NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers

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PITTSBURGH -- A wrap-up of the Pittsburgh Steelers' draft. Click here for a full list of Steelers draftees.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIThe Steelers expect big things from Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt.
Best move: Taking Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt in the second round. The Steelers had no bigger need than at defensive end, and they were smart to pounce on Tuitt, who had been widely projected to go late in the first round. The 6-foot-5, 303-pounder has the ideal build for a five-technique defensive end, and he also has the pass-rushing skills to move inside when the Steelers go to their nickel package. Tuitt had 21 career sacks at Notre Dame, and the Steelers are convinced his play slipped last season because recovery from double-hernia surgery compromised his training and caused him to put on too much weight. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Tuitt is back to his 2012 playing weight when he dominated for the Fighting Irish, and they expect him to play significantly as a rookie if not start at some point in 2014.

Riskiest move: The Steelers took just one defensive back in the draft and they didn’t select cornerback Shaquille Richardson of Arizona until the fifth round. That won’t do anything to allay the anxiety of Steelers’ fans about the state of the secondary and specifically cornerback where Ike Taylor isn’t getting younger and where there isn’t much depth. Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said he is confident free-agent signee Brice McCain and Antwon Blake, who played almost exclusively on special teams last season, can be key contributors this season. They better be since the draft didn’t deliver the reinforcements at cornerback that most thought it would.

Most surprising move: The Steelers bypassed a cornerback and wide receiver in the third round to take speedy but diminutive running back Dri Archer. This looks like a luxury pick since the Steelers had more pressing needs when they selected the 5-8, 173-pounder. Archer ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.26 seconds) at the NFL combine, and the Steelers plan to carve out a role for him in the offense. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has compared Archer to Darren Sproles because of his explosiveness and versatility. Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said Archer reminds him of former Browns scatback/receiver Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil. “He’s not small,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s short.”

File it away: First-round pick Ryan Shazier will be an immediate difference-maker as a rookie -- and will make multiple Pro Bowls if he stays healthy. His speed is such that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has said he envisions playing Shazier all over the field. Lake said he will gladly take Shazier as a safety if linebackers coach Keith Butler doesn’t want him. Butler, when told that, smiled and said “I’m not in favor of doing that. Shazier can make mistakes and has make-up speed to get back into position and make plays.” Butler scoffs at the notion that the 6-1, 237-pound Shazier is undersized for an inside linebacker at this level. Butler said former Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior played between 225 and 230 pounds in the latter part of his carer, including 2010 when he made the Pro Bowl. “A lot of times young linebackers get in their head, ‘I have to weigh 250 or I have to weigh 260 [pounds] but can they move? Can they get where they need to be when they need to be there? This guy can do that.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft. This is the ninth in a series that looks at the nine positions they could address in a week.

Our final look is at cornerback.

Added: Brice McCain

Lost: Curtis Brown

Skinny: The Steelers have twice taken a pair of cornerbacks in their past five drafts (2009 and 2011) and their need at the position is such that they are likely to do it again this year. Cornerback is one of the deeper positions in the draft though it is not as strong as wide receiver. Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard would be an ideal pick for the Steelers as he is tough, physical and regarded by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. as the most complete cornerback in the draft. The biggest question with Dennard is whether he will be available at No. 15 as several teams picking ahead of the Steelers, including the Lions and Rams, could take a cornerback. The Steelers hosted Dennard as well as projected first-round picks Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech and Bradley Roby of Ohio State for pre-draft visits. One small-school prospect to watch is Pierre Desir of Lindenwood. Desir showed excellent ball skills at the Division II school in Missouri, and he held his own against better competition at the Senior Bowl. Desir has good size and the Steelers have had success taking cornerbacks from smaller schools as they drafted Ike Taylor out of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2003 and Cortez Allen out of The Citadel in 2011. Both were fourth-round selections though the Steelers might have to take Desir in the third round if they really like him.

Draft likelihood: High

Extra points

Last CB drafted by the Steelers: Terry Hawthorne, 2013, fifth round

Last CB drafted by the Steelers in the first round: Chad Scott, 1997

Last CB taken 15th overall in the draft: Tye Hill, Rams, 2006

CBs drafted under Kevin Colbert/Mike Tomlin: Eight

CBs drafted under Colbert/Tomlin still with the Steelers: Two

Analyzing McShay mock: Steelers 

April, 24, 2014
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have the 15th overall pick of the NFL draft and it seems likely they will select a cornerback or a wide receiver in the first round.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay plays general manager for every team in his latest mock draft , pairing players with teams based on what he thinks are the best fits, not how he sees the first round unfolding in two weeks.

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to examine the best cornerbacks in this year's draft, playing host to TCU's Jason Verrett on a pre-draft visit Monday.

Verrett is considered a top-five cornerback in this draft, and he could be taken as early as the bottom half of the first round. It's likely a stretch for the Steelers to select him at No. 15.

