands up though, and his real strength is in the run game, where he is solid.

Sione Fua, DT

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    Fua plays with good quickness, displays good leverage and is not easy to move by offensive linemen once anchored.

    He would need to work on his overall awareness and ability to locate the ball after the snap and his stamina will improve once in the NFL.

Adrian Taylor, DE

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    Adrian Taylor has had a history of injuries in his career, although when he gets on the field, shows good toughness and is solid against double teams.

    He could end up being a steal in the draft given how late he is going to get picked based on those injury concerns.  

John Graves, DE

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    I really like John Graves as a sleeper in this draft, although he would need to bulk up to become a 3-4 defensive end.

    His pass rushing skills are pretty raw, however, I do feel that once he settles into his position, he will push the pocket and bring a nice burst from the end spot.

Zach Clayton, DE

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    These last three defensive linemen have all been scheduled for a pre-draft visit with the Steelers, and I am starting with Zach Clayton, who performed well at his pro day.

    He showed some good athletic ability and speed, and is the type of all-effort guy the Steelers love to grab late in the draft.  

Anthony Gray, DT

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    Gray is another guy who really impressed at his pro day by showing the ability to move his size well and then displaying good power.

    He did measure in a little shorter than teams normally like, however, the Steelers could take him in the seventh round to develop into a 3-4 nose.

Frank Kearse, DT

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    The Steelers were one of many teams who came away impressed with Frank Kearse at his pro day.

    I would not be surprised if the Steelers waited to the later rounds to draft a defensive lineman like Kearse, even though most fans would like to see them take one a lot earlier.