The overall goal for the Steelers in the 2014 draft needs to be to obtain as much young defensive talent as possible. In the first round the Steelers will likely target a cornerback with the 15th overall pick to anchor the future secondary, a secondary very few of the current Steelers will be part of, aside from safety Shamarko Thomas. The Steelers could also look to fill voids at WR, LB, and along the Offensive Line if the right player falls to them. 15 is a hard spot to leave given the level of talent that can be had and for a team with so many needs trading up makes little to no sense. There are many possibilities and I will touch on a few.
So I will lay out some of the scenarios I see the Steelers facing in the first round tonight, but for those with no patience I will jump to the conclusion:
With the 15th overall pick the Pittsburgh Steelers select: C.J. Mosley LB Alabama
In the end I wouldn’t be surprised if the Steelers went with a linebacker even though most mock drafts have them selecting a cornerback or wide receiver. If either Dennard or Gilbert remain on the board I would select them ahead of Mosley in that order. Given the nature of the NFL and it’s copycat mentality cornerbacks are likely to be a hot commodity this season and many teams may choose to trade up in order to get one of the top 2 at the position. If this is the case the Steelers are likely to be left with a scenario of selecting Kyle Fuller, which may be a reach, or going with the best available player which at pick 15 may wind up being C.J. Mosley.
With other positions at more demand the Steelers could even face a scenario in which they move back a few picks and add a pick in the later round and are still able to get Mosley. Mosley would fill a need for years to come and help the Steelers towards a trend of adding young depth to their aging defense. Unless a top receiver or Ebron are available cornerback is the pick why not take the second best linebacker.
Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan
Dennard would be the best fit for the Steelers but as each day passes i become more certain he will be off the board by the 15th pick. He is big, fast, and tough and would quickly become the anchor of the secondary. I remember watching Dennard run his 40 during the combine and hearing the announcers speak about how much of a match he would be with the Steelers at 15. However given the board the Giants may get to him first.
Kyle Fuller CB Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller will be good but I will be disappointed if the Steelers select him at 15 given that there is likely to be a better value on the board. To select Fuller would be to draft to fill needs as opposed to acquiring talent which must be the Steelers main goal in this draft if they wish to avoid massive collapse in the upcoming years.
Taylor Lewan T Michigan
This could be the wild card. If the draft turns into tradefest ‘99 the Steelers could happen themselves into a top-notch tackle. The Steelers have used high picks on the offensive line for the past few years, but with little success. Lewan will be a starting tackle in the NFL and if available the Steelers should take advantage of the possibility of gaining some permanent depth on the offensive line.
What if the top two cornerbacks are off the board?
If the 15th pick comes and both Dennard and Gilbert are off the board than I would look to the best overall player. If Aaron Donald somehow remains on the board, which he won’t, I would be willing to select him and completely change the defense to a Tampa 2 or at the very least add more elements of it to the base defense to fit his skill set. He is that good of player and given that he is a product of Penn Hills and Pitt he would be a player that would add maximum excitement among the fan base. A more likely Scenario would be seeing tight end Eric Ebron or safety Ha Ha Clinton – Dix slide in which case I would select either of them giving the edge to Ebron.
Unfortunately given the recent black cloud hanging above the Steelers in terms of luck the selection may come to a pair of linebackers UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. While Barr has been rated higher by many draft experts the opinions of draft experts are in many ways meaningless because very few people in the world actually have a mastery of scouting and the NFL draft. This includes a majority of the people employed by NFL franchises to be such experts. Barr will be good but C.J. Mosley is perfect for the Steelers. He is a natural leader who leads by example. If the Steelers are truly to have a youth movement on defense they will need a leader and I don’t see anyone besides Jarvis Jones being able to fill that role on the current roster.
Mosley would be a great fit but linebacker is not their most pressing need and there are other options later in the draft. So there is also the possibility they trade the pick up or down to target another player.
2 Trade down scenarios:
Trade down with the Jets to get the 18th selection and select C.J. Mosley.
The Jets need for a cornerback may be more dire than the Steelers. If the Steelers can move back a few spots while picking up a third round pick this could be the perfect opportunity for the Steelers to avoid reaching selecting a linebacker in the first round.
Packers 21st overall pick
Much like the Steelers the Packers have pressing needs on defense however theirs is to fill a hole while the Steelers is to achieve depth. Moving back to the 21st pick the Steelers could select Indiana receiver Cody Latimer. In many ways he is the perfect addition to the passing game given his combination of speed and size (6 foot 3, 215 pounds, 4.44 40 yard dash). He also proved to be one of the strongest receivers at the combine impressing teams by finishing first in the bench press. The Steelers are likely to stay where they are but this would be an opportunity to fill a pressing need without reaching while adding more picks to improve depth and take advantage of the deep draft.
Trade up Scenario
This is the less likely scenario concerning trades however I could see the Steelers trading up to the 9th spot with the Buffalo Bills in order to draft Eric Ebron . This seems to progressive of a move for the regressive Steelers front office, but looking back at this draft five years into the future Ebron may be among the top 5 players. While Roethlisberger would prefer a large receiving target an elite tight end could be a better long term asset. The Steelers are in no position to give the aging Roethlisbergr a final approval over a draft pick especially given the fact that it is quite likely that Penn State’s Allen Robinson will be available in the second round. This draft needs to be about acquiring as much young defensive talent as possible which means the receiving weapon they choose must be top notch.