If Verrett slid into the second round, he would be a possibility for the Steelers, even though the team typically doesn't address the cornerback position until the middle rounds. Cornerback is a need for the Steelers because 33-year-old Ike Taylor is heading into the final year of his contract. Verrett totaled 43 passes defended and nine interceptions in three productive years at TCU.

The Steelers had Darqueze Dennard, one of the most highly rated cornerbacks, in for a pre-draft visit earlier this month.

The Steelers also brought in Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton and Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson for pre-draft visits Monday. It's a surprise to see Crichton meeting with the Steelers because he projects to be a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. He has limited experience in dropping into coverage, and he's not seen as an ideal fit for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense like the one the Steelers employ.

A second-round prospect, Crichton finished with 7.5 sacks last season. He was recently rated as the seventh-best defensive end by Mel Kiper.

Richardson is projected to go in the fifth round. He's a long-armed defender who had some inconsistencies in coverage last season.
The Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft after finishing 8-8 last season, and taking a cornerback, wide receiver or defensive lineman with their first-round pick would make a lot of sense.

Todd McShay’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out today and he has the Steelers addressing arguably their biggest need with their first pick, taking Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and making the 5-foot-11, 199-pounder the first cornerback taken in next month’s draft.


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PITTSBURGH -- The signing of Mike Mitchell last month hasn't stopped the Pittsburgh Steelers from taking a closer look at one of the top safeties in the draft.

Calvin Pryor is visiting the Steelers today, and the former Louisville star is a projected first-round pick. Pryor is also widely regarded as the second-best safety in the draft after Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The 5-foot-11, 207-pound Pryor recorded 65 tackles and three interceptions last year and he is a hard hitter who is particularly strong in run support.

This is a curious visit at face value since Mitchell's signing makes it unlikely that the Steelers use their first-round pick on a safety. But with teams using five and six defensive backs in sub-packages with increasing frequency it makes sense that the Steelers are doing their homework on players who can help them in the secondary.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 prospects for pre-draft visits.

Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief, South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington and Minnesota safety Brock Vereen visited the Steelers last week.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has said this is the deepest draft he has seen in 30 years of scouting.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper won't go that far in proclaiming the 2014 draft a potentially special one.

"I don't see it," Kiper said Thursday during a conference call with ESPN NFL Nation reporters. "Now I think there's some positions yeah where you're going to see steals and you're going to see great bargains that you do every year."

What is noteworthy about this difference of opinion: Colbert and Kiper are viewing the draft through different prisms.

The Steelers aren't scouting any of the top quarterback prospects with Ben Roethlisberger in the prime of his career. And that is one position where Kiper said there is quantity but questions about quality particularly when it comes to the quarterbacks who are projected as the top picks.

Kiper also said there is a dearth of true pass-rushing defensive ends after Jadaveon Clowney, whom he thinks the Texans will take No. 1 overall. But the Steelers play a 3-4 defense and they would scout defensive ends who project as outside linebackers at the next level.

That is not to say Colbert or Kiper are off as far as their assessment of the overall draft; just that the two are looking at it from different angles.

Kiper has identified seven players whom he believes are elite ones in the draft and Clowney is among a group that doesn't include any quarterbacks. Rounding out what Kiper called the "Sensational Seven" are: Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

The Steelers are unlikely to get a crack at drafting Evans with the 15th overall pick.

If they go cornerback with their first pick Kiper has Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert rated slightly higher than Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, who visited the Steelers on Wednesday.

But he said the two are so close that Gilbert is 1 and Dennard is 1A as far as cornerbacks in the draft.

"This is the year to get one," Kiper said of the Steelers taking a cornerback in the first round though he added that there is a bit of a drop-off at the position after Gilbert and Dennard. "A corner, wide receiver, d-line and o-line would be the positions of need, I think for the Steelers."

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Steelers

March, 13, 2014
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As much of a shortage as the Pittsburgh Steelers have at defensive end, there probably isn’t a player at that position who is worthy of the 15th overall pick.

And the Steelers’ need at cornerback is just as acute, which is why they would be thrilled if they had a chance to take Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Gilbert going to the Steelers in his third mock draft, and the speedy Gilbert would contribute immediately while also shoring up the position from a long-term standpoint if he is as good as advertised.

He and Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard are considered the top two cornerbacks in the draft, and Kiper said on Thursday that both “could be in play” for the Steelers.

“Gilbert’s a guy to me that ability-wise deserves to be that high,” Kiper said Thursday during a conference call. “In run support [he’s] not going to be a big factor, but a lot of these corners aren’t. Darqueze Dennard, he’s great [in] run support. He’s as aggressive a tackler as you’ll ever find. I love the way he plays against the run, but this is a pass league.

“If you could take Dennard’s aggressiveness and put it with Gilbert you’d have a top-five pick. Both are real good players and both are going to go, I think, in the mid-first-round area. Some like Dennard, some like Gilbert. I give a slight edge to Gilbert, but like them both.”

The Steelers could still go in a number of different ways with their first-round pick, and free agency, which is still in its infancy, has already dropped a couple of pieces into the draft puzzle.

