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.
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, 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 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, 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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