Thursday, 28 February 2013 12:09
I have thought since before the combine that the Steelers would address one of two positions in the first round of the draft – wide receiver or outside linebacker.
But, after returning from the combine, I no longer think that.
In fact, if they do address the linebacker position in the first round, I think it will be an inside linebacker, not an outside linebacker.
An outside linebacker in the Steelers 3-4 defense has traditionally been a player who was a defensive end in college. They have had a laundry list of those players – Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds
There is an element of the unknown when projecting a player to another position, especially such an important one as outside linebacker, because you don’t always know if the player is going to successfully make the transition. Or how long it might take, if he does.
It then becomes too much of a risk to use a No. 1 pick on a player who has never played a position before. And the Steelers have not taken that risk, not on the first round
That being said, the lone exception this year could be Oregon’s Dion Jordan, a freakishly athletic defensive end whom the Steelers think could easily make the transition to outside linebacker. Jordan is 6-6 ½, 248 pounds – much taller than their prototypical outside linebacker – but he was used in so many different ways at Oregon, including dropping into coverage. And that’s something the Steelers expect their outside linebacker to do – drop into coverage.
That is no problem for Jordan, who began his college career as a wide receiver. But he probably won’t be available when the Steelers get to pick at No. 17.
Here’s the other reason the Steelers might take an inside linebacker:
It is unlikely Sean Spence, their third-round draft choice last season, will play in 2013 after sustaining a severe knee injury last summer in the preseason. There is some question if he will ever play again. Spence sustained a dislocated knee and multiple ligament tears in his knee, including the anterior cruciate ligament. But he also sustained damage to the peroneal nerve behind the knee, and the nerve has not regenerated. He will not be able to play again until it does – if it does.
That means the Steelers are right back where they were before last season – without a suitable replacement for James Farrior. It’s the reason they are forced to consider re-signing veteran Larry Foote for one more season.
But, if LSU’s Kevin Minter (6-0, 246) is available at No. 17, do not be surprised to see the Steelers take him with their No. 1 pick.
That is more likely than an outside linebacker in the first round.
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