NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

2013 NFL Draft: Five Options for Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17

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Five Directions the Pittsburgh Steelers could go at No. 17

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With a disappointing 2012 season now in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers have their sights set on making major improvements this upcoming NFL campaign. One of their top opportunities to take a step forward is the 2013 NFL Draft, where the Steelers can add a handful of young talent to the roster.

This year, it’ll be up to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to make the most of the draft picks available to him. Pittsburgh’s roster has several holes that need to be filled, including wide receiver, outside linebacker and safety. Even beyond glaring needs, the Steelers could still use some extra depth across the board.

Especially with a mid-first-round pick, it’s going to be imperative for the Steelers to land an impact player at No. 17. While there will be several elite prospects still on the board at that point, making sure that they’re getting a boom instead of a bust could make or break the future of this franchise.

Coming off of an 8-8 season, Tomlin needs to rebound in 2013. The Steelers struggled mightily throughout the 2012 campaign as age and injuries consistently hindered their ability to field a better squad.

One way or another, the Pittsburgh defense needs to get younger. The offense needs to add more weapons to the arsenal. As a whole, the Steelers need to get stronger in the youth and upside departments. What better way than the NFL Draft?

Here’s a look at five players that could be in the Steelers’ crosshairs when they’re finally on the clock at No. 17.

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Jonathan Franklin, Running Back, UCLA

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With the departure of Rashard Mendenhall this offseason, the Steelers are left with two backup running backs to fill the void. Although Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have both shown flashes of starting-caliber talent, neither is ready to take over as the full-time No. 1. If the Steelers deem the position as a dire need, Pittsburgh could look to a top running back prospect such as Franklin to be their workhorse in the ground game.

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Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah

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If Lotulelei slides down to the Steelers at No. 17, you better believe they’ll take a good, hard look at the dominant defensive tackle. With the Casey Hampton era all but over and the nose tackle spot suddenly empty, adding a player like Lotulelei to the mix would be a massive upgrade for Pittsburgh. The biggest question mark is whether or not he’s still available when the Steelers are on the clock.

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Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee

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When Mike Wallace took his talents to South Beach, the Steelers were left without a legitimate deep threat who can stretch the field and give Ben Roethlisberger a long-range target. While Patterson isn’t exactly a clone of Wallace, he has the speed and size to be the homerun threat the Steelers need heading into 2013. He’s an electrifying pass-catcher who should put a smile on Big Ben’s face if drafted.

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Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas

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Age is becoming a significant factor in the Steelers’ secondary, with safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu both beginning to slow down as the years pile on. With Vaccaro in the fold, Pittsburgh would have a dynamic playmaker who can provide depth while being groomed as an eventual starter. He’s the type of building block the Steelers need as they look to restructure their aging defense.

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Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia

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If Jones were available at No. 17, the Steelers representative would stampede his way up to the podium to turn in the pick. Jones is an ideal fit for the Pittsburgh 3-4 defense, especially after James Harrison left this offseason. Jones is one of the best pure pass-rushers that the 2013 draft class has to offer, and would immediately upgrade the Steelers’ defense.

Gil Alcaraz IV is a Content Planner/NFL Featured Columnist for Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.