Steelers select Darqueze Dennard #KRM
Longtime friend of the site, Tom Moore, drew the Steelers straw. The Steelers. Pretty much a train wreck last year… and yet… they placed one slot out of the playoffs and even then, the NFL agreed that they were dicked by a blown call which enabled San Diego to get in. Yet even in their failure, it was Steelers/Browns finale that purportedly caused Jimmy Haslam to leave Heinz Field in a huff and helped set in motion the Théâtre de l’Absurde that was the Browns’ off-season. The lesson as always: don’t sleep on the Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are at a crossroads as they head into the 2014 NFL Draft.
The team is coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons without a playoff appearance, and since winning the Super Bowl in 2008, the Steelers have missed the playoffs three times – and lost their opening playoff game one other season.
Of course, the Steelers are a franchise that doesn’t rebuild, but rather one that reloads – just ask any Steeler fan. (Just ignore the Mark Malone, Bubby Brister and Mike Tomczak years, if you please. And probably parts of the Kordell Stewart era.)
Be that as it may, Pittsburgh has holes to fill and is facing some hard choices in the upcoming draft.
On offense, the clock may be ticking on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who recently turned 32 and is entering his 11th season. Last season he started all 16 games for only the second time in his career – and the first since 2008 – and the Steelers could look to give him some more weapons before time runs out.
For the second consecutive year, Pittsburgh lost a starting wide receiver in Emmanuel Sanders (67 receptions for 740 yards and six touchdowns in 2013), as well as Jerricho Cotchery (10 touchdown receptions), in free agency. Pittsburgh added Lance Moore, a nine-year veteran, and the disappointing Darrius Heyward-Bey (ranked No. 107 by Pro Football Focus among the 110 most-used receivers in the NFL last year) as free agents, but neither will cause many defensive backs in the AFC North to lose sleep.
With Texas A&M’s Mike Evans off the board, if the Steelers want to give Roethlisberger another target to pair with Antonio Brown, they could look at Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin (6-foot-5 and 240 pounds). According to his draft profile at NFL.com, Benjamin is “a monster-sized, intimidating, big-play receiver, (who) has the overall strength, length and wide catching radius that will demand extra coverage be rolled his way. (He) showed continual improvement, (and while he) is still growing into the position, (he) possesses the traits to become a legitimate No. 1 receiver.”
Tight end could be in a play as well, as Heath Miller suffered an ACL injury in December of 2012. While Miller came back for the third game of the season last year, he will be 32 this fall and the Steelers could be looking for his replacement. If that is the case, the pick could be Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas, a John Mackey Award finalist as a senior after making the switch from outside linebacker to tight end.
While Pittsburgh could go offense with their first pick, it just doesn’t feel like something the Steelers will do, primarily because the team has holes on the defensive side of the ball, where they got real old real quick.
At safety, the Steelers brought back Troy Polamalu for a 12th season, and replaced Ryan Clark with free agent Mike Mitchell. And we can’t forget last year’s fourth-round draft pick, Shamarko Thomas, a player the Steelers selected with a pick acquired from the Cleveland Browns, a move that some misguided members of the Cleveland media declared will “haunt” the Browns.
Even though the Steelers may feel they are OK at safety, they are thin at cornerback, with Ike Taylor returning for his 12th year (after taking a pay cut) and Cortez Allen as starters, with William Gay as the nickel back. Pittsburgh has not drafted a cornerback in the first round since 1997, but this year could be the year that all changes.
At 6-foot and 202 pounds, Gilbert is “a big, fast, athletic, man-cover corner capable of locking down receivers and creating big plays in the return game. Is the most physically gifted cover man in this year’s draft and has the athletic talent to walk into a starting job and match up with big receivers from Day One if he continues to work at his craft after a big payday and prepares like a pro.”
Dennard is just a tick smaller at 5-11 and 199 pounds, but is also a “big, strong, athletic, instinctive press-man corner, (one) who elevated his game as a senior, is deceptively fast and has the desirable size to match up with big receivers.”
In a division that features the likes of Josh Gordon (6-3, 225 pounds), A.J. Green (6-4, 207) and Mohamed Sanu (6-2, 210), among others, we may be on to something here with the big cornerbacks. (Wait! Shouldn’t the Browns be looking at these guys?)1
Throw in the fact that the Steelers like their defensive backs to play the run as well as the pass, and that their secondary only had six interceptions last year, and the need to upgrade the defensive side of the ball may outweigh the desire to help Roethlisberger and the offense.
And if you are into that kind of thing, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin talked to Evans at the NFL Combine (gasp!) and, along with general manager Kevin Colbert, reportedly attended the Pro Days of both Gilbert and Dennard Pro Day (double gasp!)
While Gilbert would probably be a solid pick, Dennard just feels like the type of player that would fit in with the Steelers.
Sorry Browns fans.
I love me some Justin Gilbert but Dennard DOES feel more like a Steeler. Can’t explain it. If the Browns were picking here I’d want them to take Gilbert but Dennard to Steelers? Yeah. Sounds right.
GrandRiverRustlers has the Cowboys pick and the pick is in! Tune in tomorrow for the unveiling.
- If the real mock plays out like the KRM, I surely hope the Browns have Jerry Jones on speed dial before the Ravens pick. [back]