Every week from now until the N.F.L. Draft in late-April, Fansided.com’s writers will unveil new and updated versions of their own 2013 N.F.L. Mock Drafts. During this period, I will write up weekly break-downs and provide analysis on each of Pittsburgh’s projected selections from the weekly installments (last week’s is here). Enough of me babbling though, let’s get to my analysis of who Josh Hill believes will be taken by the Steelers (pick #17 of 32 in the 1st Round) in his latest Mock Draft:
John Jenkins, Nose Tackle, Georgia
The Steelers need to upgrade their Defense across the board, and that has more to do with age than it does talent. While Manti Te’o is a decent pick here, seeing as the Steelers run with two interior linebackers, nose tackle Casey Hampton is one of the oldest players on the defense, and Jonathan Jenkins is a vastly underrated prospect. Either Te’o, who like my colleague Josh Sanchez says as well, will fall in this draft and Pittsburgh could use either one.
Hill mocked Jenkins to the Steelers in his last installment, and he has also decided to do so yet again this week. Jenkins is a fine player, make no mistake. Yet when one looks at Pittsburgh’s current depth chart at the Nose Tackle position, the idea of the franchise actually going in that direction in Round 1 would be truly asinine. Heck, even if Hampton is cut/retires this offseason, the Steelers would still have THREE Nose Tackles at their disposal heading into Draft Day: Steve McLendon, Alameda Ta’amu, and the newly acquired Hebron Fangupo.
First of all, why Hill again omitted Steve McLendon from his discussion of the Steelers’ Nose Tackles, I do not know. But it would have been a good idea to include McLendon in Hill’s analysis, especially when #90 is considered to be the team’s starter at the position next year. I for one am excited to see more of McLendon in 2013 as he played well in spurts this part year. On any other team, McLendon would have received more playing time over the course of 2012. Sadly, because Rookies seem to always give way to veterans in spite of how effective both players are, McLendon had to ride the pine behind “Big Snack” for most of the 2013 campaign. McLendon has been groomed over the last four seasons to be Hampton’s heir apparent, and the starting gig should be his to lose next year.
In addition to McLendon, the Steelers will likely have their 2012 4th Round selection, Ta’amu, competing with their newly signed 2012 Rookie waiver acquisition, Fangupo, for the top backup job at the Nose next year. Although both were inactive for most of the season, Ta’amu and Fangupo possess enough talent to become solid backup options in their second seasons, and will likely be given every opportunity to play second-fiddle to McLendon in 2013
Ta’amu will be looking to build off of his tumultuous Rookie year, and will hopefully be able to realize the potential Pittsburgh’s brass saw in him when they traded up in the 4th Round to select him last April. Hopefully Alameda will be able to work past his recent run-in with the law, because his ability to eat space in the trenches is terrific. Like Ta’amu, I am also interested to see how Fangupo performs next year because he had gained some experience as a 5-Technique Defensive End in college at Brigham Young. Although the competition will not inspire big headlines, the competition between Ta’amu and Fangupo for playing time/roster spot behind McLendon will be something to watch for this Summer.
Ultimately, the acquisition of another Nose Tackle would make little to no sense for a team like the Steelers. Larry Foote and Keenan Lewis will be Unrestricted Free Agents this offseason, Ryan Clark along with Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood will be set to become UFA’s after the 2013 campaign, and James Harrison will be due two more big paydays over the final years of his current contract. Then when one factors in how ineffective LaMarr Woodley has been over the last two years, plus all of Troy Polamalu’s recent injuries, it is pretty evident that Nose Tackle depth is the least of Pittsburgh’s numerous Defensive problems from a personnel perspective.
Overall, the Steelers will need an Inside Linebacker, an Outside Linebacker, help at both Safety spots, and the addition of another Cornerback would not hurt one bit. At #17, or wherever they end up selecting in Round 1 this April, Pittsburgh is sure to find a play-maker at either of those five positions before they add a 4th Nose Tackle to their roster. Thus, it would be truly asinine if G.M. Kevin Colbert actually wasted such an important pick on a 4th Nose Tackle, especially when the beleaguered Steelers’ Defense has so many holes and depth issues at other positions.
I would much rather see McLendon get his shot to start in 2013, the two youngsters duke it out for backup reps all offseason long, and the Steelers take an impact player at another Defensive position in Round 1. But hey, that’s just my take on the whole situation.
How about you readers? Should the Steelers take a Nose Tackle in Round 1? Should they take one at all? You know where I stand on the situation, now it’s your turn to chime in with your thoughts and musings.