Steelers Pre-Draft Visit Update

By: Zach Metkler, The Burgh Blog Writer

With the NFL Draft now just 17 short days away, the Steelers have been actively meeting with prospects that they are interested in drafting. From the combine, to pro days, to in-house visits, they have met with a variety of players to help fill out their roster. In this article update, we will take a look at the prospects they have met with and what this could mean for the upcoming draft.

Quarterback
-Cody Kessler, USC (Senior Bowl)
-Vernon Adams, Oregon (Combine)
-Dak Prescott, Mississippi State (Combine)
-Brandon Allen, Arkansas (Pro Day)

Running Back
-Tyler Ervin, San Jose State (Combine)

Wide Receiver
-Jay Lee, Baylor (Pro Day)
-Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh (Pro Day)
-Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina (Official Pre-Draft Visit)

Tight End
-Austin Hooper, Stanford (Combine)
-J.P. Holtz, Pittsburgh (Pro Day)
-Ryan Malleck, Virginia Tech (Pro Day)

Offensive Line
-Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State (Pro Day)
-Jerald Hawkins, OT/OG, LSU (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana (Pro Day)
-Caleb Benenoch, OT, UCLA (Official Pre-Draft Visit)

Defensive Line
-Andrew Billings, Baylor (Pro Day)
-A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Carl Nassib, Penn State (Combine)
-Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech (Combine)
-Derrick Alexander Jr., Tulsa (Pro Day)
-Kyle Peko, Oregon State (Pro Day)
-Quinton Jefferson, Maryland (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Javon Hargrave, South Carolina State (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Dean Lowry, Northwestern (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Robert Nkemdiche, Mississippi (Official Pre-Draft Visit)

Linebacker
-Shaq Lawson, OLB/DE, Clemson (Combine)
-Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia (Pro Day)
-Jatavis Brown, Akron (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech (Official Pre-Draft Visit)

Cornerback
-Mackensie Alexander, Clemson (Combine)
-Harlan Miller, Southeastern Louisiana (Combine)
-DeAndre Elliott, Colorado State (Pro Day)
-Tavon Young, Temple (Pro Day & Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-William Jackson III, Houston (Pro Day & Dinner)
-Jonathan Jones, Auburn (Private Meeting at Pro Day)
-David White, Georiga Tech (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Ryan Smith, North Carolina Central (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Ken Crawley, Colorado (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Cyrus Jones, Alabama (Official Pre-Draft Visit)

Safety
-Jeremy Cash, Duke (Combine & Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Su’a Cravens, S/LB, USC (Combine)
-Deon Bush, Miami (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Darian Thompson, Boise State (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Keanu Neal, Florida (Pro Day & Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Jayron Kearse, Clemson (Pro Day)
-Karl Joseph, West Virginia (Pro Day & Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Vonn Bell, Ohio State (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-TJ Green, Clemson (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Demontrae Elston, Mississippi (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Justin Simmons, Boston College (Official Pre-Draft Visit)
-Sean Davis, Maryland (Official Pre-Draft Visit)

As you can see from this list above, the Steelers have met with a wide array of players from both offense and defense. Something that should excite Steelers fans is the clear interest the Steelers have in defensive backs. They have met with some of the top players in the draft, such as Houston’s William Jackson III, Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander, Florida’s Keanu Neal, Boise State’s Darian Thompson, and Duke’s Jeremy Cash, among others. Beyond these players, they have also clearly been looking at middle- to late-round players, indicating that they might be interested in potentially double dipping at a position such as corner, much like they did last year. Many of the players the team has visited with would be able to contribute as rookies, which would give the Steelers great value and production within the first few rounds. With the projected starters at corner being William Gay, Ross Cockrell, and Senquez Golson and Mike Mitchell as the only starting caliber safety on the roster, it would be wise for the Steelers to select a corner and safety early in the draft and adding further depth later on. With the secondary being such a large area of need for the team, any depth and competition they can bring to the roster will only improve the team.

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(Houston CB William Jackson III; Photo from Behind The Steel Curtain)

Beyond cornerback and safety, the team has also taken a close look at some of the top defensive linemen in this year’s class. This year’s defensive line class is considered to be extremely deep and talented, meaning that if they Steelers select a player here earlier on in the draft, they could be getting a huge difference maker. Players like Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson and Baylor’s Andrew Billings would provide the Steelers with great value in the 1st round, especially if there are no cornerbacks on the board that the Steelers are interested in. With only Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt as the returning starters, the Steelers will likely look to improve the depth along the line and both Robinson and Billings could make an impact in their rookie year while giving DC Keith Butler options to make even more dynamic defensive schemes. The dark horse of the group is Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche is arguably one of the most talented players in this years draft class, sporting amazing strength, athleticism, and versatility. Although he is talented, he is probably the biggest boom-or-bust prospect this class has to offer. Due to issues off the field (marijuana possession) and with his character and work ethic, Nkemdiche has scared away a lot of teams. Add in his lack of statistical production while at Ole Miss, he has potential “bust” written all over him. Needless to say, he has the frame to continue to add weight and be an impact starter in the NFL. The Steelers are a stable franchise with a lot of veteran leadership that could be good for a young player like Nkemdiche. If he can convince teams that his character and poor work ethic are not an issue, he could turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the draft this year. A defensive line featuring Heyward, Nkemdiche, and Tuitt would instill fear into offensive lines all over the league.

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(Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche; Photo from Scout)

Even though this year’s draft is expected to be another defensive heavy draft for the Steelers, this has not stopped them from looking at offensive prospects that can help the team. The two offensive positions the team will likely look at at some point in the draft are quarterback and offensive line. At quarterback, any four of the prospects the Steelers met with would be an upgrade over incumbent backup Landry Jones. All of the prospects are projected to be drafted between the 4th and 7th round, which would provide the Steelers with value for a developmental backup quarterback that has a higher ceiling than Jones. Along with quarterback, the Steelers have met with some high profile offensive linemen, namely Ohio State’s Taylor Decker, who is projected to be drafted in the first two rounds of the draft. LSU’s Jerald Hawkins is the type of versatile lineman that the Steelers love who is projected to be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft. Rounding out the group is Indiana’s Jason Spriggs, who comes with extreme athleticism and strength and could be a mid-round player the Steelers look at to come in and provide competition at left tackle. All three offensive linemen would provide the Steelers with added versatility and help the depth of the offensive line that could use legitimate talent behind it’s starters.

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(LSU OL Jerald Hawkins; Photo from The Advocate)

The Steelers have used 25 of their 30 allowed official pre-draft visits (Quinton Jefferson is a graduate of Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh, which does not count against the teams official visits). There are likely to be a few more names circulating around the Steelers organization as the draft quickly approaches. If the recent trends indicate anything, it is that this will be another defensive heavy draft for Pittsburgh, as the team looks to revive the once dominant Steel Curtain.

Stay tuned for updates on prospects and official pre-draft visits!

For future updates, follow me on Twitter at @TheBurghBlog_ZM and follow The Burgh Blog at @TheBurghBlog or on Twitter at @TheBurghBlog

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