First of all, let me give kudos to Colbert & Co. for their selection of Jarvis Jones in Round 1 yesterday.
Granted, I’ll admit that Jones’ medical history and poor Pro Day workout make the move a bit of a calculated risk. But I believe that the selection itself was a smart gamble, and Jarvis was a terror off of the edge during his collegiate career. As I stated before, the Steelers needed help at outside linebacker, and Jones could very well emerge into yet another fantastic pass-rusher for the “Black and Gold.”
Now that Day 2 of the draft is upon us, I thought that I would discuss my thoughts on what Rounds 2 and 3 have to offer for Pittsburgh’s brass. Thankfully for Colbert & Co., a large amount of talented players at positions of need will still available for them to choose from in Rounds 2 and 3 this evening.
Potential Round 2 (#48 overall) Selections
Arthur Brown (Kansas State), Sio Moore (Connecticut), Kevin Minter (Louisiana State)
With only one inside linebacker selected in the 1st round (Alec Ogletree), the Steelers could be primed to fill a dire need with a talented player at #48 overall. I actually mocked Arthur Brown to Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago (at #25 overall after a projected trade), and I believe that he would be a perfect addition to the Steelers’ defense next to Lawrence Timmons. Although Brown is a bit on the shorter side (6′ 241 lbs.), he is well-built and was tenacious player for Kansas State during his two year stint as a starter. Brown is a tough defender between the hashes, and he recorded up 201 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, and 3 interceptions over the last two seasons combined.
If Kevin Minter slides to #48 overall and Brown is off the board, I would hope that the Steelers would consider him. The former Bayou Bengal was a “tackling machine” last year as he recorded 130 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, and 4.0 sacks in 2012. The squat-framed, yet athletic linebacker (6′ 246 lbs.) packs a wallop as a tackler, has enough agility to potentially hold his own in pass-coverage, and projects well to develop into an effective strongside-inside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s defense, and he has the tools to be a perfect candidate to take over for Larry Foote once he calls it quits.
If the Steelers elect to take a more versatile prospect than Brown or Minter, they could target Sio Moore (6’1″ 245 lbs.) of Connecticut. I mocked Moore to Pittsburgh earlier this week, and the Steelers invited the athletic linebacker to Pittsburgh for a private interview earlier in the draft process. Moore is coming off of a solid 2012 campaign in which he racked up 72 tackles, 8.0 sacks, and 15.5 tackles for loss. The Huskies took advantage of Sio’s unique skill-set during his career, and they lined him up at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and even along the line of scrimmage as a pass-rusher. Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler value versatility, and he could very well be Pittsburgh’s pick in Round 2 or Round 3.
Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State)
While cornerback is not necessarily an immediate need, Colbert & Co. could employ a “B.P.A.” strategy and take a chance on an athletic and versatile defensive back in the form of Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State.
I’m a bit surprised that the 2012 Jim Thorpe award winner’s stock has slipped so much since the 2012 regular season ended. But teams are apparently concerned with Banks’ speed, and I guess they would prefer to take other cornerbacks before him. Banks however would be a perfect fit as a zone-scheme cornerback or even a free safety (a position he played as a freshman at Mississippi State) in Pittsburgh’s defense. Johnthan’s tall frame (6’2″ 185 lbs.), solid ball skills (16 career interceptions), and ability to mix it up in the run-game (125 Tackles the last two seasons) could make him too good to pass up at #48 overall.
Phillip Thomas (Fresno State), D.J. Swearinger (South Carolina), Johnathan Cyprien (Florida International)
With Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark nearing the end of their careers’ and Robert Golden the only depth presently behind them, I believe that Pittsburgh will take a safety at some point in Round 2 or Round 3.
If Phillip Thomas is available at #48 overall, I believe that the Steelers could take the former Fresno State ball-hawk. Thomas led the FBS-division in interceptions last year with 8, and did so after he spent the entire 2011 season sidelined with a broken leg. While Phillip is known more for his ability to make plays on balls in the air, he can definitely hold his own against the run and has the type of frame (6’1″ 208 lbs.) and tackling ability (2012: 84 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss) to possibly switch to strong safety.
I was a bit surprised that Johnathan Cyprien fell out of the 1st Round, especially after many people (including me) had him pegged anywhere from #21 to #32. Regardless, I’m happy to see that the strong safety is still available and could be a potential selection for the Steelers. Last season, Cyprien enjoyed a solid 2012 season with the Golden Panthers (93 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 4 interceptions), and his stock rose significantly during the offseason period. Although Cyprien is not as agile as Matt Elam is in pass-coverage, he does possess decent size (6′ 217 lbs.), and would be a solid “in-the-box” type of strong safety.
