'The Steelers Project' Part 2: Drafting the Steelers

By Lance Zierlein
April 1, 2012

Lance Zierlein's in-depth look at the Steelers' draft board based on their philosophy. Part 2 of 2.

This is Part 2 of Lance Zierlein's "The Steelers Project". Read Part 1 here »

Player Elimination

Photo by mattradickal
Michgan State's Jerel Worthy isn't long enough at DE and doesn't anchor at NT. Photo by mattradickal.

In following the Steelers draft process, I decided to take an older version of my Top 120 players and work from there.

The order of the players is inconsequential at this point as I'm merely using this list to begin scratching players off who don't fit what the profile for what the Steelers look for.

I'm not going to spell out the profiles I gathered for each position, but as you can see below, I did give you reasons next to each player I scratched as to why I was taking them off the board.

(You can also see my current Top 150 Overall Prospects here »)

  Name School Pos. Notes
1 Andrew Luck Stanford QB  
2 Matt Kalil USC OT  
3 Robert Griffin III Baylor QB  
4 Trent Richardson Alabama RB  
5 Morris Claiborne LSU CB  
6 Melvin Ingram South Carolina DE/OLB  
7 David DeCastro Stanford OG  
8 Fletcher Cox Mississippi St. DT  
9 Justin Blackmon Oklahoma St. WR  
10 Courtney Upshaw Alabama DE  
11 Stephon Gilmore South Carolina CB  
12 Michael Brockers LSU DT  
13 Quinton Coples North Carolina DE Doesn't fit the Steeler profile for 3-4 DE or OLB
14 Dre Kirkpatrick Alabama CB  
15 Luke Kuechley Boston College ILB  
16 Devon Still Penn State DT  
17 Dontari Poe Memphis DT  
18 Michael Floyd Notre Dame WR  
19 Mark Barron Alabama S  
20 Nick Perry USC DE/OLB  
21 Cordy Glenn Georgia OG/OT  
22 Riley Reiff Iowa OT  
23 Dont'a Hightower Alabama ILB  
24 Peter Konz Wisconsin C Steelers will not draft a center with Pouncey entrenched 
25 David Wilson Virginia Tech RB  
26 Kendall Wright Baylor WR  
27 Jerel Worthy Michigan St. DT Not long enough for DE and doesn't anchor enough at NT
28 Whitney Mercilus Illinois DE/OLB  
29 Mike Adams Ohio St. OT  
30 Jonathan Martin Stanford OT  
31 Lamar Miller Miami RB  
32 Ryan Tannehill Texas A&M QB  
33 Coby Fleener Stanford TE  
34 Chandler Jones Syracuse DE Doesn't fit the Steeler profile for 3-4 DE or OLB
35 Rueben Randle LSU WR  
36 Stephen Hill Georgia Tech WR  
37 Doug Martin Boise State RB  
38 Mychal Kendricks Cal LB  
39 Brandon Thompson Clemson DT  
40 Kendall Reyes UConn DT  
41 Vinny Curry Marshall DE/OLB  
42 Orson Charles Georgia TE  
43 Trumaine Johnson Montana CB  
44 Josh Robinson UCF CB  
45 Janoris Jenkins N. Alabama CB This one would be close, but I'm going to scratch him for character
46 Kelechi Osemele Iowa State OT/OG  
47 Dwayne Allen Clemson TE  
48 Andre Branch Clemson DE/OLB  
49 Kevin Zeitler Wisconsin OG  
50 Alshon Jeffery South Carolina WR  
51 Brandon Weeden Oklahoma St. QB Weeden's age likely to be concern as they are looking for backup
52 Zach Brown North Carolina OLB 4-3 OLB only
53 Mitchell Schwartz  Cal OG/OT  
54 Kirk Cousins Michigan St. QB  
55 Brandon Boykin Georgia CB Steelers prefer more size at CB and Boykin is below 5'10
56 Harrison Smith Notre Dame S  
57 Bobbie Massey Ole Miss OT  
58 Lavonte David Nebraska OLB 4-3 OLB only
59 Cam Johnson Virginia DE Not explosive or athletic enough to play 3-4 OLB for Steelers
60 Zebrie Sanders Florida State OT  

View All 120 »

Stacking the Board

You would be blown away at how different a team's draft board is from what you're used to seeing on draft sites.

Now it is time to "stack the board" at each position. I tried as best I could to assign a round grade for each player at each position that I have listed for the Steelers. The reality is, however, that you would be blown away if you found out just how differently a team's draft board may look from what you are used to seeing on draft sites.

One team will have a second round grade on a player while another team has him as a "reject" and not even on their draft board because they don't think he can play. Personally, I'm just trying to get in the general ballpark with my board based on traits the Steelers look for at each position while keeping in mind where they tend to value that position on draft day.

