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.
Safety is also another position the Steelers might target in the first round, and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix could be a strong candidate at No. 15 overall. It figures to be a defense-heavy draft, but a couple of tall wide receivers such as Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin could be in play for the Steelers in the first round.
Check out Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0 to see which players he thinks the Steelers should target with their first pick.