Pittsburgh Steelers: Calvin Pryor

PITTSBURGH -- It’s hard to find a mock draft that doesn’t have the Steelers taking a cornerback or a wide receiver tonight with their first-round pick.

ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each have the Steelers selecting a cornerback though they opted for different ones.

Kiper has the Steelers picking Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard in his final mock draft, writing that Dennard is a perfect fit in Dick LeBeau’s defense. McShay has the Steelers taking Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller , writing that his ball skills and ability to provide run support make him an ideal pick for the Steelers. Lets’ take a look at what other mock drafters have the Steelers picking in the first round:

Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Fuller

Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Alan Robinson, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Dennard

Jim Wexell, Steel City Insider: Dennard

Dale Lolley, Observer-Reporter: Fuller

Dave Bryan, Steelers Depot: Fuller

Rob Rang, CBS Sports: Dennard

Dane Brugler, CBS Sports: Dennard

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Fuller

Charles Davis, NFL.com: WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Beckham

Don Banks, SI.com: Beckham

Chris Burke, SI.com: Dennard

Doug Farrar, SI.com: Dennard

Dan Shonka, Ourlands Scouting Services: S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

WalterFootball.com: Gilbert
PITTSBURGH – The NFL draft is finally here. And just as the NFL did with its annual selection process I will drag out my final pre-draft coverage.

I will start with the 14 players I think will be drafted before the Pittsburgh Steelers pick. I will follow that with a compilation of mock drafts. Next will be my five most realistic targets for the Steelers followed by the player I think they will pick in the first round.

Here are the 14 players I don't think will be available when the Steelers are on the clock for the 15th overall pick tonight.

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: Somebody is taking him No. 1. It's just a matter of whether the Texans do or trade out of this pick.

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson: The best wide receiver in the draft could slip a little if he doesn't go No. 2 to the Rams or No. 4 to the Browns. But he will still be an early pick.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The ultimate wild-card could go as high as No. 3 to the Jaguars. He is a big risk but some team is going to gamble on Manziel early in the draft.

OT Greg Robinson, Auburn: The comparisons to Pro Football Hall of Famers are premature but he will be a top-five pick. The only question with Robinson is whether he is the first offensive tackle taken.

OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: Don't be surprised if the Rams take him at No. 2 over players such as Watkins and Robinson. Rams coach Jeff Fisher knows all about his bloodlines.

OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan: The Falcons at No. 6 are probably the earliest he goes off the board. Lewan is a candidate to slip but hard to imagine him lasting until the 15th pick.

WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M: The Steelers never had a chance at the tall wideout their fans wanted. Look for the Raiders to grab him with the fifth overall pick.

LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo: Don't be surprised if the Bills pick Mack if he gets past the Jaguars. He is a safer pick than Clowney but doesn't have as much upside.

DT Aaron Donald, Pitt: The best defensive player in college football last season goes in the top 10. And I see the Vikings bypassing quarterback Blake Bortles to take Donald.

OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame: Everyone seems high on the most versatile offensive lineman in the draft. It's hard to see Martin making it to No. 15.

WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU: A player who has been linked extensively to the Steelers in mock drafts won't be there at No. 15. A team could try to trade up for one of the most explosive players in the draft.

OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: I picked Barr after he fell to the Steelers in an ESPN NFL Nation mock draft. It won't happen in the real thing as he is too much of a playmaker and has too much upside not to go before the 15th overall pick.

S Calvin Pryor, Louisville: Big hitter could go in top 10 if Lions draft a safety at No. 10. The Bears could take Pryor at No. 14, one spot ahead of the Steelers.

QB Blake Bortles, UCF: The Steelers would love it if two quarterbacks are taken before the 15th pick. Some team is going to take the quarterback that Ben Roethlisberger predicted will be the best one in this class.

Draft position needs: Safety

April, 29, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers have nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft and this is the second in a series that looks at the nine positions they could address in less than weeks. Keep in mind that the Steelers are likely to draft two cornerbacks so they may not take a player at every position covered in this series.

