Aside from their systemic problems, BCS Bowl games and others are good for one thing – a final look at NFL prospects in an elevated game one last time before they hit the draft boards. With the Steelers season well over, they sit smack in the middle of the draft role. That gives them a solid chance of picking up a very good player without having to trade up (at least for now). The BCS Championship game tonight contains some players the Steelers may look at hard tonight and in the combine. Here are some players Steeler Nation should keep an eye on while Notre Dame and Alabama to head to head.
#5 Manti Te’o, LB – Notre Dame
Coming up short in his Heisman bid, Te’o certain took home the accolades in his senior year. The Lott Trophy, Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year is quite a resume to boast going into the 2013 NFL Draft. With his third straight 100+ tackle season with seven interceptions to go with it, Te’o is one of the best pass defending LB’s to be in the draft. Our own Dom did a great write up on Te’o when he hit the Mock Draft boards with the Steelers’ 1st round pick. The Steelers are in desperate need for a coverage LB that will work the middle of the field better in not only zone coverage but in man against TE’s and RB’s as well. This has been a weak spot for the Steelers for some time despite small little glimpses of good cover play from Lawrence Timmons. I agree with Dom and I’m not sure of his eligibility come time for the Steelers to step up to the podium, but it would be a great pick nonetheless. Look for him tonight and how good he is with his vision in the middle of the field.
#28 Dee Milliner, CB – Alabama
Keenan Lewis might prove to be a bit too expensive for the Steelers when it comes time to resign him in the offseason. He is a younger corner in the league and did a well enough job in Pittsburgh that a team desperate for corners might be willing to lay down the Benjamins. Even if they are willing to retain Lewis, Steeler fans are well aware of how difficult it is to find replacements for Ike Taylor and fillin the depth charts from there.
Milliner is a very physical corner that does well against the run and the pass. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe this season and has in his career broken up 34 passes (tied for 2nd in NCAA for active players). Watching some tape of Milliner, one can see that he plays slightly off his coverage and depends on his closing speed and power hitting to break up the ball. He can switch that up and play heavy on a receiver in the slot and defend the slant very well. Milliner could probably go in the top ten due to his natural skills, but has the potential to fall seeing the teams ahead of the Steelers and those teams’ other needs. Keep a close eye on Milliner as he goes up against Notre Dame’s DaVaris Daniels and TJ Jones.
#80 Tyler Eifert, TE – Notre Dame
TE Heath Miller’s injury is pretty serious, and his recovery will be a long one. Will he end up like Adrian Peterson or like Rashard Mendenhall upon his return? I’m an advocate for the former over the later simply because Heath is a beast. But that doesn’t mean the Steelers should waste an opportunity to find some much needed insurance. And let’s be honest, the TE play below Miller in the depth chart was not that great – especially from Leonard Pope. Were the Steelers to make the playoffs this season, they probably would have close to zero chance of advancing without the assistance of Miller.
Eifert is the top receiver for the Irish despite being a TE. He is fast, gets separation in the middle of the field, and has great hands (sounds like Miller already). He could use a boost (legal of course) with his physical presence. He’s missed a few key blocks in the run and passing games and can become bull rushed at times. Eifert, were the junior to announce his intentions for the NFL next season, would fall to the late 1st round or even early in the 2nd if a team like Atlanta (Tony G is soon to retire) doesn’t snatch him up. That’s good news for the Steelers who tend to take the highest valued player matched with need. If they can’t secure a top corner, linebacker or guard, then Eifert could very well find himself holding up a Black & Gold jersey on Draft night. Look for Eifert to wreak havoc over the middle against… that is of course if he can get past C.J. Mosley.
Other players to watch for:
#92 C.J. Mosley, LB – Alabama
Another linebacker to look for in the Championship game is C.J. Mosley. Voted team MVP by his teammates, Mosley has asserted himself this season even though he is not a ‘starting’ LB for the Crimson Tide. 99 tackles and four sacks is certain to turn heads and keep scouts’ eyes locked on him tonight.
#65 Chance Warmack, G – Alabama
At 6’2″ and 322 lbs., Warmack is a beast of a guard. I could see this guy not only give the Steelers plenty of insurance on the inside, but could overtake Willie Colon at the left guard. With the AFC North Division heavy on the heavy lineman (see 330 lbs. Haloti Ngata, 335 lbs. Phillip Taylor, and 300 lbs. Geno Atkins) the Steelers offensive line could use a big lug like Warmack to help push some holes open for the run game, and keep linebackers from stunting inside and get to Ben Roethlisberger in the pass rush.