Mocking the Steelers, V. 1.0
It is way too early to confidently project which round most players will fall, particularly for those outside of the first round. However, all of these players listed in these two mock drafts could potentially be available in these spots when the Steelers pick based on current projections by multiple draft services. Both drafts also assume the Steelers are awarded fifth and seventh-round compensatory picks for the free agent losses of Nate Washington and Bryant McFadden during last offseason.
Mock A has no trades, assumes S Ryan Clark is not resigned and that the Steelers sign a cheaper free agent safety before or after the draft who is more likely a hybrid SS/FS. This mock also assumes Casey Hampton is franchised but not extended. No other major FA signees.
1. Earl Thomas, FS, Texas, 5-foot-10, 195 pounds: Perfect, ballhawking FS compliment to Troy Polamalu. Thomas would also fit in well in the dime and can play some CB in a pinch.
2. Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama, 5-11, 195: CB is a huge need with Ike Taylor set to be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after 2010 and RCB William Gay, who struggled in 2009, also slated to be an UFA after 2010 if a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is eventually reached. Jackson is a fundamentally-sound CB who is solid in run support but not a great athlete for a CB. With the lack of size of Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis an unknown at this point, Jackson is a solid pick at this point.
3. Kyle Calloway, OT, Iowa, 6-7, 315: The Steelers have very little depth at tackle with starting guard Trai Essex the top reserve at both tackle spots. Willie Colon will become an unrestricted free agent if the owners and players ever reach a new CBA, so Calloway, who has played both tackle spots well in the Big Ten, would give Pittsburgh options beyond Tony Hills.
4. Torrell Troup, NT, UCF, 6-3, 310: Troup's stock is rising and he may not be available this late in April. However, he is not a likely NFL starter from day one, which is fine for the Steelers who would pencil him in as third-team NT for 2010 and starter for 2011.
5. Micah Johnson, ILB, Kentucky, 6-2, 260: Steelers get a steal here with this poor man's Levon Kirkland. Johnson's stock has fallen, because he is injured and will not work out at the combine or maybe even afterward. He may need a redshirt rookie year, which is just fine for a Pittsburgh squad that will have James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, and Keyaron Fox ahead of him.
5. Cameron Sheffied, OLB, Troy, 6-3, 255: Converted defensive end with good long-term potential. Who do the Steelers have behind Lamar Woodley and the aging James Harrison? That lack of quality depth is why outside linebacker is a bigger need then some think.
6. Andre Dixon, TB, UConn, 6-1, 200: Had some off-the-field problems earlier in his career, but apparently developed into a leader and good locker-room guy. Would represent good value if still on the board here.
7. David Reed, WR, Utah, 6-0, 190: Productive WR who catches everything in sight. A good No. 5 to have, especially if the drop-prone Limas Sweed is your No. 4 WR.
7. Mike Kafka, QB, Northwestern, 6-3, 215: Someone to battle Charlie Batch for the third QB spot or at least make the practice squad. Really improved as a senior.
Mock Draft B has one trade. Packers need a pure OT in this draft and trade their first-round pick (23rd overall) and third-round pick to the Steelers for their first-round pick (18) and the first of their two seventh-round picks. This is a close trade via the trade value chart. This mock also assumes Ryan Clark is resigned to a three- or four-year deal, Casey Hampton is franchised with the plans of eventually extending him at the right price or possibly franchising him again if there is a 2011 season, and there are no other FA signees before the draft.
1 (23). Mike Lupati, OG, Idaho, 6-5, 325: A potential all-pro at OG. He would start over Essek in the season opener and make the Steelers' one weakspot on offense much better. No tackle the Steelers could potentially draft at 18 would start over Max Starks, who is paid handsomely to be the long-term LT, or Willie Colon, who is the Steelers' offensive lineman, and Pittsburgh would likely not consider moving Colon inside to start a rookie tackle in 2010 due to the discontinuity. Thus, RG and C are the two spots most needing of an immediate upgrade. Moreover, down the road, Lupati seemingly could also be a solid RT and could play LT in a pinch after developing more in pass protection. With Lupati and the improving Chris Kemoeatu at guard, the Steelers would have a much improved run offense in 2010 and potentially could be unstoppable on that side of the ball.
2. Chad Jones, S, LSU, 6-3, 225. Even with Ryan Clark back, the Steelers must get a quality third safety due to Troy Polamalu's injury problems and the big-hitting Clark also aging. Jones is a hybrid who has the size and hitting ability to play SS, as well as the instincts and athleticism to play FS.
3. Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest, 6-0, 190: Ghee could potentially start over William Gay immediately. Moreover, CB is a huge need with Ike Taylor an UFA after 2010 and Gay joining him that offseason if a CBA is reached. The draft boards are all over for Ghee with some saying he is an early second-rounder and others have him in the fourth-round. Regardless, he is a solid all-around, smart, physical CB, who seems perfect for Dick LeBeau's scheme.
3. Toby Gerhart, TB, Stanford, 6-1, 235: The Steelers have never replaced Jerome Bettis' efficiency in the red-zone and short-yardage situations. Gerhart and Lupati could fix that problem in 2010. Gerhart could be a starting-caliber TB as a rookie if Reshard Mendenhall goes down with an injury. Of course, Gerhart also runs tall and the Steelers would not have a speed RB on its roster after the likely free agent departure of Willie Parker.
4. Thad Gibson, OLB, Ohio State, 6-2, 240: When everyone thinks Pittsburgh needs ILB, the Steelers' brass often prefers drafting OLB earlier. Gibson should have stayed in school, but he is a potential long-term starter at OLB in the 3-4, where the Steelers have little depth and may want to consider grooming an eventual replacement for All-Pro James Harrison.
5. Freddie Barnes, WR, Bowling Green, 6-0, 210: Pass-catching machine who lacks top-line speed. Could be the Hines Ward's long-term replacement.
5. Jamar Chaney, ILB, Mississippi State, 6-1, 240: A good football player and decent athlete who could potentially be a long-term replacement for James Farrior. Battled injuries but was solid in the SEC.
6. Clifton Geathers, DE, South Carolina, 6-7, 281: Should have stayed in school an extra year, but has excellent bloodlines highlighted by older brother Robert, a starting DE for the Bengals. Travis Kirschke is likely to retire and Geathers could compete for a roster spot, or at least be offered a spot on the practice squad.
7. Aaron Pettrey, PK, Ohio State, 6-1, 200: Most experts believe the Steelers should resign Jeff Reed, a near automatic FG kicker anywhere, including Heinz Field. But Reed's off-field drinking theatrics and league-worst kickoff-distance average make Pettrey an attractive pick. Pettrey missed much of last fall with a knee injury, but has made a full recovery and has a booming leg. Also, Reed could be franchised for a year and the Steelers could keep Pettrey on IR or use him as a kickoff specialist in the short-term while he grooms to become the future full-time kicker.