To be very honest, some of these names will change drastically based solely on their performances or lack thereof in Indianapolis so look for these thoughts of mine to change as the May Draft approaches.
Note: These are guys who could potentially be chosen by the Steelers in the first round with the 15th overall pick. We’ll look at more players as the draft nears.
The only three guys I see as viable candidates right now would be Kelvin Benjamin (FSU), Mike Evans (TAM) and Marquise Lee (USC). Any thoughts that Clemson’s Sammy Watkins will still be sitting there can be dismissed immediately unless he is injured or has been kidnapped by aliens.
Evans and Benjamin would provide the big receiver the Steelers have longed for while Lee is probably the more polished and most ‘pro-ready’ of the three but is just 5’11”.
With the hiring of Mike Munchak, I think the idea of drafting an offensive tackle has gone out the window. In fact, I don’t know if it was seriously considered anyway. Should the Steelers be looking at this position as the combine unfolds, I’d expect only Michigan’s Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews to be considered.
Lewan is a very solid tackle with a nasty streak but I wouldn’t put him near former Wolverine Jake Long. Matthews has had many state they think he’ll be a better pro than A&M’s tackle from last year Luke Joeckel who went second overall in the draft.
At 6’1″ 295 lbs, keep an eye on Timmy Jurnigan of Florida State. If you saw the BCS Title game, then you saw him at his best constantly disrupting Auburn. There is some talk that he could slide inside to be a nose but he would need to add some weight.
Louis Nix III of Notre Dame has been mocked to the Steelers more than any other player. If you’re a regular reader of my stuff then you know I think taking a nose tackle here is a wasted pick because they aren’t every down players.
Nix’s teammate at Notre Dame Stephon Tuitt could be a possibility at 15 with strong showings at the combine and on his pro day. He could be just the type of 3-4 defensive end the Steelers like.
I still think drafting a defensive lineman here at 15 is a bit of long shot.
Here at 15, the picks in this category are limited. Much of what the Steelers want at the inside linebacking position will depend on a couple of things. First, does Sean Spence have any chance of coming back? Secondly, just how much did the Steelers like Vince Williams? Lastly, are they willing to go with Larry Foote another year despite his age?
The one guy they have to think about C.J. Mosley of Alabama. This guy is a coach’s dream who studies tons of film, works his tail off in the weight room and is naturally instinctive on the field. He does have some injury concerns but at 15, he’d be the only inside guy I’d look at right now.
Many people believe the Steelers could very well go cornerback here especially if Ike Taylor doesn’t take a pay cut and gets cut. Because this is a deep draft at that position, I think the Steelers will look later but there could be a couple of exceptions.
Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State are most often mentioned as the top corners. Gilbert is a very athletic cover guy, but seems to lack aggression in coming up against the run. That would be a major issue for Dick LeBeau who needs that in his corners.
Dennard played almost exclusively man-to-man defense for the Spartans and was extremely good at it. He’s a good leader and plays with great intensity.
With the visit of former Lion Louis Delmas this week, I think it’s safe to say Ryan Clark will not be back at safety. The two guys you’ll want to keep an eye on are Ha-Ha Clinton Dix of Alabama and Calvin Pryor of Louisville.
Pryor is a big-time hitter and has great size at 6’1″ 210 lbs. He can be a bit undisciplined at times and hasn’t played a lot of man coverage but he is a really interesting prospect. Clinton-Dix is a good run-supporter and obviously had pro-style coaching at Bama. Not sure I’m sold on his coverage skills but we’ll see.
Either of these two could be there at 15 for the Steelers.
The truth is, some of these guys will rise and fall over the next couple of months so stay tuned as the changes occur.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 730pm ET talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.