Next up is safety:

Added: Mike Mitchell

Lost: Ryan Clark

Skinny: The signing of Mitchell probably takes the position out of first-round consideration. The Steelers also re-signed veteran Will Allen and are expecting Shamarko Thomas to make a big jump in his second season so they don’t have an immediate need here. They should add another young player to develop as Allen is only signed through next season while Troy Polamalu's future isn't certain beyond 2014. Whether the Steelers draft a safety or sign a couple of undrafted free agents remains to be seen. The position is not one of the deeper ones in the draft so their options may be limited in later rounds if they don’t take a safety early. The Steelers hosted Calvin Pryor of Louisville, a projected first-round pick, and Brock Vereen of Minnesota for pre-draft visits.

Draft likelihood: Medium

Extra points

Last S drafted by the Steelers: Thomas, fourth round in 2013

Last S drafted by the Steelers in the first round: Polamalu, 2003

Last S taken 15th overall in the draft: Kenny Vaccaro, Saints, 2013

Safeties drafted under Kevin Colbert/Mike Tomlin: Two

Safeties drafted under Colbert/Tomlin still with the Steelers: One
PITTSBURGH -- Mock drafts have, predictably, been all over the place as far as the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round pick. Most, however, have them taking a wide receiver or a cornerback No. 15 overall, assuming they don’t try to trade down.

I think those two positions are most likely the ones the Steelers will target with their first pick, though North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron could also be in play if he slides a little in the draft.

Ebron
Ebron is the No. 1 player at one of the few positions that is not particularly deep, and he would give the Steelers a tall receiver while also filling a long-term need. I think Heath Miller has at least three good seasons left in him, but the Steelers have to plan for the post-Miller years at some point.

If Ebron is still available when they make the first pick, I think they give him serious consideration, especially if a couple of cornerbacks are already off the board, as well as Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

The Steelers have eight other picks in the draft, three of which are compensatory selections, including one at the end of the third round. They have a lot of needs -- or as general manager Kevin Colbert would frame it "wants" -- particularly on defense.

Here is my projection of the positions they will address with their nine picks, which is contingent on the Steelers not adding extra ones through a trade.

Cornerback (2): The Steelers could use immediate help here, and they don't have a long-term starter at cornerback after third-year man Cortez Allen. I would be surprised if they don't draft two cornerbacks, with one of them coming in the first three rounds. They drafted two cornerbacks in 2011, including Allen in the fourth round.

Defensive line (2): The Steelers will draft a defensive lineman as early as the second round -- ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has them taking Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III with their second pick in his latest mock draft -- and they need to take at least one end. The signing of Cam Thomas gives them a player with position flexibility, but the Steelers' need at defensive end is every bit as glaring as it is at cornerback.

Wide receiver (1): No position is deeper in the draft, and even if the Steelers don't address it in the first round, they can still get a good prospect later. The Steelers probably won't get a chance to draft Evans unless they trade up in the first round and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin may be too much of a risk to take at No. 15. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. has been linked to the Steelers in various mock drafts, and they could pull the trigger on him if they have him high on their board.

Linebacker (1): The Steelers have to take a player who projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme given how thin they are at the position. It will be interesting to see what they will do if Alabama’s C.J. Mosley is still on the board at No. 15. Mosley, who projects as an inside linebacker, may be one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft. “He and (Lawrence) Timmons could be your (NaVorro) Bowman and (Patrick) Willis,” ESPN analyst and former NFL scout Matt Williamson said. If the Steelers take Mosley, they will also draft an outside linebacker later in the draft.

Safety (1): The Steelers have hosted at least three safeties for pre-draft visits, including Louisville’s Calvin Pryor, a projected first-round pick. The signing of Mike Mitchell makes it unlikely the Steelers take a safety in the first round but it wouldn't hurt to add another younger player here. The question is whether it makes sense for them to draft a safety -- or instead sign a couple of undrafted free agents -- if they don’t take one in the second or third round.

Offensive line (1): I don't see this as the need that others do. The Steelers got their upgrade up front when they hired Mike Munchak to coach the offensive line and he has plenty of material with which to work. All five starters return, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, who tore his ACL eight snaps into last season. And the Steelers have depth up front after re-signing Cody Wallace and Guy Whimper. The Steelers will probably take a lineman they can develop later in the draft, but I could also see them not drafting one for the second year in a row if they take two linebackers or a tight end.

