1. William Jackson III, CB, Houston – Prospect Profile
In breaking down tape, William Jackson III was my favorite prospect I’ve watched as far as fit with the Steelers go. In fact, I liked him so much that I said I’d put him in round 1 despite many seeing a second day pick. After running a 4.39 at the combine, Jackson went from potential 2nd rounder for the Steelers to a guy that very likely could be gone by the time the Steelers pick at 25. If Jackson is on the board, I hope that there is a run to the podium. I say this as a guy that is typically very against first round cornerbacks. In fact, Jackson is probably the only CB that’s realistic at 25 that I’d have any interest in.
2. Jeremy Cash, SS, Duke – Prospect Profile
Cash is a second round pick that could probably step in and take over for Will Allen from day 1. He’ll be a 2nd round pick because he fits a very specific niche in a team’s scheme. He won’t be for everyone, and he won’t ever be a great all around safety. What he does do though, he does well. Cash would play in the box, and would immediately improve the team’s run defense. Putting Cash at strong safety will put more pressure on Mike Mitchell to cover the deep part of the field, but I think that Mitchell is up for the task when he’s healthy.
3. Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois
When you look at Ward, he looks like a Steelers defensive end. Ward stands 6’5″ weighs 297 pounds, and has nearly 34″ arms. Compare that to Cam Heyward’s (6’5″ – 294 – 34.25″) and Stephon Tuitt’s (6’5″ – 304 – 34.75″) rookie weigh-ins and you can see he fits the mold. Mike Tomlin was seen hanging around Ward (and all of the defensive lineman) at the senior bowl. Ward has a lot to like, and is probably more athletic than the Steelers’ current ends but needs to work harder to hold up against the run on the edge. Ward could come in an use his athleticism and quickness to give the Steelers’ ends a breather here or there and maybe even rush the passer from the interior on passing downs, while working on his craft and becoming a more complete player.
4. Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State – Prospect Profile
I know in my profile I said Vannett probably goes in round 2. After a ho-hum combine and as time passes from his strong senior bowl, I think Vannett’s stock could settle back in the mid-rounds (where he belongs in my opinion). Vannet is a nice project in the mid-rounds. You can read my prospect spotlight for more info, but in the short term Vannett could improve the Steelers’ red-zone offense.
7. Cody Kessler, QB, USC
The Steelers have been meeting with several Quarterbacks at the combine, and I think they will definitely look to add a one late in the draft to compete with Landry Jones. It’s not time to look for Ben’s heir yet, but they do need someone to back him up. The team needs to find someone that may be limited, but can complete enough easy passes to let the team’s impressive skill players go win some games in the franchise QB’s absence. Kessler, who is a poor man’s Alex Smith may be just what they need.
7. Joe Haeg, OT/G, North Dakota State
Haeg is a well experienced college tackle that may have to move inside in the NFL, because he has strength issues. He’s pretty athletic though, so he could have a chance of being what Kelvin Beachum was early in his career; a “swiss army knife” backup along the offensive line for the Steelers.