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hawaiiansteel
04-03-2010, 08:04 PM
2010 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers Draft Board Begins To Take Shape


Thirteen down, 17 more to go.

The Steelers have brought in 13 of the 30 prospects that they are permitted to meet prior to the 2010 draft.

These visits can be a clear indication of players or positions the team is interested in, or they could be smokescreens. It is difficult to tell. What is not difficult is to see that they have brought in nine defensive players to only four offensive players so far.

Look back to 2007, Mike Tomlin’s first draft. Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, Daniel Sepulveda, and Ryan McBean all visited the Steelers. They were also four of the Steelers' first five draft selections.

In 2008, they only drafted two of the 30 prospects they brought in: Dennis Dixon and Ryan Mundy. The following year, Pittsburgh drafted Joe Burnett, Frank Summers, Ra’Shon Harris, and A.Q. Shipley, all pre-draft visitors.

So far this year, three offensive linemen and one receiver have visited with the Steelers, while three cornerbacks, three linebackers, two safeties, and one defensive lineman have come to Pittsburgh.

Reading into the visits, it is clear that the Steelers will be looking to build the offensive line and get younger on defense.

Guards Chris DeGreare of Wake Forest and Jacques McClendon of Tennessee, as well as Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold, have been the offensive line visits thus far.

The Steelers should have competition at the right guard position, and they appear to be looking for more. Trai Essex made 16 starts last season, and undrafted rookie free agent Ramon Foster made four. It is also expected that last year’s third-round selection, Kraig Urbik, would have developed to the point where he should be a legitimate contender to battle it out with Essex and Foster.

DeGreare and McClendon are both late-round prospects that would need time to develop. They would be drafted for nothing more than depth.

Saffold is a more intriguing prospect. He has the ability to play every position but center and projects as a starter in the NFL. If the Steelers miss out on one of the elite tackle prospects in the first round, Saffold would be a quality addition in the second.

Defensively, it appears that the Steelers are looking for help across the board.

Even after drafting defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Ra’Shon Harris last season, the Steelers may be looking to improve their depth. Enter Mike Neal, defensive end from Purdue.

Neal is a strong, physical player who plays well against the run. He would have to make the transition from defensive tackle to defensive end in the Steelers defense. As a team leader, he would be a great character addition to the team as well. Neal definitely has upside as a fourth- or fifth-round pick.

Pittsburgh will also be taking a strong look at its defensive backfield after bringing in safeties Darrell Stuckey from Kansas and Brandon Ghee from Wake Forest, as well as cornerbacks Nolan Carroll from Maryland, Kareem Jackson from Alabama, and Kyle Wilson from Boise State.

On the surface, the Steelers appear to be set at safety after re-signing Ryan Clark and adding Will Allen. However, there is room for improvement. Stuckey and Ghee both have a second- or third-round projection, and each offers a different skill set.

Stuckey is a safety who has decent playmaking ability, with eight career interceptions, and good recovery speed.

Ghee was a cornerback in college but may make the transition to safety in the NFL. He is an athletic player with an upside, but he needs polish. The lack of playmaking would also be a concern, as Ghee only has one career interception.

The number of cornerbacks the Steelers are bringing in is interesting. Last year, they spent two draft selections on cornerbacks—Keenan Lewis in the third and Joe Burnett in the fifth. Given their limited playing time, it is unknown what the potential of either player is.

Jackson has a second round grade and Carroll a fifth-round grade. While each has some upside, it may not be significantly better than what the Steelers already have. Wilson, however, can be a No. 1 corner in the league and has been the only prospect with a first-round projection that the Steelers have brought in so far.

Wilson is quickly moving up draft boards, and there is a realistic chance that the Steelers draft him to start across from Ike Taylor. With 11 career interceptions, he would be the additional playmaker that the Steelers desperately need in their secondary.

The knock on Wilson is his size, but he weighs about the same as top cornerback prospect Joe Haden and is less than an inch shorter. Wilson may be the top cornerback on some draft boards.

As with the secondary, the Steelers also appear to be set at linebacker after signing Larry Foote. Still, it's another area where they can improve. Albert McClellan of Marshall and Eric Norwood of South Carolina would both appear to be outside linebacker prospects.

Rated as a second- or third-round selection, Norwood is the more highly rated player between the two and would have to take on the role of a pass-rushing specialist. He may not be the best fit in the Steelers defense, though. However, this has not kept Tomlin from trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

The same could be said about inside linebacker Navorro Bowman from Penn State. As a potential second-round selection, Bowman would have to transition positions and is not the ideal inside linebacker for the Steelers defense. Instead, Tomlin and Co. may be more interested in Bowman’s teammate, Sean Lee. Lee has not visited with the Steelers.

Over the next few weeks leading up to draft day, the Steelers will use up their remaining 17 prospect visits. If the trend continues, they will be bringing in a high volume of defensive players and focus on the line with the offensive players that they bring in.

Will they stick to this draft board? That is yet to be determined. The NFL draft is a tricky thing to predict, and it is difficult to sort through what is a legitimate interest in a player and what is a smokescreen.

However, one thing that is clear is that the Steelers have recognized the areas that need improvement on the team—upgrading talent on the offensive line and getting younger on defense. Only three weeks away to see if they follow through.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/3724 ... take-shape (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/372435-steelers-draft-board-is-beginning-to-take-shape)