Pittsburgh Steelers: NFL Combine Provides New Targets for 2014 NFL Draft
5 Pittsburgh Steelers Prospects Exiting the NFL Scouting Combine
For a franchise that has traditionally been at its best when building from the NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers face a critical couple months in preparing for the 2014 version of the Draft. The Steelers, coming off their second straight 8-8 season and their first back-to-back non-winning seasons since 1998-99, pick 15th in the first round and have plenty of needs to try and fill.
One of Pittsburgh's biggest concerns has to be the defensive secondary, where cornerback Ike Taylor and safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are getting up in age in terms of being an effective NFL defensive back. There is some younger blood in the system in cornerback Cortez Allen and safety Shamarko Thomas. But safety is likely to be a spot where the Steelers focus during this draft.
Offensively, as usual, the Steelers have questions on their offensive line, where injuries were a constant and four players are free agents this offseason. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Pittsburgh go back to offensive line for a high draft pick this spring. In addition, the Steelers might be in a bit of a crisis mode at wide receiver, where after legitimate No. 1 receiver Antonio Brown, WRs Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress are all free agents. Likewise at running back, behind starter Le'Veon Bell, who is entering only his second season, Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones and La'Rod Stephens-Howling are all free agents.
There's no question the Steelers have a lot of work to do this offseason in order to return to their traditional home at the top of the AFC North. Here are five players who performed well at the recent NFL Scouting Combine and should be on Pittsburgh's radar.
Ed Morgans is an ACC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @writered21.
5. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
One consideration for Pittsburgh that would be way off the radar of most experts would be drafting a mobile quarterback. Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech would fit that mold. It's unclear whether 2013 draftee Landry Jones will be groomed to be starter Ben Roethlisberger's eventual replacement, and Thomas probably wouldn't, either. But he could give an added dimension to Pittsburgh's offense. Thomas measured out at 6-foot-6, 248 pounds at the Combine, yet ran a 4.61 40-yard dash (numbers according to NFL.com). That mixture of size and strength could be welcome in various packages at quarterback or other positions by the Steelers.
4. Henry Josey, RB, Missouri
As mentioned, with Bell only in his second year and his backups being free agents, the Steelers may well dip into the Draft again to try and find a running back. Bell can be an every-down guy and can take punishment. Pittsburgh needs a speedy alternative to Bell, and Henry Josey (4.47 in the 40) provides that. Josey ran for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns in the fall at Missouri, averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
3. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Heath Miller, as good as he is at tight end for the Steelers, isn't going to play forever. Miller will turn 32 in October and has already suffered a serious knee injury in his career. The Steelers would be wise to find a good sized tight end that can be a second player at that position for now, eventually taking over for Miller down the road. North Carolina TE Eric Ebron is 6-foot-4, 250 pounds with a 32-inch vertical leap. Ebron caught 62 passes for 973 yards at UNC in 2013. His size ought to let him develop as a strong blocker. His Combine grade from NFL.com of 6.4 denotes a player who should become "an instant starter." That might be the case if Pittsburgh drafts Ebron, but he'd be well groomed for the role.
2. Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest
Pittsburgh needs help at wide receiver. Depending on how the Steelers want to invest at the position, Wake Forest's Michael Campanaro could be the perfect match. Not blessed with great size (5-foot-9), Campanaro makes up for that with decent speed and strength. When healthy, he put up Xbox numbers at Wake in 2013, catching 67 passes for 803 yards and six touchdowns in just eight games. In four games, Campanaro caught 10 passes or more, including 16 receptions for 177 yards against Louisiana-Monroe.
1. Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota
Brock Vereen of the Minnesota Golden Gophers could be the perfect draft pick to bring some needed youth and aggressiveness to the Steelers' secondary. Vereen posted not only a 4.47 time in the 40, but also did 25 reps on the bench press, showing the exact kind of size/speed mix that you want to see in an NFL safety. Though perhaps a tad undersized (6-foot), he was in on 57 tackles this past season for the Gophers, including 40 solo tackles. He was the leader of a Minnesota defense that gave up just 16 points per game over the Gophers' final four games of the season.