Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wide Receiver, Safety Or Linebacker - Which Will Be The Steelers First Pick?

by Jason and Jayden

They're called mock drafts for a reason...because they're meant to be mocked. Most of them bear no resemblance to what actually transpires, or at best get sporadic selections correct.

However, since we all know the saying about opinions, If It Ain't Steel will poke its nose into this and tell you whom we see as as viable picks, focusing in on the first one at No. 17 in Thursday's draft. We'll readdress players already already covered, via either description or link, and cover one or two players each that could also be skipped over 16 times.

We covered this position fairly extensively in a recent blog post, going over all who are possibilities. -

Now, though, we'll focus on the first round alone, and with the most polarizing player at the position:

Cordarrelle Patterson, in his only college football season in 2012, caught 46 balls for 778 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed the ball 25 times for 308 yards and another three scores, and also returned kickoff and punt return for touchdowns. But I offer as a comparative "so what" the numbers of Tavon Austin who had 114 receptions for 1,289 yards for 12 TDs, rushed 72 times for 643 yards and three scores, and also returned a kick and a punt for touchdowns. Plus, Austin has been doing it for four years, not just one.

Patterson simply lacks polish, especially in his route running. He tips his hand by his feet - showing where the route is going - or by body language. He is very raw, catches the ball with his body too much, seems to get lost at times, doesn't always play to his competition (feasted on weak opponents and was pedestrian against stronger ones) and doesn't always play up to his 6'2" frame.

Don't take our word for it, though. Read what Jim Wexell, writer for Steel City Insider and contributor for Steelers Digest had to say about him: "The only reason I can see the Steelers drafting this receiver – whose Wonderlic score of 11 was surprisingly high to me – is because he’s a dynamic kick returner. With the signing of Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers can also give Patterson a year to learn a rudimentary offensive package. Otherwise, this is not a Kevin Colbert type. Listen to an interview of Robert Woods and then listen to Patterson and you’ll understand what I’m trying to say. But, Patterson gets the short odds because the Pittsburgh public is in love with him." -

Come to think of it, he sounds a lot like Mike Wallace. no wonder "the Pittsburgh public" wants him. Definitely talented, just not first-round talented.

Steelers choose: Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins or trade down.

Troy Polamalu missed nine games with a calf injury in 2012 and 11 in 2009 with a knee injury. At 31 years old with 10 seasons in the NFL, you'd think this is the beginning of the end for the former defensive player of the year.

Don't tell that to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

"He has a lot of tremendous football talent still in him," LeBeau told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Once he got back on the field, I couldn't see any difference in his play than when he was winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

"I know Troy will do everything he can to get himself physically ready to compete for a 16-game season. And we'll have to wait and see (if he can)."

When he came back, as LeBeau alluded to, Polamalu had an interception, a sack and most of his tackles in the last three games. Regardless, with free safety Ryan Clark now 33, the Steelers have to start thinking about the future now. And with Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert saying that they believe there are only about six to eight "special players" in draft, getting depth and (a) future starter(s) at the position is key. -

We've covered several safeties whom we think would fit well with the Steelers. We've highlighted Kenny Vaccaro especially, as well as Matt Elam, Eric Reid, Jonathan Cyprien and Bacarri Rambo. - ~/~

We also went over USC's T.J. McDonald and Syracuse's Sharmarko Thomas briefly. McDonald has the distinction of having pedigree - his father is former USC and NFL safety, Pro Bowler, All Pro and Super Bowl champion Tim McDonald.

Steelers' defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, worked out USC's cornerbacks and safety and called him "an explosive athlete who is quickly able to take what we were asking him to do and apply it to the field. He's so explosive out of his cuts and covers such ground."

But the 6'3" 213-pound prospect won't make it into the first round. Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash of all the safeties at 4.38 seconds (despite falling over at the finish line), had the most reps at the bench press, tied for the highest vertical jump and was one inch off the longest broad jump, is worth drafting high. That said, Thomas may not be considered one of the top safety prospects, but those numbers should do wonders for his draft stock.

Steelers choose: Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid or Matt Elam.

This is where thoughts amongst pundits and fans differ. Jim Wexell, mentioned earlier, leans toward inside linebacker and Kansas State product Arthur Brown, saying that "Brown strikes me as a Mike Tomlin type with his quick-twitch muscle fiber, his suddenness, and his leadership skills." - analyst Mike Mayock has predicted the Steelers will take fan favorite Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, saying "I don't care as much about the potential medical issues, I don't care that he ran 4.9. This kid plays football. He's explosive....I just think he fits what Pittsburgh does." -

Then Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac says someone even different in projecting Florida State defensive end/outside linebacker Bjoern Werner as the pick. Of him, Dulac says he is "one of the best 4-3 defensive ends....He is rangy at 6-3, 261, and can pressure off the edge – something the Steelers have been lacking since the middle of the 2011 season." -

We covered our thoughts for the outside linebacker pick a few times, but most notably when James Harrison was released from the Steelers for refusing to take a pay cut (only to take a bigger one when he recently signed with the Cincinnati Bengals). His ferocity and intensity needs to be replaced. The players we covered all bring that. -

Steelers choose: Jarvis Jones or trade down.

However, there is only one No. 1 pick. So who will be the selection?

This draft is top heavy with high-level wide receivers and safeties. A solid, hardcore OLB, though, could be found in the fourth or even fifth round. That narrows things a bit. Then consider that since Sanders was signed, they don't have to go for a WR in the first. The possibility exists that they could even double dip at the position.

That leaves us to gamble at the safety position and prognosticate that either Vaccaro, Reid or Elam will be the pick. And since Eric Reid resembles another LSU safety already on the Steelers roster...