Pittsburgh Steelers: Allen Robinson

PITTSBURGH -- There are still a lot of intriguing players available after the first round of the NFL draft -- and more than a few that analysts had projected as first-round picks.

The second round of the draft sets up nicely for the Steelers for several reasons.

First and foremost, only 13 teams pick ahead of them. With the Texans likely to take a quarterback with the first pick in the second round and a run expected on offensive linemen at least one of the following 10 players who are really good prospects and would fill a need should be on the board when the Steelers make their second pick.

WR Marqise Lee, Southern Cal: Had once been considered one of the best wide receivers in the draft and may have been a top 10-15 pick had he entered the draft last year. The Steelers don’t have much chance of landing Lee as his free fall figures to end early in the second round.

CB Stanley-Jean Baptiste, Nebraska: Tall, rangy cornerback had been projected as a possible late first-round pick, and he would address the Steelers’ most glaring need. Steelers may get a crack at him depending on how many quarterbacks and offensive linemen are picked ahead of them in second round.

DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame: Another projected first-round pick who has to wait an extra night to hear his name called. The Steelers could address defensive end by selecting Tuitt, whose pass-rushing skills could make him an eventual three-down player in Pittsburgh’s defense.

NT Louis Nix, Notre Dame: Prototypical nose tackle who would be able to contribute immediately as a run stopper. The Steelers may be happy with Steve McLendon at nose tackle but Nix more fits the mold of Casey Hampton, and he would tempt them if he is still available.

WR Cody Latimer, Indiana: One of the fastest risers in the draft did not crack the first round, but he would be a great pick for the Steelers if he falls to them. Latimer has good size, speed and toughness, and he was incredibly productive despite facing constant double teams at Indiana.

DE Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota: Another player who had been widely projected as a first-round pick. Has tremendous size and physical ability but inconsistent play in college pushed him into the second round. Like Tuitt, projects as a defensive end who can provide an inside pass rush when the Steelers go to a nickel defense.

OLB Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State: The Steelers still need to bolster their pass rush and add depth at outside linebacker. Joyner would have to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme but he has the athleticism to do it, and he showed in college that he can get after the quarterback.

WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: Matthews would give the Steelers a taller wide receiver and could still be available in the middle of the second round. There are questions about how well he will be able to separate at the next level but it’s hard to overlook that he is the SEC’s all-time leading receiver.

OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU: ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had Van Noy going in the first round of his final mock draft. Productive and versatile at BYU, Van Noy could provide quality depth at outside linebacker and also contribute on special teams early in his career.

WR Allen Robinson, Penn State: Re-wrote the Nittany Lions’ record books despite playing just two seasons. He has good size, exceptional hands and catches the ball well in traffic. The biggest question with Robinson is whether he is fast enough to thrive at the next level.

Countdown to combine: Steelers

February, 20, 2014
With the NFL scouting combine starting today, we review positions of need and who the Steelers might be looking at during the combine at those positions.

Position of need: Wide receiver

Unrestricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders is likely to receive an offer that the Steelers are unwilling to match and sign elsewhere. Even if Markus Wheaton is ready to step into the starting lineup after playing sparingly as a rookie and the Steelers re-sign No. 3 wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, they could still find room for a wide receiver, particularly one who is bigger than the ones they have on their roster and are projected to play regularly in 2014. The Steelers would make no bigger splash with the 15th overall pick than if they selected a tall wide receiver, something quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has long coveted.

Three players the Steelers might be targeting

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State: Played just two seasons for the Seminoles but exploded onto the scene in 2013, catching 54 passes for 1,011 yards and an ACC-best 15 touchdown receptions. Benjamin may be the most intriguing player among the draft-eligible wide receivers because of his blend of size and athleticism and his upside, which may be the highest among the wideouts. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Benjamin just eighth in his rankings of the top 10 wide receivers in the draft but no player could move up more based on what he does in Indianapolis. It will be interesting to see what his measurements are -- Benjamin is listed at 6-foot-4 7/8, 233 pounds -- as well as what he runs in the 40-yard dash. Benjamin doesn't lack the polish of other top wide receivers in the draft, which might make picking him at No. 15 overall risky. But if the Steelers don't get him in the first round they are unlikely to get another crack at Benjamin.

Mike Evans, Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel's primary target in college has already been linked to the Steelers by several draft analysts, and he may be the most attractive tall wide receiver in the draft. Evans, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, had two highly productive seasons at Texas A&M before declaring for the draft, and he is second on Kiper's rankings for wide receivers. Here is what Kiper wrote about Evans earlier this week: "I had a friend in one front office tell me he feels Evans has the best ball skills he's seen in 20 years. I won't go that far, but If Evans shows off mid-4.4 speed, we'll have teams debating the top wide receiver in this draft between him and [Sammy] Watkins." Like Benjamin, there are questions about Evans' speed, but no receiver in the draft is better in jump-ball situations or plays bigger than Evans, who had 69 catches for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Allen Robinson, Penn State: It took him just two seasons to etch his name all over the Nittany Lions' record book for wide receivers, obliterating marks held by O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram, each of whom had lengthy and productive NFL careers. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder has good size and he uses the basketball skills that made him a Division I prospect in high school to make contested catches in traffic. Robinson is not among Kiper's top 10 wide receivers but that is a reflection of the depth at the position more than anything. The two-time Big Ten wide receiver of the year is a likely second-round pick though Robinson still has time to push his way into the first round, especially if he runs well as the combine. He could be an option for the Steelers in the second round if they don't pick a wide receiver at No. 15 overall and if Robinson, who caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns last season, is still on the board.
PITTSBURGH -- A number of underclassmen who figure to be high picks have declared for the 2014 NFL draft, and one in particular should intrigue the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Allen Robinson needed just two seasons to rewrite the receiving part of Penn State’s record books, and there is a lot to like about him for a team that might make wide receiver a priority in the draft.

Robinson has been incredibly productive -- he caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards in 2013 despite playing with a true freshman at quarterback and regularly facing double coverage -- and has good size and ball skills. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder is also athletic enough that he could have played basketball at a Division I school had he taken that route.

[+] EnlargeAllen Robinson
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsPenn State's Allen Robinson had 97 catches for 1,432 yards in 2013.
What should really put Robinson on the Steelers’ radar: he could be available when they make their second-round pick.

He has been projected to go anywhere from the first to the third round, and my guess is that Robinson is selected in the second round as I think questions could be raised about his speed -- or at least enough of them to drop him into the second round.

I think the only way the Steelers go offense with the 15th overall pick of the draft is if there is a left tackle prospect they feel they cannot afford to pass on, or if there is a transcendent wide receiver that gives quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the big downfield target he has long coveted.

Other than that, I think the Steelers take a playmaker on defense, whether it is for the back end of their secondary, their linebacking corps, or a nose tackle who fits the prototype more than incumbent Steve McLendon does.

Assuming they don’t take a wide receiver in the first round for the first time since Plaxico Burress in 2000, the Steelers could seriously be in play for one in the second round.

Emmanuel Sanders is, at best, 50-50 to return next season , and if he signs elsewhere the Steelers should bring in a taller wide receiver or give 6-foot-5, 210-pound Derek Moye a serious look there.

There is a lot to like about Robinson, who is already polished as a receiver, but doesn’t turn 21 until next August and still has plenty of upside.

General manager Kevin Colbert said the Steelers do extra homework on NFL prospects in their backyard, so they don’t miss on a player who is right in front of them. You can bet Colbert and the Steelers coaches and scouts will take plenty of interest in Robinson, as they should.