I am not including the CENTER position as the Steelers will not draft a center-only player this year.

1 Andrew Luck 1st Trent Richardson 1st Justin Blackmon 1st
2 Robert Griffin III 1st David Wilson 2nd Michael Floyd 1st
3 Ryan Tannehill 3rd Doug Martin 2nd/3rd Stephen Hill 2nd
4 Kirk Cousins 3rd/4th Lamar Miller 3rd Rueben Randle 2nd
5 Brock Osweiler 5th Chris Polk 3rd Kendall Wright 2nd/3rd
6 Ryan Lindley 5th Bernard Pierce 4th Alshon Jeffery 2nd/3rd
7 B.J. Coleman 6th Robert Turbin 4th A.J. Jenkins 3rd
8 Chandler Harnish 7th/FA Edwin Baker 4th Nick Toon 3rd/4th
9 Darron Thomas FA Cyrus Gray 4th/5th Mohamed Sanu 3rd/4th
10     Isaiah Pead 5th Marvin McNutt 4th
11     Ronnie Hillman 5th Chris Givens 4th/5th
12     Michael Smith 5th/6th Brian Quick 4th/5th
13     Vick Ballard 6th Marvin Jones 5th
14     Darrell Scott 6th/7th Jeff Fuller 6th/7th
15         Jermaine Kearse 7th/FA
1 Coby Fleener 1st/2nd Matt Kalil 1st David DeCastro 1st
2 Orson Charles 2nd/3rd Jonathan Martin 1st/2nd Cordy Glenn * 1st
3 Dwayne Allen 3rd Riley Reiff 1st/2nd Amini Silatolu 1st/2nd
4 Kevin Koger 4th/5th Bobbie Massey 2nd Kevin Zeitler 2nd
5 LaDarius Green 4th/5th Mike Adams 2nd Mitchell Schwartz * 2nd/3rd
6 George Bryan 6th/7th Kelechi Osemele * 2nd/3rd Brandon Brooks 3rd
7 Corey Harkey 7th/FA James Brown * 3rd Lucas Nix 4th/5th
8 Chad Diehl (FB) FA Zebrie Sanders 3rd Tony Bergstrom 4th
9     Jeff Allen * 4th Desmond Wynn 5th
10     Brandon Mosely 4th/5th Derek Dennis 5th/6th
11     Tom Compton 4th Levy Adcock 5th/6th
12     Nate Potter * 5th Antoine McClain 6th/7th
13     Markus Zusevics 6th Johnnie Troutman 7th/FA
      * - possible guard * - can play tackle
1 Michael Brockers  1st Courtney Upshaw 1st Josh Chapman 2nd/3rd
2 Fletcher Cox 1st Melvin Ingram 1st Alameda Ta'amu 2nd/3rd
3 Dontari Poe  1st Nick Perry 1st Hebron Fangupo 4th
4 Devon Still 2nd Vinny Curry 2nd    
5 Kendall Reyes  2nd Whitney Mercilus 2nd    
6 Brandon Thompson 3rd Shea McClellin 3rd/4th    
7 Derek Wolfe  4th Andre Branch 3rd/4th    
8 Trevor Guyton  4th/5th Ronnell Lewis 4th    
9 Tyrone Crawford  5th Olivier Vernon 5th    
10 Jared Crick  5th Miles Burris 6th    
11 Akiem Hicks  6th Donte Paige-Moss 6th/7th    
12     Sammy Brown 7th    
1 Morris Claiborne 1st Mark Barron 1st Dont'a Hightower 1st
2 Stephon Gilmore 1st Harrison Smith 2nd/3rd Luke Kuechley 1st
3 Dre Kirkpatrick 1st/2nd George Iloka 4th/5th Mychal Kendricks 2nd/3rd
4 Josh Robinson 2nd Antonio Allen 6th Bobby Wagner 3rd
5 Trumaine Johnson 2nd/3rd Brandon Hardin 6th James-Michael Johnson 4th
6 Josh Norman 3rd Robert Blanton 6th Keenan Robinson 4th/5th
7 Alfonzo Dennard 3rd/4th Markelle Martin 6th Nigel Bradham 5th/6th
8 Ron Brooks 3rd/4th Christian Thompson 6th    
9 Casey Hayward 4th        
10 Jamell Fleming 4th        
11 Donnie Fletcher 5th/6th        
12 Keith Tandy 5th/6th        
13 Micah Pellerin 6th/7th        

Stacking for Draft Day

Finally, it is time to follow the Steelers' method of stacking the board player-by-player with no consideration for what other teams might do in the draft. In doing so, the Steelers can check players off their list as each player is drafted. Once it gets to their draft spot, they can draft the next player on their list or they may deviate slightly based on what has happened ahead of them.

