Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers Top Draft Targets


Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

 

Now that free agency is pretty much done with for the Pittsburgh Steelers besides the insignificant signings here and there, the draft talk is picking up. With the depth of this years draft class, it’s hard to predict what position the Steelers will take in each round. We do know a couple things, the Steelers need a cornerback, wide receiver, depth along the defensive line, and running back. Some of those positions are definitely in the picture for the first round. To me, however, there are only 4 players in play for the Steelers first round pick.

Justin Gilbert

Cornerback is probably the biggest need for the Steelers going into the draft, something they didn’t address during free agency. Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State is the best corner in the draft. He stands 6′ and is 202 lbs. He is a match made in heaven for the Steelers. He is tall like the Steelers like them, and has a knack for creating turnovers. Can you imagine having Cortez Allen paired with Gilbert, there would be no more complaints about interceptions. He is also been characterized as a shut down corner, something the Steelers definitely need. One of his weaknesses, however, is in run support. Something that can be fixed with the help of Hall of Fame coach Dick LeBeau and secondary coach Carnell Lake. If all 5 of the players on this list were available, Justin Gilbert would probably be the one picked at #15. It would be a miracle if he slid to the Steelers, but hey,  David DeCastro did. Crazier things have happened.

Darqueze Dennard

Darqueze Dennard, 5’11” cornerback from Michigan State, probably has a much more realistic shot of falling to the Steelers than Justin Gilbert has. Dennard bring a different physicality than Gilbert does. That saying, he is very physical. Also something the Steelers usually like out of their cornerbacks. He holds a lot and gets away with it. He has a total of 10 interceptions during his time at Michigan State, and also has somewhat of a knack for turnovers. He hasn’t played much zone coverage, which is a downside. If Gilbert is gone, Dennard would be my pick.

Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin is a 6’5″ wide receiver from Florida State. Talking about the tall receiver that Ben Roethlisberger wants, Benjamin is your guy. He is very good at getting separation when going for the ball, and is good at coming down with contested balls as well. Sometimes he lets balls get contested when they shouldn’t, however. He does lack elite speed, but a mixup of the shifty and elusive Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton with speed and Benjamin with side would the Steelers a good mix of receivers and would leave Big Ben with plenty of options to throw to. Benjamin could be available when the Steelers pick. I still think the Steelers should go cornerback in the first round, but if Gilbert is gone and both Benjamin and Dennard are available, the pick is up in the air.

Eric Ebron

Eric Ebron, 6’4” tight end from North Carolina, is a freak of an athlete, with incredible speed to go with his size. He is the best tight end in the draft, and someone will be getting a serious weapon with Ebron. However, tight end isn’t always the most targeted position. Him and Heath Miller are different players, both bringing different strengths to the tight end position. Miller is both a blocker and pass catcher, but doesn’t have the speed or athleticism that Ebron brings. Ebron is strictly a pass catcher and can create serious mismatches against tight ends. He even has been compared to Jimmy Graham. Like Benjamin with the current receivers on the roster, Ebron and Miller would create a good mix to the tight end spot and would allow the Steelers to run a two tight end set, something that would add another dangerous aspect to an already good offense. Ebron will more than likely be available when the Steelers pick, but would be a surprise if he is picked by the Steelers. If Gilbert, Dennard, and Benjamin are gone, which is highly unlikely, Ebron would be my pick, but tight end isn’t considered a huge need by the Steelers this year.

These players would either fill a desperate need for the Steelers or come as a luxury that could contribute from day one.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Darqueze Dennard Eric Ebron Featured Justin Gilbert Kelvin Bejmamin NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Eric Robinson

    I personally like Dennard’s physical play over Gilbert. I also think Benjamin is a reach at 15. I would much rather have a DT if both corners are gone, but I could live with Ebron if both CBs are gone.

    • Levi Combs

      With the signing of cam Thomas, I think they will wait for DT later in the draft. Ebron would be a nice addition if both corners are gone. Benjamin or mike Evans could be taken at the 15 spot

  • Carl Eagan

    If Benjamin is picked at #15 both Tomlin and Colbert should be fired on th spot. Benjamin made a couple of good catches and people jump on the bandwagon because they never saw this kid take every play off when he knew the ball wasn’t coming his way and he lacks focus and drops many easy passes. Gilbert is great if he catches the ball but it’s fantasy to believe the Steeler coaching staff can teach him to be physical if Oklahoma couldn’t do it. Signing Thomas was to have a back up at the nose and the Steeler’s should be looking DE, Ebron would be ok if Hageman isn’t available and never know Evans may still be there at 15.

    • Dom DiTolla

      So Tomlin and Colbert should be fired for taking Benjamin @15, but you would laud them for selecting Hageman there? Really?!

      While he has the prototype size and strength for a 5-technique DE, his technique is poor, he plays far too high, struggles with shedding blocks, offers little to no pass-rush and his motor is entirely too inconsistent. Plus, the Steelers would likely not even play him until the third or fourth year of his career after what we saw with a far more NFL-ready 5-technique in the form of Cameron Heyward.

      Glad you won’t be in the war room this May. :)

  • Dom DiTolla

    Only guy out of these four I’d draft at 15 overall would be Ebron. Adding him to the roster would make Spaeth, another one of the backup TEs or Will Johnson obsolete, which would make the offense even more explosive. No post-Miller strategy exists in Pittsburgh, and I’m hoping that he’ll be there at 15.

    While I like the idea of drafting a CB like Gilbert or Dennard at 15, Gilbert’s ball-skills would go to waste in LeBeau’s defense and teams would dink and dunk him to death since he struggles to shed blocks and tackle in the open field. Dennard’s aggressiveness will definitely get him in trouble in today’s pass-happy NFL down the field, and I question how fluid he can be when it comes to changing direction on a consistent basis.

    Personally, I think the team would be better served trading back into round one, picking a solid scheme fit in the form of Kyle Fuller or Bradley Roby, and using the extra pick acquired in the deal to fill other needs late on day two or early on day three (CB again, TE, WR, RB, NT).

    Finally, I like the idea of adding Benjamin, just not at 15. Like Roby, Fuller or one of the tight ends not named Ebron (Amaro or Seferian-Jenkins), he could be in play for the Steelers later in the first round.

  • robert evans

    No way are they taking Benjamin at 15. Can you say Limas Sweed part II ? Your 4 should have included Evans instead of Benjamin, you cant say that he wont be there. Also, dont be too surprised if Nix is there for them in the second round.

    • Dom DiTolla

      No possible way Evans drops to them at #15. They can acquire him, but they’ll likely have to trade up into the top ten of the first round to have a remote shot of selecting him. Levi said “in play” for the Steelers in round one. Evans will not be on the board at #15.