The Steelers are permitted to host 30 prospects for pre-draft visits. With less than two weeks until the draft, visits are in full swing. Pre-Draft Visits are a good indicator of the Steelers draft priorities as they have selected 33 players in the last 8 years that came on a pre-draft visit (and signed a handful more as undrafted free agents). While the Steelers have a history of using about half of their picks each year on prospects who have visited, the Steelers have also used these visits to bring in players that might have some question marks on their resume including medical evaluations and off-field questions. The Steelers will also use pre-draft visits to do some extra scouting on players that will likely be undrafted free agents that they may have on their radar.
Previous Draft Visit summaries:
Duke Dawson (CB-Florida), Joel Iyiegbuniwe (LB-Western Kentucky), Brogan Roback (QB-Eastern Michigan)
Malik Jefferson (LB-Texas), Jermaine Carter (LB-Maryland), BJ Hill (DT-NC State), MJ Stewart (CB-UNC)
Dorian O’Daniel (LB-Clemson)
Jordan Mailata (Australian Rugby, converting to OT)
Russell Gage (WR-LSU)
Darrius Leonard (LB-South Carolina St)
For more background on some other draft prospects the Steelers may have an interest in, check out our Steel City Blitz Prospect Profiles.
For each prospect, I added Rankings from some of the more reliable draft analysts around – Lance Zerlein of NFL.com, Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout, and Matt Miller of Bleacher Report. Additionally, I listed three athleticism metrics: SPARQ, RAS, and Mock Draftable “webs.” SPARQ rankings are from 3 Sigma Athlete and measure of explosiveness and athleticism with a score of 100 for an “average” NFL athlete. Over the past few seasons, the Steelers have targeted players in the draft with high SPARQ rankings. RAS (or “Relative Athletic Score“) was developed by Kent Lee Platte of The Pride of Detroit. While SPARQ uses 100 as the average score, RAS is on a relatively simple 0-10 scale with 5 as the “average” player at the position. Mock Draftable is a great site that compiles testing data from draft prospects and keeps historical records to provide comparables for each player.
WR – Texas A&M
5’10” 201 lbs
CBS Sports: #18 WR (#129 overall)
NFL.com: #7 WR
NFL Draft Scout: #3 WR (#32 overall)
Bleacher Report: #3 WR (#39 overall)
Analysis: Kirk played as a slot receiver and kick returner for Texas A&M. He fits right into the size mold that the Steelers seem to love for WRs (5’10” and around 190 lbs). He has great short-area quickness and is able to maintain speed through his cuts. He can get separation in close areas and excelled both in the slot and as a kick returner. He is hailed as a high-character player with a positive attitude – something the Steelers have made a focus of the last few years. He is not an elite athlete but can be explosive out of his breaks. He was a 3-year starter at Texas A&M and has been a fixture of the Aggies offense since his true freshman season when he had over 1000 receiving yards. He scored 12 times (including 3 punt returns) as a sophomore and was first-team All-SEC at 3 different positions. As a junior he scored 7 receiving TDs, a punt return TD and a kickoff return TD and capped off his career with a monster bowl game against Wake Forest.
DT – LSU
6’3″ 305 lbs
SPARQ: insufficient data
RAS: insufficient data
CBS Sports: unranked
NFL.com: #32 DT
NFL Draft Scout: #26 DT (#294 overall)
Bleacher Report: #37 DT (#369 overall)
Citrus Bowl vs Notre Dame (2 tackles, 1 sack)
Analysis: Gilmore is a run-stuffing nose tackle and seemingly fits the mold of what the Steelers are looking for at the position. On Episode 67 of the Steel City Blitz podcast, we discussed the Steelers needs on the defensive line are for a hunker-down two-gapping plugger at nose tackle. Javon Hargrave is an effective penetrator but can get blown off the ball in run downs. What the Steelers need is someone who can stand their ground and bull rush their way into blowing up plays. Gilmore projects as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent, but could replace Daniel McCullers in the lineup and likely see 10 snaps per game in obvious run down scenarios. Gilmore flashed some playmaking ability during his senior season with 53 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 7.5 sacks.
DT – Delaware
6’3″ 306 lbs
CBS Sports: #26 DT (#316 overall)
NFL.com: #18 DT
NFL Draft Scout: #17 DL (#162 overall)
Bleacher Report: #27 DT (#255 overall)
vs Virginia Tech (5 tackles, 1 sack)
Analysis: Nichols played tight end and defensive end in high school then bulked up in college and moved to the interior of the defensive line. He displays great burst and athleticism for someone his size. Nichols is a high-effort player that does not quit on plays and keeps working, particularly when moving down the line against outside runs. There are some concerns about him playing too upright and the fact that he played against FCS competition and was not dominant. He will likely be a late Day 3 pick.
LB – Florida State
6’2″ 232 lbs
CBS Sports: #14 OLB (#158 overall)
NFL.com: #23 LB
NFL Draft Scout: #12 ILB (#258 overall)
Bleacher Report: #37 LB (#332 overall)
2016 Orange Bowl vs Michigan (11 tackles, 3.5 TFLs)
Analysis: Thomas performed well at the East-West Shrine Game after a tumultuous collegiate career. He missed most of his freshman year with a shoulder injury, was suspended for six games his sophomore year for violating team rules, then was academically ineligible for the 2015 season. Thomas turned things around and led the team in tackles in both his redshirt junior and senior seasons. He had a monster game in the Orange Bowl against Michigan to end his junior season (11 tackles, 3.5 TFLs). He has the best athletic profile of any inside linebacker in the draft, posting a higher SPARQ score than even Leighton Vander Esch. That said, he does not have great instincts and is better going side-to-side than directly downhill. He can get overwhelmed by blocks and seems to sit and wait rather than to attack against the run. On the plus side, his explosive athleticism and long frame will give him an opportunity on special teams early in his career and he can be a capable linebacker in coverage. Thomas likely won’t hear his name called until the third day of the draft, but with his athleticism someone will gamble on being able to mold him into an NFL player, either as a 3-4 Mack or 4-3 Will.
S – Penn State
6’2″ 215 lbs
CBS Sports: #8 FS (#137 overall)
NFL.com: #10 S
NFL Draft Scout: #2 FS (#67 overall)
Bleacher Report: #7 S (#96 overall)
Analysis: Allen is a big, physical, downhill safety who led Penn State in tackles with 110 last season, an absurd number for a safety. He is a strong tackler that has good straight-line speed to close down on outside runs or to shut down the backside. He plays with a linebacker’s mentality and can match up with tight ends in coverage. He is better in the box or closer to the line where he can hit something than as a single-high rover and does not have a sharp cut or change of direction ability. All reports out of the locker room say good things about him as a teammate and he was a team captain for the Nittany Lions.
S – Southern Miss
6’1″ 199 lbs
SPARQ: insufficient data
CBS Sports: #4 FS (#95 overall)
NFL.com: #6 S
NFL Draft Scout: #5 FS (#125 overall)
Bleacher Report: unranked
Independence Bowl vs Florida St (14 tackles)
Analysis: Moore was not invited to the Combine but put up very good numbers at his Pro Day, including a 4.32 40-yard dash. He started his career at Pearl River Community College before transferring to Southern Miss. He improved in his two years with the Golden Eagles, recording 87 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 10 passes defended last season. He plays fast and with range and is a good tackler all over the field. Moore could come off the board in Day 2 due to his athleticism and ability to play as a single high safety and come down into the box to challenge the run. He is capable in coverage and has the ability to add some weight to his lanky frame.