Welcome to the buckeyehoppy 2012 Steelers Mock Draft. Been a busy start to 2012, but happy to check in with Planet Steelers to provide my annual, keen observations on just who should be worthy enough to become a member of the Steeler Family.
Once again this year, I am ruling out the notion that the Steelers might trade into or out of picks, so my mock will not assume trades. This year's draft, however, doesn't appear to offer much in the way of impact past the 3rd Round anyway. A team who is already noted for not doing much trading of draft picks, such as the Steelers, might be even less inclined to do so this year. The talent past the second day is largely a crap shoot, so my projections in Rounds 4 through 7 are mostly guesswork based on need.
New this year, I am offering alternate possibilities for the direction the Steelers might go in the draft in Rounds 1 through 4. The draft, being the inexact science that it is, pretty much begs for flexibility from those who would do the work to look up the possible next generation of Steelers greats. Also, as I have done the last two years, I am assembling a list of guys whom I am pretty sure will fall completely under the radar and into free agency after the draft.
And you can, as always, be sure that the views expressed here will largely be ignored by Kevin Colbert and the Brain Fart Trust, even though they at times are taken to heart by such football powerhouses as the Cleveland Browns, so you may be confident in the knowledge that the expertise here might just land the Steelers in last place. Nevertheless, they are the expressed views of buckeyehoppy, always the Steeler sycophant extraordinaire and always hopeful that I might have a nugget of wisdom!
1.24 (24): Dont'a Hightower, 6'2Ό", 265#, ILB, Alabama
Assuming he's still on the board, it would be irresponsible of the Steelers not to make this selection. With the loss of James Farrior, Hightower's upside projects to a day one starter in the Steelers scheme. Also, the talent pool at this position simply isn't that deep and the Steelers would run the risk of getting someone much deeper in the draft who would almost surely be a project. Sylvester has potential to be a starter at ILB. But, for now, he's almost as valuable as depth, especially if Hightower or Timmons sustain an injury. Hightower possesses tools that would allow him to step into a leadership role for this team for many years to come.
Other considerations: Hightower is The Man if he is on the board. If he is not, certainly they might have a 50/50 chance at DT Dontari Poe from Memphis. Also, a trade down to amass another mid-round pick wouldn't be out of the question. If they do, SS Harrison Smith from Notre Dame comes to mind as someone who can take the pressure off of Troy and Clarkie and step into the Clark role when he is done. OT Jonathan Martin from Stanford would also be a low risk pick if the Steelers stand at #24.
2.24 (56): Bobby Massie, 6'6⅛", 316#, OT, Mississippi
The thing that is exciting about Massie is that he's athletic and versatile along the line with the ability to play multiple line positions, always a plus to NFL teams. Assuming the Steelers are looking to move Gilbert to LT, that would enable Massie to start right away at RT, using the Scotts and Colon as depth, as well as considering Colon to go inside to a more natural G position for him. Massie would fill a position of obvious need for the Steelers and add immediate and much needed depth.
Other considerations: if he is still (amazingly) on the board at 2.56, the Steelers would still need to give a long look at Smith, mentioned in the 1st Round as a fall back. Also, DT Alameda Ta'amu from Washington would fit well into the Steelers scheme if he is available.
3.23 (86): Brandon Brooks, 6'5", 346#, G, Miami (Ohio)
Considering the Steelers track record with players from the Mid-American Conference and the demonstrated need for a capable guard, this pick would be the right one on many levels. Brooks would be an asset to the run game, while offering the always valuable trait of position versatility on the line. He has durability concerns. But the Steelers need for depth on the line has never been more obvious and Brooks at least would give that to this team while being a capable producer to the left side protecting Ben. And, as mentioned before, the Steelers could do worse than considering a move of Colon to the interior and see if he can handle duties at LG while Brooks plays into starting form.
Other considerations: it would be hard to look past DT Brandon Thompson from Clemson if he was available. Same with Ta'amu if he's, miraculously, still around. Also not out of the question would be a CB and the Steelers would be wise to look at Jamell Fleming from Oklahoma, Dwight Bentley from Louisiana-Lafayette or Casey Hayward from Vanderbilt.