Running back (1): The Steelers need depth and they could use a speedster to complement Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. The de-valuing of running backs allows the Steelers to wait until later in the draft to address the position and still get a good prospect. I don't see them taking a running back before the fifth round.

CB Bradley Roby visiting Steelers

April, 11, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are meeting with a potential first-round pick and two other defensive players Friday at team headquarters.

Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford and Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis are the Steelers’ latest pre-draft visitors with Roby projected as a first- or second-round pick.

Roby may be the most talented cornerback in the draft but he had an up-and-down season in 2013 and didn’t play in the Buckeyes’ season opener because of a suspension stemming from an offseason arrest.

The 5-11, 194-pounder recorded 68 tackles and intercepted three passes last season, and he boosted his stock by running the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Roby as the fourth-best cornerback in the draft behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and TCU’s Jason Verrett.

Bradford recorded 18 tackles for losses and 8 sacks in 2013 for Arizona State, and the 6-1, 250-pounder could play inside or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Pierre-Louis also had a productive season in 2013 as he recorded 108 tackles, six sacks and an interception.

The 6-1, 232-pounder does not have great size but he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds at the combine.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 out-of-area prospects for pre-draft prospects.

They met with Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and Washington State safety Deone Bucannon earlier this week.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are hosting two linebackers for visits today, including a potential first-round pick, as well as one of the top all-around safeties in the draft.

Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier and UCLA’s Jordan Zumwalt are meeting with the Steelers at their practice facility as well Washington State safety Deone Bucannon.

Shazier has been widely projected as a first-round pick and the Steelers would be looking at the former Buckeyes star as an inside linebacker.

Shazier recorded 101 tackles in 2013, the third-highest single-season total in Ohio State history, and the 6-foot-1, 237-pounder has excellent speed.

The Steelers will almost certainly get only one crack at Shazier, as he shouldn’t get drafted any later than the early part of the second round.

“You could make an argument he’s one of the 10 best football players in this draft based on being a pure, instinctive football player,” ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Shazier.

Zumwalt also projects as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, and the former UCLA star is expected to get drafted in the third or fourth round. The 6-4, 235-pound Zumwalt recorded 91 tackles last season and intercepted a pair of passes.

Bucannon is one of the top safeties in the draft and is in the tier of players at the position after Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.

The 6-1, 211-pounder had 15 career interceptions at Washington State, including six last season when he also recorded 78 tackles and forced three fumbles. Bucannon could get drafted as high as the second round.

This is the first day that the Steelers are hosting draft prospects since Monday.

General manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin each attended pro days at Penn State and LSU the previous two days.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 prospects for pre-draft visits and they have met with two linebackers and two safeties this week.

Pryor, a projected first-round pick, visited the Steelers on Monday.
PITTSBURGH -- The signing of Mike Mitchell last month hasn't stopped the Pittsburgh Steelers from taking a closer look at one of the top safeties in the draft.

Calvin Pryor is visiting the Steelers today, and the former Louisville star is a projected first-round pick. Pryor is also widely regarded as the second-best safety in the draft after Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The 5-foot-11, 207-pound Pryor recorded 65 tackles and three interceptions last year and he is a hard hitter who is particularly strong in run support.

This is a curious visit at face value since Mitchell's signing makes it unlikely that the Steelers use their first-round pick on a safety. But with teams using five and six defensive backs in sub-packages with increasing frequency it makes sense that the Steelers are doing their homework on players who can help them in the secondary.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 prospects for pre-draft visits.

Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief, South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington and Minnesota safety Brock Vereen visited the Steelers last week.

McShay Mock 3.0 reax: Steelers

March, 6, 2014
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The re-signings of Troy Polamalu and Will Allen have not made safety any less of a priority in the 2014 NFL draft. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who are not expected to re-sign starting free safety Ryan Clark, have to draft at least one safety in May in preparation for the post-Polamalu years.

The consensus is that Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor are the top two safety prospects in the draft, and ESPN’s Todd McShay has the Steelers taking Clinton-Dix Insider in his third mock draft, which was unveiled Thursday.

