Predicting what the Steelers will do with the No. 18 selection Thursday night is highly unpredictable compared to last season, when the Steelers selected No. 32 and all signs were pointing towards the Steelers selecting Ziggy Hood who was expected to fall to the Steelers.
With such a deep draft, a number of teams ahead of the Steelers are looking to move down, while teams behind the Steelers are looking to move up into the middle of the first round.
League sources indicate, Kansas City No. 5, Buffalo No. 9, Jacksonville No. 10, Miami No. 12, and Seattle Seahawks No. 14 are expected to listen to offers about moving down.
Meanwhile, indications are Green Bay No. 23, Philadelphia No. 24, and Dallas No. 27 are believed to be looking to move up.
The Steelers are going into the draft with an open mind and have not ruled out trading up or trading down.
Pre-draft buzz/Top Targets
Top targets Mike Iupati, Joe Haden and Earl Thomas are major wildcards in the draft. Iupati could go as high as No. 8 to the Oakland Raiders but there are also signs that he could fall into the teens and be available at No. 18.
Regarded as the top offensive guard prospect in years, the Steelers have significant interest in Iupati who the team has met with on several occasions.
Cornerback Joe Haden is the top cornerback on the board but has seen his draft stock slip in recent weeks.
Once regarded as a lock to the Cleveland Browns at No. 7, Haden could be available in the middle of the first round but there’s doubts that he will get past the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 13 selection. Concerns from scouts is Haden’s ability to turn and run against elite receivers.
Cornerback/safety Earl Thomas is a top 10 talent whose draft value has been all over the board. Thomas is the most dynamic playmaker in the draft and has drawn strong interest from Pittsburgh.
Three players to keep an eye on will be Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant and Alabama inside linebacker Rolondo McClain.
Team sources indicate that if Bryant were to fall to No. 18, he would garner significant interest from Pittsburgh and would give the Steelers an interest dilemma. Some of the character concerns surrounding Bryant are believed to be overblown.
If McClain falls to Pittsburgh at No. 18, he will also get a strong look from the Steelers. The chances of either player falling to No. 18 are slim.
Williams falling to the Steelers I’m told would be a dream scenario for the Steelers but he’s expected to be gone by the No. 12 selection and is getting significant interest from the Bills at No. 8.
The Steelers are also known to throw a curveball and although going running back early in the draft is believed to be very unlikely, word has been leaking over the past 72 hours that running back C.J. Spiller is a sleeper on the Steelers board as the Steelers view Spiller as perfect complement to Rashard Mendenhall, who would also add another element to the Steelers return game.
Signs point towards Pouncey?
With just three days untill the draft, momentum continues to point to Florida center Maurkice Pouncey as the Steeers likely selection, if Mike Iupati is off the board. Unlike the previous draft prospects mentioned above, Pouncey is believed to be a lock to be available at No. 18.
Moving back to select Pouncey will be an available option for Pittsburgh but word is that the Steelers value Pouncey as a top-20 talent.
Upgrading the interior of their offensive line is a top priority for the Steelers with Iupati and Pouncey being their top two targets.
Tate, Jackson among options to move back
When a team moves back in the draft, they don’t do it for the reason of selecting one specific player. They have 3-to-4 targets they expect to be available as eyeing one target is how teams get burned.
Moving back in the first round, would make Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate a viable option for Pittsburgh.
Cornerbacks Kyle Wilson, Devin McCourty, and Kareem Jackson would also come into play along with defensive tackle Jared Odrick.
A league source tells me Alabama’s Kareem Jackson draft stock is on the rise and is regarded as the top long-term prospect at the corner position. Jackson has an high upside, and scouts have raved about his excellent closing speed and great anticipation. No one prepares his players for the NFL better than Nick Saban.