With the collective bargaining fiasco taking center stage during the NFL offseason, next week’s NFL draft hasn’t gotten the attention that it usually has in the weeks leading up to it. While the draft will still take place during the work stoppage, it will be different than years past. Teams may still trade up or down, but can only trade draft picks instead of players. After the player hears his name called by their new team, then the contact with that team stops. While it’s frustrating what is happening with the players and owners, the draft will allow us to turn our attention to actual football. Since this is a Pittsburgh blog, I am going to give my predictions for which players the Steelers may select in the first three rounds of the draft, and also where the four Pitt players expected to be drafted will land. As an added bonus, I present below a full first-round mock-draft. Because predicting trades is too, well, unpredictable, I’m going to assume all of the teams will draft from their assigned spot.
1. Carolina Panthers – Quarterback Cam Newton, Auburn
2. Denver Broncos – Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus, Alabama
3. Buffalo Bills – Linebacker Von Miller, Texas A&M
4. Cleveland Browns – Wide Receiver A.J. Green, Georgia
5. Arizona Cardinals – Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
6. Cleveland Browns – Defensive End Robert Quinn, North Carolina
7. San Francisco 49ers – Cornerback Patrick Peterson, LSU
8. Tennessee Titans – Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley, Auburn
9. Dallas Cowboys – Offensive Tackle Tyron Smith, USC
10. Washington Redskins – Quarterback Jake Locker, Washington
11. Houston Texans – Cornerback Prince Amukamara – Nebraska
12. Minnesota Vikings – Defensive End Cameron Jordan, California
13. Detroit Lions – Defensive End Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson
14. St. Louis Rams – Wide Receiver Julio Jones, Alabama
15. Miami Dolphins – Center Mike Pouncey, Florida
16. Jacksonville Jaguars – Defensive End Aldon Smith, Missouri
17. New England Patriots – Offensive Tackle Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
18. San Diego Chargers – Defensive End Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
19. New York Giants – Defensive Tackle Corey Liuget, Illinois
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Cornerback Brandon Harris, Miami
21. Kansas City Chiefs – Offensive Tackle Nate Solder, Colorado
22. Indianapolis Colts – Offensive Tackle Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
23. Philadelphia Eagles – Cornerback Jimmy Smith, Colorado
24. New Orleans Saints – Linebacker Akeem Ayers, UCLA
25. Seattle Seahawks – Quarterback Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
26. Baltimore Ravens – Offensive Tackles Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
27. Atlanta Falcons – Cornerback Aaron Williams, Texas
28. New England Patriots – Running Back Mark Ingram, Alabama
29. Chicago Bears – Defensive Tackle Marvin Austin, North Carolina
30. New York Jets – Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Defensive Tackle Phil Taylor, Baylor
32. Green Bay Packers – Linebacker Brooks Reed, Arizona.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Their first-round pick is at #31, their worst position since they lost the Super Bowl. However, the Steelers are in a position where they can pick the best available player on their board. The positions they need to address in this draft are cornerback, defensive line and offensive line. I have the Steelers taking Phil Taylor from Baylor in the first round. The Steelers were impressed by Taylor at his pro-day and he will be groomed as the successor to Casey Hampton in the coming years, per Steelers tradition. Some fans want the Steelers to take Mike Pouncey, Steelers pro-bowler Maurkice’s twin brother. With the success that Maurkice had last season, it only elevated Mike’s draft stock. Unless the Steelers trade up to get the younger Pouncey – the last time they traded up they landed Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes – he will be long gone.
I look for the Steelers to address the cornerback in the second round for sure. Players like Ras-I Dowling, Rahim Moore and Marcus Gilchrist could all be possibilities, but with the 63rd pick, I’m not sure that they will still be around. With this pick, I feel the Steelers will select Curtis Brown, the cornerback out of Texas who played opposite Aaron Williams. Brown has great technique and loves to press the receivers at the line and would be a great fit for the Steelers.
In the third round, the Steelers must address the offensive line. Look for the Steelers to select either Marcus Cannon from TCU or Andrew Jackson from Fresno State. Both will provide much needed protection for Ben Roethlisberger and will provide a great tandem with Pouncey for years to come.
Pitt Panthers -
Jabaal Sheard DE – Sheard will go in the 2nd round after earning his Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. Washington or Baltimore could be potential suitors.
Jon Baldwin WR – All of the talent in the world but questions of his character, drive and down-field speed have hurt Baldwin’s stock. San Diego would be a perfect fit for Baldwin in the second round as the 5th receiver off the board.
Jason Pinkston OT – Pinkston had a good senior season and looks to have a good future in the NFL. Dallas or Seattle look like potential candidates for him.
Greg Romeus DE – After his All-American season in 2009, Romeus seemed like a sure top-15 pick in the draft. After missing last season with back surgery and a torn acl, teams are scared to take a chance on him. If Romeus can remain healthy and is back to full-strength, he will reward the team that selects him. Look for him to go in the 4th or 5th round.
Dion Lewis RB – Maybe the success of Lesean McCoy in the NFL made Lewis decide to enter the draft, but he should have stayed in school another year. At the beginning of last season, Lewis looked to be a first-round pick and a Heisman candidate, but he took a step back last season and only hurt his draft stock. Lewis is my 12th best running back on the board and will be drafted in the 5th or 6th round.
Henry Hynoski FB – Hynoski came to Pitt as a running back, but was converted to fullback, a dying breed in the NFL. Hynoski wasn’t going to fit in Pitt’s new spread system, so he opted for the draft. I can see Hynoski going in the 5th round.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com