And the pick is.....
As draft day nears, our staff weighs in on who they think the Steelers will take in the first round of this year's draft. Here are our predictions.
Iron City's take:
Aaron Williams - CB - Texas
A very versatile football player in the Tomlin mold with the size and skill set to cover outside the hash, but also has the natural instincts of a Safety to transition in 3 deep and quarters looks in zone coverage. With 15 passes defended and 6 forced fumbles in his collegiate career help reinforce that. Eleven solos for loss also say he isn't afraid to mix it up in the run game. Also adds ST's value on coverage units as a player who blocked 3 punts and 2 FG's while at Texas and can even serve as an emergency return man. He may not have impressive 40 times, but his 3-cone and shuttle drills put him in the class with the elite CB's in this draft and show he has adequate quickness to play at the next level.
Aaron Williams - Cornerback/Free Safety - Texas
The Steelers need help this draft to fill voids in two weaknesses: Offensive Line and the Defensive Backfield. The Steelers will look to fill a hole within the defensive back positions and Williams may be the best player available at #31 to fill that hole. Williams played in a major conference (played in a National Championship game) as a three year letter winner and has the raw skills necessary to make an immediate impact as a rookie. That could be in the nickel defense and his versatility allows him to be looked at and groomed for CB or safety. Adding to William’s versatility is his experience playing special teams while at Texas. Williams is entering the NFL draft with one year of NCAA eligibility remaining. He has good tackling ability but will need to have that technique refined for the next level. He does rely on athletic ability and would need some route coverage coaching. He is a physical player and can press which is a good fit for the Steelers’ defense. His size is right and his combine stats put him in a late first round/early second round position. He has been on the honor roll, demonstrated community service at an early age and has been involved on church missions which are all plusses within the Steelers community. Like Troy Polamala , Williams has a strong lineage of football. His father played NCAA football and has an uncle that earned a Super Bowl ring while playing for the Chicago Bears in 1985.
Marcus Cannon - OT - TCU
IF the Steelers pick a player in the first round, I think it will be Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU. Mike Tomlin this week accentuated the need for 'big men' up front, and there isn't one much bigger than Cannon. He doesn't have an injury history, he doesn't have red flags, he plays at a top school in one of the top programs in the country and... he'll always be big. He's a plug and play RT... maybe he can do more. If the Steelers drop out of the first round, I truly believe they will select Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia and look to select James Carpenter or Bruce Carter at the end of round 2.
Brandon Harris - CB - Miami
Simply put: The Steelers have to stop looking for cornerbacks who can stop the run and start looking for cornerbacks who can defend against high-powered passing games. Brandon Harris has the natural cover ability that the Steelers are lacking right now, and that's why he'll be the pick.
Steel Perch’s take:
Derek Sherrod - LT - Mississippi State
All signs are pointing towards the Steelers taking Aaron Williams, which is why I don't think he'll be the pick. We all know corner is a major need, but so is youth on the D-line and the ever elusive franchise left tackle. When you typically draft at the end of the round, left tackles simply aren't there. If by chance one finally falls to you, you just can't pass on him. We've seen too many 3 sack games against the Steelers by players like Terrell Suggs in recent history. Upgrading Ben's blindside is a must if we expect him to play into his mid-thirties. With Maurkice Pouncey and Derek Sherrod on the roster, the Steelers would have young talent at the two most crucial spots on the offensive line for the next decade. I consider Sherrod one of the safest picks in the draft, and the OT who might be the most ready to step in and start right away at either tackle spot.
If Sherrod happens to be gone, I would look at Cameron Heyward next. If both are already selected as many are projecting, I would strongly consider a trade down as opposed to taking CB's Brandon Harris or Aaron Williams. I just don't see the value in a CB/S tweener like Williams or 5'9 guy in Harris at pick 31. The better value would be to move down and take Ras-I Dowling or Curtis Brown in the early/mid part of round 2. The experts are expecting a run on QB's at the end of round 1, so the Steelers phone could be ringing with trade offers. Three teams that could be in the QB mix are Tennessee, Minnesota, and Washington who draft 39th, 41st, and 43rd. In order to get one of the top 5 QB's they likely will need to jump in front of Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Arizona at the top of round 2. I would expect corners Ras-I Dowling and Curtis Brown to be available at that point, as well as tackles Marcus Cannon and James Carpenter. The Steelers could land any one of these players and pick up an additional 3rd or 4th round pick for their troubles. To me, that beats the hell out of taking Williams or Harris at pick 31.
Derrek Sherrod - OT - Mississippi State
I believe the Steelers are in a prime position in this year’s draft. 8-10 teams drafting in the top half of the 1st round need quarterbacks. The Steelers will enter this draft most likely looking to trade down...I believe a "surprising" player is going to fall to the Steelers. With pick 31 in the 1st round of the 2011 draft the Pittsburgh Steelers draft Derrick Sherrod OT Miss St. Sherrod has excellent length and movement skills...He is a technician in pass protection with a high football IQ. Sherrod has faced the best competition college football has to offer and excelled. Sherrod is a modern day NFL left tackle; he is far better in pass protection then the run game at this point of his career. Sherrod has a few warts to his game...He needs to work on his lower body strength...He struggles to re establish the line of scrimmage in the run game...Sherrod has a motor that runs hot and cold...He doesn't have the typical NFL offensive linemen temperament.
Player comparison: Tarrick Glenn former LT for the Colts