McShay had the Steelers taking Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III in his two previous mock drafts, including one right after the NFL scouting combine. He now has the Steelers addressing their secondary with the 15th overall pick, and here is what he wrote:
"I think Pittsburgh’s priorities should be to get younger on defense and upgrade the offensive line, but in this scenario there isn’t a tackle who really justifies a top-15 pick (although Zack Martin at least merits consideration). If they trade back, nose tackle Louis Nix III could be an option, but I have enough concerns about his 2013 performance that I don’t think he’d go off the board this early. So I think this pick comes down to the best available secondary player, and Clinton-Dix is a playmaker at the safety position, with really good range."


What is interesting in regard to Nix is the one time the Steelers have traded down in the first round since Kevin Colbert joined the organization in 2000 happened in 2001. The Steelers moved from No. 16 to No. 19, swapping places with the Jets while also receiving fourth- and sixth-round picks from New York.

They used that pick on nose tackle and hit big, literally and figuratively, on Casey Hampton. Nix has been linked to the Steelers because of the perceived need for a successor to Hampton, who was not re-signed after the 2012 season.

Also noteworthy from McShay’s latest mock draft is he has the Lions taking Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans 10th overall and Pryor going to the Rams with the 13th pick in the draft.

McShay has the Bears, who pick one spot ahead of the Steelers taking Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He also has five cornerbacks going in the first round with Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert coming off the board at No. 8 to the Vikings.

McShay has a run on cornerback starting with the Cardinals taking Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard at No. 20. The other cornerbacks going in the first round of McShay’s mock draft are Ohio State’s Bradley Roby (Eagles), Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller (Bengals) and TCU’s Jason Verrett (Chargers).

Mike Evans climbs Kiper's 'Big Board'

February, 27, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- Few players helped themselves more at the NFL scouting combine than Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
AP Photo/Michael ConroyMike Evans' combination of size and speed means he won't be on the board long come draft day.
That widely shared opinion is reflected in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s post-combine list of the top 25 players in the draft, and it is not necessarily a good thing for the Steelers.

Evans shot up Kiper’s “Big Board,” moving from No. 15 to No. 6 after performing well in Indianapolis.

Evans, one of the tallest wide receivers in the draft, ran a better-than-expected 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That speed, along with Evans’ size and ball skills, has solidified his standing as the second-best wide receiver in the draft -- and one who may have run himself out of the Steelers’ reach.

The Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the draft but Evans could be gone before they make their first selection.

Here is what Kiper wrote about Evans on his updated Big Board:
Evans put together an exceptional combine with great speed and leaping ability for a player his size. No player in the draft is better on contested throws, and every quarterback wants a target like this. Evans uses his reach, jumping ability and long frame to beat shorter defenders like a good rebounder (and he was a good rebounder on the basketball court). I've been concerned about his off-the-line quickness, but he clearly has good top-end speed. Evans could also be a versatile threat -- used on the edge or in the slot to create matchup problems -- because you simply can't defend his size. Seems likely to land in the top 10 now.

Evans did not make as big a jump on ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s list of the top 32 players in the draft, but had already been in the top 10 and he moved up a spot to No. 7. Here is what McShay wrote in a post-combine update of his top 32 prospects:
[Evans] showcased excellent hands during the gauntlet drill at the combine, and his 4.53 40 time is good for a receiver his size. I've been describing him as a pit bull in terms of his on-field competitiveness; he is one of the best receivers I've ever seen in terms of coming down with contested catches, and he is the most proven downfield threat in this class. I expect him to come off the board somewhere between Nos. 10 and 20.

Southern Cal wide receiver Marqise Lee is No. 15 on Kiper's Big Board while McShay has Louisville safety Calvin Pryor as the 15th-best prospect in the draft. Pryor is one spot ahead of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

More post-combine safety chatter

February, 26, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- Post-combine mock drafts by CBS Sports' draft analysts Dane Brugler and Rob Rang have the Pittsburgh Steelers taking a safety with their first pick -- albeit different ones.

Brugler has the Steelers selecting Louisville's Calvin Pryor, and Rang has them taking Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at No. 15 overall.

Brugler has the Steelers picking Pryor -- even with Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans still on his board. Rang has Evans going a couple of picks before the Steelers in the first round.

