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NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 NFL Draft: Outside Linebacker Prospects By Round

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Pittsburgh Steelers Outside Linebacker Prospects

NFL Draft
Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are less than a week from the 2013 NFL Draft, and it certainly appears after working hard to retain some key players at prominent positions, that their draft board is coming into focus.

One primary need for the Steelers at this point has to be to bolster a stagnant pass rush by upgrading the talent at rush outside linebacker. The Steelers chose to let linebacker James Harrison go this offseason, and while fellow outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds are experienced, there is no doubt this team needs an upgrade.

The good news is this draft class is deep with these hybrid pass rush players, and it’s not just at the top. While there are plenty of excellent prospects who will go in the first round, you can really look down the line and see that whether the Steelers want to draft a rush player in the 1st round or the 7th round, there are some very talented and interesting players they will have to choose from.

It’s important to understand the role of the outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. These are players that are on the field for all three downs. They are asked to come up and stuff the run on run downs, so they have to be smart, strong and willing to lock up on an offensive lineman and allow another player to make a tackle.

They are also asked to drop into coverage. This can be covering a short zone, or light man coverage on a back or tight end. This means the player must have the agility and fluidity to drop and turn, but it’s primarily about being smart, understanding assignment football and doing just enough in terms of coverage.

But the primary role of an outside linebacker is to rush the quarterback. Whether it’s hand on the ground or out of a 2-point stance, getting around the edge is the most important thing they do. So when it comes to breaking down who to draft, the ability to rush the passer is key.

So, here are my rush outside linebackers for every round of the 2013 NFL draft.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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First Round-Tank Carradine, FSU

NFL Draft
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For my money, Carradine is the best all around pass rusher in this draft. He's also big and strong and does a nice job setting the edge in the run game. Yes, he'd need to work on his coverage, but in terms of a player who can come in and play well right away, assuming he's healthy, Carradine is the guy.

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Second Round-Corey Lemonier, LB Auburn

NFL Draft
Daniel Shirley-USA TODAY Sports

Some think Lemonier is a little light and more importantly plays a little light, but his first step is great and his effort is high. He's very coachable and hard working, and would be in the mix as a situational pass rusher right away.

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Third Round-Chase Thomas, Stanford

NFL Draft
Phil Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas is a fascinating prospect because he's got tremendous experience in a 3-4 base defense and does a nice job in all facets of his game. Probably not as dynamic as some other players, but he does everything very well.

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Fourth Round-Lerentee McCray, Florida

NFL Draft
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

McCray is an interesting prospect, because he's got the look of a long lean edge rushing linebacker, but his film is spotty. Some games he looks very good, others he's invisible. He likely needs some time to get up to NFL speed, but he's a very fascinating player with his athleticism.

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Fifth Round-Meshak Williams, Kansas State

NFL Draft
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Williams is a forgotten star from the Kansas State defense, but he's an excellent pass rusher. Obviously he'd have to learn how to play in coverage, but he's a strong and explosive player who uses excellent leverage and can set the edge.

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Sixth Round-Eric Martin, Nebraska

NFL Draft
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Martin's calling card is his speed as he's a legit 4.5 linebacker at nearly 240lbs. He could develop into a terror coming off the edge and move inside in run situations.

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Seventh Round-David Bass, Missouri Western

NFL Draft
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Bass is a small school star who really came into his own as a pass rusher this season. He'd need to trim down a little, but he was asked to drop into coverage at times at Missouri Western and did an adequate job. He's likely a project player, but does show a ton of potential.