Until “Draft Weekend” is finally upon us, one new and updated 2013 N.F.L. Mock Draft will be released on a weekly basis over on Fansided.com. During this period, I will be writing up break-downs and providing my own analysis on each of Pittsburgh’s projected selections from the installments (last week’s is here). So without further delay, let’s get to my take on who Fansided’s Josh Hill believes will be selected by the Steelers (pick #17 of 32 in the 1st Round) in his latest edition:
Johnathan Hankins, Nose Tackle, Ohio State
The Steelers have so many needs that aren’t yet dire needs. They have an aging defense that is slowly withering away, but the unit still has a few years left in it, which affords the front office to pile up replacements in the meantime. Hankins falls to the Steelers by way of some interesting moves before their pick, but you won’t hear them complaining about drafting him. Casey Hampton is 35 and by bringing in Hankins Pittsburgh won’t have to worry about a nose tackle again for another 10 years.
It certainly appears that Hill is locked into his belief that the Steelers will take a Nose Tackle, especially since he has mocked one to them over his last 3 posts. In fact, Hill has posted the same explanation verbatim as to why Pittsburgh apparently needs to draft a player at said position in Round 1 (here and here).
If you readers have followed these “Mock Analysis” posts of mine over the last two months, you know that I believe that it would not make very much sense at all if the Steelers selected a Nose Tackle in the 2013 Draft, let along the 1st Round. While it is true that the Steelers will almost assuredly not tender the 35 year-old UFA to-be Casey Hampton, the cupboard is anything but bare at Nose Tackle. Pittsburgh already has a “starter in waiting” in the form of Steve McLendon who has improved in each of his first four seasons in the League. Plus, the Steelers will likely want to give a number of backup-reps to the two young space-eaters behind McLendon in the forms of Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo.
So although Hill’s belief that Pittsburgh’s Defense is “slowly withering away” due to age is correct, I still have one question:
Why would the Steelers take someone like Hankins, who plays a position the team already has young depth at, with the 17th overall pick when they have so many other depth/potential starter issues to fill elsewhere?
Take Alec Ogletree for instance. In the event that the Georgia Inside Linebacker falls to the Steelers at #17, I would have a tough time believing that they would pass on him to select another Nose Tackle. Pittsburgh has almost zero experienced depth at Inside Linebacker, and 2012 starter and veteran Larry Foote might not be re-signed this year. I’m not a Steelers Coach, but I have a hard time believing that the Coaching Staff has any sort of confidence in Stevenson Sylvester and Sean Spence at this point, and Foote was a downright liability in pass-coverage last year.
In addition to Ogletree, I would be shocked if the Steelers selected a Nose Tackle over a pass-rusher like Alex Okafor, an athletic project like Dion Jordan, or a star who could fall due to injury concerns like Jarvis Jones. Pittsburgh’s Outside Linebackers had yet another down year in terms of productivity in 2012, and their ability to collapse the pocket was inconsistent to say the least. In terms of the starters, soon to be 35 year-old veteran James Harrison could very well be a cap-casualty this offseason due how much he counts against the cap, while LaMarr Woodley was injured yet again and drastically underperformed for how much he was getting paid. Although top backup Jason Worilds has flashed his talent at times over his three-year career, he will be an Unrestricted Free Agent after this year ends. Behind Worilds are 2011 5th Round pick Chris Carter, who underwhelmed this past year to the tune of 8 Tackles and 0.0 Sacks, and 2012 UDFA Adrian Robinson who was exclusively a Special Teams player during his Rookie campaign. If the aforementioned situation is not one that cries for an upgrade, I don’t know what is.
Pittsburgh would also be better off targeting a quick and hard-hitting Safety like Matt Elam with the 17th overall pick instead of an interior Defensive Lineman. Much like their situation at Inside and Outside Linebacker, the Steelers have relatively little to no depth to speak of at either Safety spot behind the aging Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. Veterans Will Allen and Ryan Mundy will both be UFA’s this offseason, and it is unlikely that Colbert & Co. will be able to afford both players who are non-starters. 2012 UDFA Robert Golden will likely receive more sub-package reps next year, but logic would tell me that the Steelers will elect to add more depth, and at least a future starter to groom, at one of the Safety positions during the Draft process.
Cornerback Johnthan Banks would be a nice fit with the Steelers as well, especially if #2 Corner Keenan Lewis is not re-signed by the franchise during the offseason. Banks is a tall and physical Cornerback, who fits very well in a Zone-based scheme, and can stick his nose in the scrum and play against the run. Banks possesses a skill-set that the Steelers have greatly valued in the Cornerbacks which they have drafted/acquired in recent seasons, and would be a potential replacement for Lewis if he leaves. The 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner is also a bit of a ball-hawk, and unlike some of Pittsburgh’s Corners these days, he CAN CATCH THE FOOTBALL (16 career INT’s)! What makes Banks an even more intriguing prospect is the fact that he also acquired some experience at the Free Safety position when he was in college. So if Banks is asked to shift spots and puts on a bit more weight, he could transition nicely to the back-end of the Secondary if the Steelers need him to do it.
Finally, as I alluded to in a post from over the weekend, the Steelers might also be interested in adding a talented Wide Receiver to their team like Keenan Allen of California. “Butterfingers” Wallace will likely head to “greener” pastures during the offseason, and Pittsburgh’s Offense could definitely use a tall and talented play-making pass-catcher to compliment Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders going forward. If the Steelers’ passing game has one glaring weakness, it is the lack of a large and physical pass-catcher who can not only stretch the field, but create matchup nightmares in the Red Zone to boot. Allen has the potential to fit that bill, and it would not shock me if Colbert & Co. selected him at #17 to improve the Offense.
Make no mistake readers, Hankins is a 1st Round talent, and should develop into an effective Nose Tackle at the professional level. He has the size and skill-set to become a solid player down the road, and enjoyed a very productive career at Ohio State.
Yet I see no scenario whatsoever in which G.M. Kevin Colbert and the rest of the Steelers’ brass pass on the players who I discussed above to add a 4th Nose Tackle to their roster with the amount of needs the franchise must fill. If in fact McLendon does not pan out this year, or Fangupo and Ta’amu are not capable backups, then Nose Tackle will be a pressing need come the Spring of 2014, and I would totally be on board if the team went in that direction in Round 1. But McLendon has the inside track to the new job, and even has a seal of approval from the guy he is replacing in Hampton.
So with those things in mind, I just cannot see Pittsburgh’s Front Office making Nose Tackle a high priority, if one at all, come Draft Weekend 2013.
Readers: Should the Steelers take a Nose Tackle in Round 1? Should they take a Nose Tackle at all? Share below.