Every week from now until the N.F.L. Draft in late-April, Fansided.com’s writers will be unveiling new and updated versions of their own 2013 N.F.L. Mock Drafts. During this period, I will be writing up weekly break-downs and providing analysis on each of Pittsburgh’s projected selections from Fansided’s weekly installments (last week’s is here). But enough of me babbling though, let’s get to my take on who Josh Sanchez believes will be selected by the Steelers (pick #17 of 32 in the 1st Round) in his latest Mock Draft:
Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame
Pittsburgh needs to go through a youth movement on the defensive side of the ball and there would be no better way to start than to bring in Manti Te’o. Te’o would be a star in the Steelers scheme as he would be able to run free with the big bodies up front eating up blockers. Te’o also brings incredible leadership which would be valuable to Pittsburgh when their aging stars are out the door.
If Te’o actually falls to the Steelers at #17 and they indeed take him, I will be one happy camper. I have stated on multiple occasions that the Defense is in need of depth and a future starter at Inside Linebacker next to Lawrence Timmons, and the selection of Te’o would be an enormous boost on that side of the ball. A 4-year starter at Notre Dame, Te’o was not only a “Tackling Machine” with the Irish over the course of his career, but one of the emotional leaders of the entire football program. Te’o saved his best overall collegiate season for last in 2012 as he registered 103 Tackles, 5.5 TFL’s, 1.5 Sacks, 2 Fumble Recoveries, and an incredible 7 Interceptions!
Unfortunately, I have some misgivings about the prospects of Te’o actually becoming a Steeler though. And no, they nothing to do with Te’o not becoming a terrific player as either a “Buck/Strongside” or a “Mack/Weakside” guy on the Inside during his career with Pittsburgh. My misgivings however have everything to do with the prospects of the 2012 Heisman Trophy runner-up falling all the way to the Steelers at #17 in Round 1.
Why Te’o Is Unlikely to Become a Steeler
Probably the biggest reason why I believe that it will be difficult for the Steelers to select Te’o with the 17th overall pick is the simple fact that Manti might not last that long on the Draft Board to get to Pittsburgh. So who exactly should G.M. Kevin Colbert and the rest of the Front Office fear in front of them on the draft board if Te’o is indeed “their guy?” At least to me, there could be up to three ILB-needy teams drafting from #1-#16 who might be interested in Te’o:
- While many people project Buffalo (8th overall pick) to take a Quarterback with their 1st pick of the 2013 Draft, I see a scenario where Buffalo’s brass and new Coaching Staff led by Doug Marrone go after a signal-caller later than Round 1 like Marrone’s former college Quarterback Ryan Nassib and fill their ILB-need with Te’o. The Bills could definitely stand to have a replacement in line for the veteran Nick Barnett (UFA in 2014), and could definitely use a talented Inside Linebacker to pair with 3rd year man Kelvin Sheppard if they indeed switch back to a 3-4 Defense after employing a 4-3 scheme last year.
- Although the Jets have issues all around on the Defensive side of the ball, a creeping issue for the team could be at Inside Linebacker. Soon to be 33 year-old Bart Scott has not only seen his productivity decline over the last two years, but he is also due $6.9 million dollars in Base Salary for the 2013 season, and $7.75 million dollars in Base Salary for the 2014 season before he reaches UFA status. In addition to Scott, David Harris will also reach UFA status in 2015, and he is also set to receive some hefty Base Salaries over the 2013 ($10.9 million) and 2014 ($7 million) seasons.
- San Diego is also in need of a future starter at Inside Linebacker next to Donald Butler, especially with Takeo Spikes on the down-side of his career and set to become a Free Agent in 2014. Like the Jets, San Diego does have other needs to fill early in this Draft like along their Offensive Line and at Outside Linebacker. Nevertheless, Te’o could intrigue the Chargers enough to warrant a selection at #11 if they do not decide to go in either direction.
But not only will multiple teams in front of Pittsburgh be in the market for Manti, ILB-needy teams set to draft behind the Steelers could be interested in the services of Te’o too.
- Take for instance the Ravens. “Obstruction of Justice/Teary McCriesalot” Lewis is on his way out, and Baltimore will need to find the future Hall of Famer’s replacement at Inside Linebacker as soon as humanly possible. This need is all the more pressing this season after the Patriots swooped in and stole Dont’a Hightower from them in Round 1 last April.
- Although they have built quite the formidable Defensive unit over the last two seasons, Houston could also be in the market for an Inside Linebacker to pair with Brian Cushing. Bradie James will be a UFA this offseason, and the Texans could be willing to move up and select a player like Te’o.
Think about it readers, even if Te’o does somehow last past New Orleans at #15, I bet there is a pretty good chance that St. Louis, slotted at #16, will be fielding calls from at least three to four teams behind the Steelers on the draft board. Teams around the League know how badly the Steelers need help at Inside Linebacker. Thus, if they like Te’o enough to trade up for him, they will assuredly be ready to inquire about trading up in front of a team like Pittsburgh who is in the market for an ILB. I would bring up The 2007 Draft and the Jets trading up for Darrelle Revis right before the Steelers went on the clock, but that would cause me to light my monitor on fire in anger.
I personally do not care where on the Draft Board the Steelers address their Inside Linebacker needs, I simply hope that the position is addressed with one if not two selections this April.
If it is Te’o, or Georgia’s Alec Ogletree, or L.S.U.’s Kevin Minter in Round 1, I will be extremely excited. Of if the Steelers wait until Day 2 to take a player like Stanford’s Shayne Skov, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, or Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene after filling a lager need in Round 1 (FS, SS, CB, OLB), then I will be stoked too. Heck, if the Steelers can mine a Day 3 gem like Florida’s Jelani Jenkins, North Carolina’s Kevin Reddick, Arizona State’s Brandon Magee, or even S.M.U.’s Ja’Gared Davis then I will be downright intrigued.
I know that I will be crossing my fingers for Te’o to fall to the Steelers. Then again, I will be happy if they address any number of their Defensive holes on Days 1, 2, and 3 of April’s Draft.