Pittsburgh Steelers: 2012 NFL Draft Needs

Contributed by: Bill Enright and Billy E
Last Updated: Apr 25, 2012 6:07 PM

You wouldn’t expect to see a team that finished with a 12-4 record a year ago end up with so many draft picks, but the Steelers have 10 in 2012 (granted four are in the 7th Round). But if Pittsburgh can add some talent to their already dominant Defense and also solidify their O-Line, there’s no reason the Steelers won’t remain among the upper echelon of the NFL. (1.24, 2.24, 3.23, 4.24, 5.24, 6.23, 7.24, 7.33, 7.39, 7.41).

Tackle/Guard: Willie Colon hasn’t played in two years thanks to season ending injuries and Left Tackle Max Starks is now a Free Agent coming off ACL surgery. We know QB Ben Roethlisberger can take hits, but after watching him limp around on the field the last few weeks of the season, it’s clear the Steelers need better protection.
Possible Targets: Jonathan Martin, Stanford (1st Round), Riley Reiff, Iowa (1st Round), David DeCastro, Stanford (1st Round), Cordy Glenn, Georgia (1st Round), Zebrie Sanders, Florida State (early-round), Bobby Massie, Ole Miss (mid-round).

Running Back: Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL late in the season and will likely start the year on the PUP list (making him inactive till Week 8). Issac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer filled in nicely during Mendenhall’s absence, but both backs are more of the “bruising” short-yardage type. Dwyer may be able to carry a full-load but we aren’t sold on his skills as a receiver out of the backfield. A shifty and elusive back with great hands could be just what the Steelers are looking for.
Possible Targets: LaMichael James, Oregon (early-round), Isiah Pead, Cincinnati (early-round), Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M (mid-round).

Nose Tackle: 11-year trench general Casey Hampton is coming off a serious knee injury (torn ACL) suffered in the Wild Card loss vs. Denver, and could begin the new season on the PUP list. Adding depth here - as well as competition for 2011 standout Steve McLendon as Hampton’s future successor - should be high on Pittsburgh’s priority list heading into the Draft.
Possible Targets: Alameda Ta’amu, Washington (early-round); Josh Chapman, Alabama (mid-round); Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor (late-round)  

Cornerback: Pittsburghlost starter William Gay to Arizona, Keenan Lewis is a free agent and Bryant McFadden was cut loose back in February. The Steelers ranked No. 1 in pass defense last season, but lack a true shutdown cornerback and Ike Taylor is coming off a nightmarish performance in their postseason loss to Denver. 2011 rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen both have solid upside, but neither projects to be the impact starter that the Steelers need, and they should target a promising prospect with ball-hawk ability after plucking just 11 team interceptions in 2011. 
Possible Targets: Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (early-round);Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt (mid-round); D’Anton Lynn, Penn St. (late-round)

Defensive End: Released 35-year-old vet Aaron Smith back in March as part of their youth movement, and Brett Keisel is coming off a serious groin injury suffered in the postseason loss to Denver. He is on the wrong end of the age hourglass at 33 as well. Former first-round pick Cameron Heyward (2011) and Ziggy Hood (2009) project to be a hulking starting tandem for many years to come – but Pittsburgh believes you can never have too many good defensive ends and do need better depth at the position. A prospect with prime pass-rushing ability would be a plus as well, after the Steelers ranked 17th in the NFL with an unimposing 35 team sacks.    
Possible Targets: Nick Perry, USC (early-round); Trevor Guyton, Cal (mid-round); Akiem Hicks, Regina (late-round) 

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