Pittsburgh Steelers: Possible Draft Prospects Who Can Replace LB James Harrison
Possible Pass-Rusher Prospects
The departure of outside linebacker James Harrison has left many in the Steel City wondering if the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass rush will ever be the same. Harrison left as the franchise’s second all-time leading sacker with 64 and was one of the best pass rushers in the league over the past 10 seasons.
Currently, linebacker Jason Worilds is penciled in as the Steelers’ next starting outside linebacker. In 2012, Worilds had a career-high five sacks. The four-year veteran will be looked upon to be Pittsburgh’s next dominant force on the right side of the defense. However, his spot isn’t completely guaranteed.
The Steelers have the 17th overall pick in the upcoming draft. Though the chance of the organization spending that pick on an outside linebacker is very high, Pittsburgh could also decide to focus on another much-needed position, such as wide receiver.
Pittsburgh’s selection in the first round will be dictated by who is on the board once they are on the clock. In a perfect world, the Steelers would snag pass rushers Barkevious Mingo of Louisiana State University or Dion Jordan from the University of Oregon. However, chances are that they will both be gone way before the 17th pick.
Realistically speaking, the potential first-round prospects at outside linebacker that are being observed by Pittsburgh could be gone once it is their turn to make a selection. If by chance that happens, they could possibly seek a wide receiver, and pursue a pass rusher in the second or third round.
I’ve looked at some of the draft prospects and came up with five that could possibly be a good fit for the Steelers’ defense. Though Worilds is said to be the heir apparent to Harrison’s position, bringing in another outside linebacker could give Worilds some much-needed competition, as well as give Pittsburgh some much-needed depth.
Let’s look at five players who could possibly be the Steelers’ next great pass rusher.
Jarvis Jones-Georgia (6'3", 245 lbs.)
Linebacker Jarvis Jones is probably the most likely to be drafted by the Steelers in the first round of April’s draft. Jones’ familiarity in the 3-4 alignment makes him a perfect fit for Pittsburgh’s defensive scheme. The two-time First-Team All-SEC selection led the SEC in sacks in 2011 with 13.5, and followed up that stellar season by leading the nation in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5), and forced fumbles (seven) in 2012.
Jones is projected as the second-best outside linebacker in the draft and the 15th best overall player. He will be hard to pass up if he falls this far down the board.
Alec Ogletree-Georgia (6'3", 242 lbs.)
Adding versatility is one thing that won’t hurt the Steelers on the defensive side of the ball. Alec Ogletree played inside linebacker for the University of Georgia. However, he is rated as the number-three outside linebacker in the draft right behind his college teammate Jones. Ogletree led his team with 111 tackles in 2012 and showed good speed for a linebacker at the combine with a 4.68 40-yard dash time.
Unfortunately for Ogletree, a rash of off-the-field incidents throughout his collegiate career may scare away Pittsburgh. The Steelers have already dealt with two issues in 2012, and could possibly avoid another potential headache going into the 2013 season.
Arthur Brown-Kansas State (6'1", 241 lbs.)
The Steelers were one of three teams represented at Kansas State University’s Pro Day to observe linebacker Arthur Brown. The two-time All-Big 12 selection recorded 100-plus tackles in 2011 and 2012, and has the ability to fill the stats sheet with interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and even defensive touchdowns.
The interesting thing about Brown is that he is probably better suited for a 4-3 alignment on defense. However, the fact that Pittsburgh took a good look at him at Kansas State recently shows that he just might be coachable enough to make a transition to a different scheme.
Sio Moore-UConn (6'1", 245 lbs.)
Just like Ogletree, Sio Moore is a versatile linebacker who can play multiple positions. Moore played both inside and outside linebacker, as well as defensive end for the University of Connecticut, and registered eight sacks in 2012. He showed a combination of speed and strength at the combine with a 4.62 40-yard dash and 29 reps on the bench press.
Moore appears to be football’s version of a Swiss army knife. His defensive versatility could be greatly used in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, it could add more depth on the defensive line as well as inside and outside linebacker. Playing in the Big East (a conference that isn’t highly celebrated), Moore could be overlooked and considered a steal in the draft.
Corey Lemonier-Auburn (6'3", 255 lbs.)
Corey Lemonier played defensive end at Auburn University, but will more than likely be a much better fit in the league as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. However, Lemonier’s lack of experience at outside linebacker could put him behind Worilds on the depth chart if by chance the Steelers draft him.
Lemonier does have good speed for a player his size. His 4.56 40-yard dash time shows he has the ability to chase down ball carriers, and his 27 reps on the bench press indicates that he his strong enough to fight off blockers while rushing the passer.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google