4.24 (119): Josh Chapman, 6'0⅞", 316#, DT, Alabama
This would be a logical choice for the Steelers in Round 4, since the schemes employed by Alabama bear a resemblance to those of the Steelers on D. Chapman may not possess all the tools of a Casey Hampton. Then again, does he really need to? With Ziggy and Keisel making plays outside, this will allow a player like Chapman to disturb enough in the middle to allow opportunities for the ends and LBs. In due time, Chapman can develop what he needs to emerge as a starting NT. For now, he can get reps behind Hampton and can spell McLendon while gathering experience.
Other considerations: another option for this pick would be NT Nicolas Jean-Baptiste from Baylor if they like him better than Chapman. CB or S might be looked at here if it hasn't been already addressed, but the value at these two positions in the middle rounds appears to be lacking. That being the case, RB Vick Ballard from Mississippi State or QB Nick Foles from Arizona possess 4th Round value at positions the Steelers are looking to shore up.
5.24 (159): Donnie Fletcher, 6'1", 195#, CB, Boston College
This is a position that could stand some added depth and someone to push Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen as they battle for the starting CB nod on the other side from Ike Taylor. Fletcher comes from a solid program and has the right mix of size, speed and atleticism that will hold him in good stead in the NFL and will get him a solid number of practice reps and possibly more.
6.23 (193): Brandon Hardin, 6'2", 216#, FS, Oregon State
Another player with a ton of potential and good overall measurables. Hardin can be groomed to take over FS once Ryan Clark hangs it up. He is, much like the aforementioned Fletcher, a player who possesses decent size and speed for that size. A pick with some high upside.
7.24 (231): Patrick Witt, 6'3½", 225#, QB, Yale
It must be said right off the bat: the Steelers will draft a QB somewhere in this draft. That being the case, the Steelers could do a lot worse than Patrick Witt. He can provide a solid backup for Ben, while learning the ropes from Charlie Batch and working anew under the framework of the Haley offense. Selecting Witt here has virtually no downside and might be a downright bargain. They also might consider him with the 6th Round pick if they are nervous.
7.33 (240) (Comp selection): Greg Zuerlein, 6'0", 190#, K, Missouri Western St.
Is anyone here completely satisfied with the production of Shawn Suisham? Thought so. That's why this pick makes sense. Besides, it is always a good idea to push the incumbent kicker. Zuerlein is one of the highest regarded kickers coming out this year.
7.39 (246) (Comp selection): Davin Meggett, 5'8Ό", 211#, RB, Maryland
buckeyehoppy loves players with an NFL pedigree. So, when the name Davin Meggett turns up, it gets noticed. He's not all that big. But what he does have is compact and explosive and he could push the incumbent RBs on the current roster for a spot and possibly more.
7.41 (24 (Comp selection): Dwight Jones, 6'3Ό", 230#, WR, North Carolina
A big bodied receiver who could get a solid chance at being a fourth or fifth wideout in the Steelers O. Comes from a top flight program and has good intangibles.
At this point, the draft has ended. Here's a list of a few players the Steelers might want to consider bringing in for a look from the free agent pool:
Jonas Gray, 5'9⅞", 223#, RB, Notre Dame
Players from Notre Dame are at least worth looking at because of the level of competition they face game after game. Bringing in Gray gives the Steelers one more possible player to evaluate at a position with its share of question marks going into the season.
Brandon Bullock, 6'3", 350#, NT, Marshall
The Steelers have had a nice return out of the UDFA pool with Doug Legursky. Perhaps that could happen again with Bullock. It would give the Steelers a large, physical specimen to drill to see if he can pan out.
Chris Greenwood, 6'1Ό", 193#, CB, Albion
A big corner man from a small school. It's likely he will be forgotten on draft day. But the Steelers should have a keen interest in a DB with his measurables.
Sean Cattouse, 6'2⅛", 211#, SS, California
Here's another big DB that the Steelers can fold into the S mix and see if he has enough to work into the LeBeau D.
Jeff Adams, 6'7", 305#, OT, Columbia
The way OL depth has been the last couple years, the more, the merrier. Adams is a big kid from an Ivy League program who might be worthwhile to inspect.
Desmond Wynn, 6'5½", 303#, G, Rutgers
The Steelers haven't had the greatest success with OL men from Rutgers. But it can't hurt to bring in a G who can come close to a 5 flat 40 time. Again, the more, the merrier.