Although I like Thomas and Cyprien, count me in as somebody who would like to see D.J. Swearinger lacing them up for the “Black and Gold.” A tenacious hitter, Swearinger would be a solid strong safety in Pittsburgh’s defense, and his ability to tackle (2011: 80 tackles, 2012: 79 tackles) and support the run would make him a valuable chess-piece for Dick LeBeau to utilize. D.J. made 6 interceptions, forced 4 fumbles, recovered another 2, and started 33 games for the Gamecocks over the course of his collegiate career. Although he isn’t the biggest (5’10″ 208 lbs.) or fastest safety in this draft class, his nastiness and skill-set are exactly what Pittsburgh’s secondary needs.
Giovani Bernard (North Carolina), Johnathan Franklin (UCLA)
While I believe that Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are both solid “situational battering rams” and backups, the Steelers could still stand to use a more athletic running back to compliment their big bruisers. Two running backs in particular come to my mind who could add an extra dimension to Pittsburgh’s offense, Giovani Bernard and Johnathan Franklin.
The Steelers took a particular interest in Franklin, and the organization even invited him to town for a pre-draft interview. I’ve talked at length about Franklin over the last four months as a potential Steeler draft pick, and he definitely has a number of things going for him at the moment. Johnathan is coming off of a career year at UCLA, and the running back rushed for 1,734 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 323 yards and another 2 scores. Franklin is a decent sized one-cut back (5’10″ 205 lbs.) who can gain the tough yards inside the tackles as well as go outside the hashes and make plays. Although Franklin is not a “burner” in terms of his raw speed and had some issues with ball security, the Steelers could take a chance on him in Round 2.
While I like Franklin as a potential addition to Pittsburgh’s offense, I would be incredibly happy to see the Steelers take Giovani Bernard on Day 2 of the draft. Although Bernard only played two seasons at North Carolina, he was a multi-purpose weapon for the Tar Heels. On the ground, Bernard racked up a combined 2,481 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns over the last two years. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Giovani was an accomplished pass catcher and recorded 92 grabs for 852 yards and 6 touchdowns during that span. Heck, Bernard even took 2 punts back for scores last season as well! If the former Tar Heel’s small frame (5’8″ 202 lbs.) causes teams to pass on him, Pittsburgh’s brass would be wise to step in and acquire him.
Keenan Allen (California), Justin Hunter (Tennessee), Robert Woods (Southern California)
I for one am a bit shocked that Keenan Allen, Justin Hunter, and Robert Woods still remain available, but I won’t complain. In fact, I’m downright stoked that the Steelers might have a shot at drafting one of these three pass-catchers.
I actually projected Justin Hunter to go to the Steelers in Round 1 (at pick #31) in my final mock draft from Thursday, and I believe that a wide receiver like the former Volunteer could really help Pittsburgh’s passing game. Last season, it was Hunter, not Cordarrelle Patterson, who was Tennessee’s most productive receiver (73 catches, 1,083 yards, 9 touchdowns). The most amazing part of Hunter’s season was the fact that he did what he did only one year after he sustained an ACL injury. While some might consider Hunter to be a bit raw and inconsistent, his frame (6’4″ 196 lbs.) and ability to stretch the field would make him a welcome target for Ben Roethlisberger.
Keenan Allen did not do himself any favors with a poor pro day performance, and the PCL injury he sustained last year sure didn’t help his case either. Nevertheless, the former Golden Bear receiver was one of the Pac-12′s most productive pass-catchers over the last two seasons (2011: 98 catches, 1,343 yards and 6 touchdowns, 2012: 61 catches, 737 yards, and 6 touchdowns). Allen can not only play flanker, split end, and in the slot, he has some reliable hands, and is a large target who can make any quarterback happy to look for in the red zone. While Allen’s raw speed might be an issue for some, he is too talented of a prospect to pass up at #48 overall in my opinion.
Like Allen, Robert Woods was one of the Pac-12′s most productive pass-catchers over the last two seasons. And just like Allen, Woods’ stock has dropped due to injury concerns (ankle), and his dip in production last season (2011: 111 catches, 1,292 yards, 15 touchdowns to 2012: 76 catches, 846 yards, 11 touchdowns) did not help him either. Woods however is a receiver who has solid speed, can run crisp routes, and has a good pair of hands. At 6′ 201 lbs., the former Trojan has a decent sized frame, and definitely has the potential to help Pittsburgh’s receiving corps.