As most of you already know, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of some personnel upgrades in their secondary.
Starting free safety Ryan Clark will likely not be re-signed this spring, and one has to wonder how much longer Troy Polamalu can continue to man the starting strong safety position.
Even if the team’s brass elect to keep rapidly declining Ike Taylor for the final season of his current deal, the Steelers only have two other cornerbacks on their roster (William Gay and Cortez Allen) who possesses any significant experience at the professional level.
While many expect the Steelers to target cornerbacks and safeties early on in the draft process this May, I am sure that their coaching staff and scouts will try to find some late-round gems with some versatility who can help them in the secondary.
With their need for help in the secondary in mind, a defensive back like Antone Exum could be a solid pickup for a team like Pittsburgh if he falls into the third day of the 2014 NFL Draft.
A two-year starter at safety for the Hokies as a sophomore and junior (19 total starts), Exum (6’2 220 lbs.) displayed his versatility and athleticism in 2012 when he earned second-team All-ACC honors as a cornerback. A jack-of-all trades corneback, Exum recorded 48 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a team-leading five interceptions, 16 pass breakups, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.
Unfortunately for Exum, his redshirt senior campaign was wrecked after he tore the ACL and lateral meniscus in his right knee last January. That injury, along with an ankle issue he dealt with last fall, prevented him from playing in all but three games of the 2013 season.
Although the recent injuries could push Exum down or even off of some franchises’ draft boards, that could inevitably help secondary-needy teams like Pittsburgh who could be double or triple-dipping at those positions with draft choices.
Due to the losses of Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall to free agency last spring, the Steelers will likely have two to three compensatory selections in the middle rounds (3-5) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Thus, Pittsburgh’s brass will have the necessary wherewithal to roll the dice on a prospect like Exum on the third day of the draft if they so choose.
As long as he is medically cleared, I would like to see a versatile prospect like Exum added to the Steelers’ secondary. Pittsburgh needs depth and play-makers on the back end of their defense, and the former Hokie could be solid late-round addition to the franchise.