We’ll hit the draft in full swing later today but here is some early morning buzz on the Steelers front for Round 1 tonight
— The Steelers are going into round 1 with the expectation of exploring all options: 1. Moving up; 2. Staying put; 3. Moving out of the first round. From that standpoint it’s going to make it an interesting night.
In regards to the potential of moving up, the top target would be guard Mike Pouncey, the twin of Maurkice Pouncey. For the Steelers to have a realistic shot of trading up, Pouncey is going to have to fall into the 20’s.
Miami is looking hard at him at No. 15 and New England has strong interest at No. 17.
NFL.com mentioned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a potential trade partner at No. 20 due to the close relationship Mike Tomlin has with Raheem Morris. No. 20 still might be too steep for the Steelers to pull it off.
The Seahawks at No. 25 are actively looking to move down and would be a realistic trade partner but the Steelers don’t see Pouncey falling to No. 25.
The last time the Steelers moved up in the first round was in 2006, when they moved from No. 32 to No. 25 to get Santonio Holmes. Just to move seven spots cost them their second round pick.
The Steelers biggest splash under Kevin Colbert came in 2003 when he moved up 11 spots to land Troy Polamalu.
Another name to keep an eye on early in the first round is California defensive end Cameron Jordan. A player the Steelers really like and could also have interest in moving up for. Jordan’s stock is all over the place but most evaluators predict him going into the top-20. If he falls into the low 20’s the Steelers could be tempted.
Now onto the No. 31 selection:
— The Steelers top two “realistic” first round targets at the No. 31 position are said to be Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward and Texas cornerback Aaron Williams.
The Steelers I’m told love Heyward and regard him as a truly special player in the draft.
Meanwhile, from all indications Texas cornerback Aaron Williams remains Mike Tomlin’s “guy” at the cornerback position. Tomlin has the most authority on selection of draft picks and keep that in mind.
The Ravens are looking hard at Heyward with the No. 26 selection and the Steelers may not get a shot at him.
There has been no buzz about Aaron Williams going before No. 31 which tells me there are some teams trying to keep their interest quiet.
If Heyward and Williams are both available at No. 31, the buzz right now is that the Steelers would lean into Heyward’s direction despite cornerback being the bigger need. They are said to like him that much.
— Momentum in Miami’s Brandon Harris direction has all but died. I’m told the Steelers are highly unlikely to take Harris with the No. 31 selection and regard 2nd rounders Ras-I Dowling and Curtis Brown just as high.
The Steelers could move down into the early to middle second round to take either Dowling or Brown.
— At the tackle position, Mississippi’s State’s Derek Sherrod is a player to keep an eye on today. He’s expected to go anywhere from No. 21 – No. 32. Tackle is a position the Steelers want to address in rounds 1-3.
— Other than Mike Pouncey, the Steelers are not expected to look at the guard position in the first round. Baylor’s Danny Watkins is intriguing but 26 years old. He’s not expected to be a target for the Steelers at No. 31.
— For a team that believes in building around their front seven, you can never rule out linebacker or the defensive line as noted above.
— The Steelers are extremely high on UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers who was coached by new secondary coach Carnell Lake. There is talk that Ayers is rated by the Steelers as one of the top-20 players in the draft, however, as much as the Steelers like Ayers, it would still be a draft day surprise for them to go linebacker.
— At the defensive tackle position, Baylor’s Phil Taylor will surely draw the interest of the Steelers. Another defensive tackle the Steelers really like is Oregon State’s Stephen Paea but he would be a reach in the first round. Keep an eye on him in round 2.
One of the more intriguing defensive line prospects is Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson. Teams love Wilkerson’s potential and versatility but there’s been little chatter the Steelers are looking at him.