Photo by ATrumbly
UCF's Josh Robinson's speed makes him a potential Steelers target. Photo by ATrumbly.

It is my understanding that the Steelers order their first two rounds based on the players they like the best and they take into consideration their needs when ordering these player.

However, it is worth noting that Pittsburgh is not a slave to need and will stay true to their concept of finding great football players rather than players who just fit needs.  If they can merge highly rated player and need position, all the better.

Armed with my understanding of their draft needs, my understanding of where they tend to draft certain positions, and my "Stacked Positions" board that I created, I was able to create an ordering of prospects over the course of two rounds that the Steelers could follow on draft day.

I understand that the Steelers may look for a backup quarterback in this draft (which is why I kept quarterback ratings in my "Stacked Positions") but I decided to leave Andrew Luck and RG3 out of the ordering as I have no idea how the Steelers would handle them within this exercise.

  Name Notes
1 Matt Kalil Kalil would come in and start at RT right away
2 Morris Claiborne
3 Trent Richardson
4 Michael Brockers
5 Courtney Upshaw Upshaw's combination of of power and competitiveness make him an early target
6 David DeCastro
7 Cordy Glenn  
8 Justin Blackmon Steelers won't pass on good football players which is why Blackmon is on the board
9 Dont'a Hightower
10 Fletcher Cox  
11 Luke Kuechley
12 Melvin Ingram
13 Dontari Poe Colbert is big on production and Poe hasn't been as productive as the Steelers like
14 Stephon Gilmore
15 Nick Perry  
16 Mark Barron
17 Michael Floyd
18 Jonathan Martin
19 Coby Fleener Fleener's ability to play on the line and out of the slot give Steelers another weapon
20 Amini Silatolu
21 Riley Reiff  
22 Dre Kirkpatrick
23 Kevin Zeitler Zeitler has power in run blocking that Steelers will love even if his pass pro neeeds work
24 Vinny Curry  
25 Devon Still  
26 Whitney Mercilus I believe Mercilus will go in top 20, but Steelers might not see him as prototype 3-4 OLB
27 Kendall Reyes
28 Bobbie Massey
29 Josh Robinson
30 Mike Adams
31 David Wilson
32 Josh Chapman Chapman is almost exact size C. Hampton was when he was drafted.  Run-stuffer.
33 Mychal Kendricks
34 Stephen Hill Hill's freakish size and speed will be coveted, but Steelers won't prioritize WR early on
35 Kelechi Osemele
36 Mitchell Schwartz
37 Doug Martin With Mendenhall coming off of injury, RB is a position that could get a look fairly early
38 Rueben Randle
39 Trumaine Johnson
40 Harrison Smith
41 Alameda Ta'amu
42 Lamar Miller Lamar Miller is size and speed, but he's not as physical inside as Steelers typically want
43 Orson Charles
44 Brandon Thompson
45 Kendall Wright
46 James Brown
47 Zebrie Sanders
48 Bobby Wagner Wagner could be even higher on their board as he's highly athletic & can play inside or out
49 Alshon Jeffery
50 Ryan Tannehill Steelers will be looking for another QB at some point, but clearly Tannehill won't fall this far
51 Brandon Brooks
52 Josh Norman
53 Chris Polk  
54 Jeff Allen  
55 Shea McClellin
56 Andre Branch Andre Branch is a one year wonder who isn't physical vs. run causing him to fall
57 Bernard Pierce
58 Dwayne Allen
59 Derek Wolfe Wolfe is a high-motor, Big East Defensive Player of the Year.  Definitely fits their 3-4 profile
60 Alfonzo Dennard
61 A.J. Jenkins  
62 Ron Brooks  
63 Hebron Fanguopo Fanguopo is a 2-gap NT who could fight for playing time as a middle round pick

Draft Board Variability

Pittsburgh will stay true finding great football players rather than players who just fit needs.

While this project was time consuming, it was also a great deal of fun for me to put together (even if Kevin Colbert may chuckle at much of my board). It was also for only one team. All teams make free agency, salary cap and draft decisions every year based on fit, locker room character and salary distribution per position every year. The Tennessee Titans' draft board will look entirely different than the Green Bay Packers' based on their differing philosophies on both sides of the ball.

With that in mind, I wonder if football fans realize how silly it is to put so much stock into the "Big Boards" that everyone puts out.  With so many moving parts, why would anyone pretend to know if a team hit or missed on their draft without understanding the variables that went into stacking their boards?

« Head back and read Part 1