The signing of Mike Mitchell all but rules out the Steelers taking a safety with their first-round pick. Another signing outside of Pittsburgh could also impact the Steelers’ draft.

The Lions lured Golden Tate away from Seattle, signing the wide receiver to a five-year contract on Wednesday -- and perhaps making it more likely that Detroit addresses its secondary with the 10th overall pick in the draft.

Kiper has the Lions taking Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans in his latest mock draft, but the Tate signing could allow Detroit to target a player such as Gilbert in the first round.

Kiper said he thinks Evans would still make a lot of sense for the Lions even with the signing of Tate.

“He’s solidly in the top-10 area,” Kiper said.

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Steelers

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
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PITTSBURGH -- Cornerback may be the Pittsburgh Steelers' biggest need in this year’s draft, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Steelers landing the top one on his board.

Kiper has the Steelers taking Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert with the 15th overall pick, changing his selection from Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.

Kiper had the Steelers picking Nix in his first two mock drafts.

Kiper has Gilbert rated the 14th best player in the draft and the top one at what is considered a deep position this year.

The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert has good size and excellent speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.38 seconds at the NFL scouting combine last month.

Gilbert’s showing in Indianapolis bolstered his stock following a season in which he intercepted seven passes, recorded 42 tackles and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the top defensive back in college football.

Here is what Kiper wrote about Gilbert, who could also be a return man in the NFL:

His athlete credentials are strong. On the field, he combines short-area quickness to adjust to routes and open-field speed to run with (or past) any receiver. He has enough size and strength to redirect routes at the line and can then flip his hips and run with anybody; he rarely allows much separation. Good ball skills and hands are evident both in coverage and the return game. Given the need at the position, it's not out of the question that he lands in the top 10.

The Steelers have not used a first-round pick on a cornerback since 1997 when they selected Chad Scott 24th overall but they need to draft at least two players at the position this year.

Ike Taylor agreed to a restructured deal earlier this week but he is not expected to play for the Steelers beyond 2014. William Gay and Cortez Allen are the only other experienced cornerbacks on the roster, and the former turned 29 in January.

Gilbert or Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard would make a lot of sense for the Steelers with their first pick in the draft.

McShay Mock 3.0: Steelers 

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
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Todd McShay's third NFL mock draft for 2014 is out on ESPN Insider today. Much like the Bears, the Steelers could use just about everything on defense. They must get younger on this side of the ball and will not be major players in free agency. The defensive line makes the most sense of where to start and McShay's choice for Pittsburgh in his last mock, Louis Nix III, still makes an awful lot of sense to man the nose tackle position. They could really use a 3-4 defensive end as well, but there doesn't appear to be a likely candidate for the middle of Round 1.

The Steelers covet size and length at cornerback and need help here as well. Pittsburgh also could really use a young pass-catcher with size and it appears unlikely that they would pass on Mike Evans, although he seems unlikely to be available. A young athletic tight end could be another option as a successor and compliment to Heath Miller, but overall, this will be a heavy defensive draft for the Steelers.

Whom does McShay have the Steelers drafting at No. 15? Let's take a look:

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Kiper-McShay Mocks 2.0: Steelers 

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
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In their first mock drafts, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper both tabbed Notre Dame's Louis Nix III as a good fit for an aging Steelers defense.

Todd McShay's Mock 1.0: Nix III

Mel Kiper's Mock 1.0: Nix III

Has there been a change for their second mocks? Here's the latest projection from each of our experts.


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Kiper Mock Draft 1.0: Steelers 

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
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Roughly 14 months after Kevin Colbert returned to his native Pittsburgh to head the Steelers’ football operations, the team moved from No. 16 to No. 19 in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft. The Steelers still got the player they wanted in mammoth Texas defensive tackle Casey Hampton. They also collected a pair of extra draft picks from their trade with the New York Jets.

Might the Steelers look to do something similar this year? They struggled to stop the run a year after they did not to re-sign Hampton, who established himself as one of the best nose tackles of his generation during a borderline Hall of Fame career.

The Steelers slipped from second in 2012 to 21st in rushing defense, and fortifying themselves up the middle should be one of their top priorities in this year’s draft. Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III would make a lot of sense for the Steelers, who have the 15th overall pick, assuming they are comfortable with his recovery from the surgery that fixed torn meniscus in his left knee.

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McShay Mock Draft 1.0: Steelers 

December, 18, 2013
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The 6-8 Steelers barely remain alive in the playoff hunt, but it's been a disappointing season by Pittsburgh standards. After starting the season 0-4, Pittsburgh has righted the ship behind better play from QB Ben Roethlisberger. But the defense has struggled mightily and needs a lot of help, especially on the back end.

Who should the Steelers draft in Round 1?

Todd McShay released his first 2014 mock draft Wednesday, and in doing so identified the biggest areas of need for the Steelers. Pittsburgh needs help at offensive tackle, cornerback and safety. Here's McShay's pick and analysis for the Steelers in Round 1.


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