Steelers select Darqueze Dennard #KRM

darqueze-dennard-michiganjpg-ccfc2240d2f0c9a6

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.

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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.

troy-niklas

Troy Niklas might could play both sides for the Steelers.

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.

The two players the Steelers may be looking at are Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert and Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard.

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.”

Darqueze-DennardDennard 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.
Pick #TeamSelection
(linked to KRM post)
Reader
1TexansBlake Bortlesjpftribe
2RamsGreg RobinsonDave Kolonich
3JaguarsSammy WatkinsClevTA
4BrownsJadeveon ClowneyZarathustra
5RaidersKhalil MackPete Franklin
6FalconsJake MatthewsOXR
7BucsJohnny ManzielPeterM
8VikingsTeddy Bridgewatertrashycamaro
9BillsTaylor Lewanclay
10LionsHa’Sean Clinton-Dixbluedog93
11TitansAnthony Barrkanick
12GiantsEric EbronRod of Disaster
13RamsMike EvansMatt Borcas
14BearsAaron DonaldJRich
15SteelersDarqueze Dennard tmoore94
16CowboysLouis NixGrandRapidsRustlers
17RavensJustin GilbertMGBode
18JetsBrandin CooksZarathustra
19DolphinsZack Martintrashycamaro
20CardinalsCalvin PryorJRich
21PackersJace AmaroClevTA
22EaglesMarqise LeeGrandRapidsRustlers
23ChiefsRa'Shede Hagemanclay
24BengalsBradley RobyOXR
25ChargersKyle Fullertexinottawa
26BrownsDerek CarrChuckKoz
27SaintsOdell Beckham tmoore94
28PanthersXavier Su'a-Filojpftribe
29PatriotsTimmy Jerniganbluedog93
30NinersJason VerrettRod of Disaster
31BroncosCJ MosleyPete Franklin
32SeahawksCameron FlemingDave Kolonich
33 (2nd rd)TexansTroy NiklasMatt Borcas
34RedskinsStephon Tuittkanick
35BrownsRyan ShazierMGBode
36Raiders
  1. 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]

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  • The more I looked into it the more I was ready to call chuckkoz to see if he wanted to move up with the Browns pick from 26 so the Browns could take Dennard. Clowney and another top CB would go a long way toward solving some of the Browns problems.

    Oh well.

    Now that this mock draft is moving along I’m going to be interested to see how closely the real first round goes as there has been plenty of good info in all of these picks.

    • mgbode

      Mock drafts have always been more of a thought exercise, but they are even moreso now that the CBA restricts rookie salaries as picks are traded much too frequently to get a good gauge of how the draft will fall-out based on teams and their priorities.

  • maxfnmloans

    Of course Dennard feels like a Steeler. He’s going from one mouth breathing, couch burning, foul smelling fan base to another. Pittsburgh is East Lansing, with fewer government employees.

    This is good analysis and good reasoning why the Steelers would draft Dennard, should he fall to them. He plays like members of the Seahawks secondary…gets good contact at the line, disrupts routes well, has good recovery speed, good ball skills and is not afraid to hit someone in the mouth. Obviously, he’d never make it to Seattle’s pick, I’m just saying that’s the type of player I think he will be. I sure hope he doesn’t make it to the Steelers because I’d hate having to go against him twice a year, say maybe Detroit takes him to help their abysmal secondary (I realize that in #KRM land, that’s not possible, obvs). .

    • add together the lions’ need at d-back and the MSU angle and dennard makes a whole lot of sense for the lions.

      i’m very enthralled with j.gilbert and, in particular, his measurables but we all watched that MSU defense evolve into one of the best college Ds ever. dennard was a big (if not the biggest) part of that.

      • maxfnmloans

        Since MSU did have 3 Dbs on the first team all B1G this year, some might think that Dennard was able to be so successful because he was part of a very talented unit. Others could argue that Dennard’s ability helped make the other members of the unit look good. I’m no expert, but I remember Dennard being the cause of more expletive laced soliloquies that scared my dogs than either Drummond or Lewis.

        I think that MSU defense was one of the three best in the Big Ten since PSU joined in 1991.

    • mgbode

      Pitt : East Lansing as Gary, In : Ann Arbor

      speaking of AA meetings, I see the Wolverines scheduled Appalachian State again next year.

      • maxfnmloans

        much to the chagrin of most every Michigan fan, yes they did. They have absolutely nothing to gain by scheduling them. Even if they win, whoop-dee-doo.

        • mgbode

          yeah, that’s why I found it funny. you cannot have a revenge game when you are Michigan and they are App-State. that you did it while completely re-structuring your offense and Hoke’s seat getting a little toasty just makes it more appealing as a non-Michigan fan.

          • maxfnmloans

            your post makes me want to smack myself in the face with a 2 x 4

  • mgbode

    Everyone ends up with elite WRs and teams counter by obtaining elite CBs. It only makes sense.