Neither Pryor nor Clinton-Dix ran great in the 40-yard dash -- each posted official times of 4.58 seconds Tuesday in Indianapolis -- but of course, that is only one component of the combine. I'm not sure the Steelers will think either is worth taking so high in the draft, but Clinton-Dix appears to be a better fit for them if they do use their first-round selection on a safety.

Clinton-Dix is the more prototypical free safety, and the Steelers have more of a need there with Ryan Clark unlikely to return to Pittsburgh and 2013 fourth-round pick Shamarko Thomas more suited to eventually succeed Troy Polamalu at strong safety.

If the Steelers opt to take a safety later in the draft, Florida State's Terrence Brooks (more on Brooks) and Southern Cal's Dion Bailey are two players that may interest them.

Bailey has a connection to the Steelers as defensive backs coach Carnell Lake tried recruit him when the latter coached at UCLA.

“Me and him have a very strong relationship,” Bailey said of Lake. “Then he was at (UCLA) pro day last year. He led the (defensive backs) drills so I talked to him for about an hour and he was giving me advice about what to expect making the transition (to safety) and what I needed to do.”

Indeed, Bailey played outside linebacker at USC for two seasons before making the transition to safety.

He only ran a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, a time he will try to improve on next month at USC's pro day, but he is an intriguing mid-round prospect for a couple of reasons.

In college, Bailey was productive -- he recorded 222 tackles and intercepted 11 passes in three seasons -- and he played all over the field.

The 6-foot, 202-pounder should have some upside as a safety since he only played the position one year in college, and Bailey compared himself to another USC product whose skill set defies scheme.

“I feel like my game resembles Troy Polamalu's game very well,” Bailey said. “He went through the same transition in college as me, playing linebacker his first couple years and then playing safety He transitioned to the NFL really well. I'm hoping I have the same career.”
PITTSBURGH -- Terrence Brooks said he considers himself the best safety in the 2014 draft, something that runs contrary to the opinion of NFL draft analysts.

The Florida State product can make one claim following the NFL scouting combine: No safety in this year’s draft is faster than Brooks.

Brooks ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds on Tuesday, tops among the safeties in the draft and considerably faster than the times posted by Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.

[+] EnlargeTerrence Brooks
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhFlorida State defensive back Terrence Brooks turned heads at the combine when he ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash.
The two safeties who are widely considered the best ones in the draft each turned in official 40-yard dash times of 4.56 seconds.

The Steelers will take a safety at some point in the draft, but they may need to be blown away to take Clinton-Dix or Pryor at No. 15 overall. Consider that since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Steelers have used their first-round pick on a safety only one time.

That happened in 2003, when they traded up to take Troy Polamalu at No. 16.

To say that worked out well for them is an understatement, but even with safety an obvious need, do the Steelers see Clinton-Dix or Pryor as the kind of game-changer who is worth taking in the first half of the draft?

Brooks has emerged as one of the top options if the Steelers wait until later in the draft to grab a safety, and here are more things to like about him aside from his straight-line speed:

  • Brooks is self-assured but he also plays with a bit of an edge due to arriving at Florida State as less celebrated than a lot of the other recruits in his class.
  • Brooks played cornerback at Florida State before converting to safety. That should translate into his having the kind of coverage skills that are necessary for a free safety at the next level.
  • Brooks regularly practiced against elite competition at Florida State, and he said he matched up against Seminoles wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at times. Look at the drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin and it’s pretty clear the Steelers value players who come from pedigreed programs and power conferences.
  • Brooks, who turns 22 next week, played all four years at Florida State and is not among the record number of underclassmen who are in the draft. Colbert said last week at the combine that the maturity level of some of the younger players in the draft is a concern. That presumably wouldn’t be as much of a concern with Brooks.

Brooks isn’t the biggest safety -- he checked in at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds in Indianapolis -- and he got overshadowed at Florida State on a defense that was loaded with future NFL players. But he may have pushed his way into the second round of the draft with the sheer speed he displayed at the combine, and he wasn’t lacking for confidence before arriving in Indianapolis.

“I have a great feel for knowing where the ball is going. I’m fast and quick and physical, too,” said Brooks, who was fifth on the Seminoles with 56 tackles in 2013 and also intercepted two passes. “Any team that wants to take a chance on me won’t be disappointed.”

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