Pittsburgh Steelers: Mel Kiper Jr.

PITTSBURGH -- ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay don’t always agree when evaluating draft-eligible players. But their thinking falls along the same lines when it comes to Steelers fourth-round draft pick Martavis Bryant.

Kiper listed the former Clemson wide receiver as one five offensive players drafted in the later rounds who could make an immediate impact in the NFL. McShay also said that Bryant has a chance to contribute early for the Steelers.

“He does a really nice job of getting off the line and he’s a vertical route runner,” McShay said. “You’ve got a big, strong-armed quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger and you want a guy that can stretch the field vertically. There’s some boom or bust there, but when you get him in the fourth round you’re not worried so much about the risk factor. If he focuses and does all the right things he could wind up being a real steal from this class.”

[+] EnlargeMartavis Bryant
Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesMartavis Bryant's size and speed could help the WR earn plenty of playing time as a rookie.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Bryant gives the Steelers the tall wide receiver that the offense has lacked. His 40-yard dash time (4.42 seconds) at the NFL scouting combine as well as his career yards per catch (22.2) at Clemson validate his potential as a big-time deep threat.

And he started only one season at Clemson where first-round picks DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins overshadowed Bryant, meaning he is far from a finished product -- something that should excite the Steelers’ coaches as well as challenge them.

“He’s what I have been hunting,” Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “Probably had he played more [at Clemson], stayed for another year, he would have been a first-rounder for sure. I think all that he needs to learn we will teach it to him.”

Bryant slipped to the fourth round of the draft because of concerns about his maturity as well as his inconsistency as a pass-catcher. The Steelers hosted Bryant for a pre-draft visit and were comfortable enough after what they heard from him to think that he will be fine in the right environment.

As for the drops he had in college, Mann said that is something that can be easily corrected and can probably be traced to Bryant’s hand placement or his trying to run before securing a catch.

“He does a really good job of tracking the ball and catching it over the top,” Mann said. “A lot of times guys can’t do it and it’s very hard to teach.”

McShay agreed that Bryant’s ball skills are undeniable.

“He was inconsistent catching the ball but he also makes tough catches,” McShay said, “and he can adjust to the ball below his waist, over his head, behind his body.”

It is way too premature to get overly excited about Bryant, who takes part in the Steelers' three-day rookie minicamp that starts on Friday.

Fred Gibson, the last physically gifted wide receiver that the Steelers drafted in the fourth round (2005), didn’t even make it out of training camp. And for all of the buzz created by the second-round selection of Limas Sweed in 2008, the former Texas standout caught just seven career passes for the Steelers.

Chronic drops were one of the reasons why the Steelers released Sweed in 2011.

One thing that Mann won’t do is speculate on how big of a role Bryant will have in the Steelers’ offense as a rookie. But he also won’t rule out Bryant challenging for the starting job opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown.

“You have to come in and work because we have other guys in the room,” Mann said. “Potentially he will be a starter, you just never know. You play the best. That’s how you win.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft, and this is the eighth in a series that looks at the nine positions they could address in a week. Keep in mind the Steelers are likely to draft two cornerbacks, so they might not take a player at every position covered in this series.

Our eighth look is at wide receiver.

Added: Lance Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey

Lost: Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery

Benjamin
Skinny: No position in a deep draft is more loaded than wide receiver. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said recently that a “minimum of seven” wide receivers will get taken in the first round, and that as many as nine could come off the board on the first day of the draft. The Steelers are unlikely to get a shot at Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, unless they trade up, as one of the tallest wide receivers in the draft will almost surely be a top-10 pick. If the Steelers covet a big wide receiver they could trade down and take Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin or Indiana’s fast-rising Cody Latimer. The pool of wide receivers is also deep enough that the Steelers can wait until after the first round and still get a good prospect. They have a history of finding wide receivers later in the draft, and they might be more inclined to target a cornerback in the first round and wait a little bit to take a wideout. I do think the Steelers draft a wide receiver with one of their first three picks.

Draft likelihood: High

EXTRA POINTS

Last WR drafted by the Steelers: Justin Brown, sixth round in 2013

Last WR drafted by the Steelers in the first round: Santonio Holmes, 2006

Last WR taken 15th overall in the draft: Michael Clayton, Titans, 2004

WRs drafted under Kevin Colbert/Mike Tomlin: Eight

WRs drafted under Colbert/Tomlin still with the Steelers: Three
PITTSBURGH -- Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay will critique draft picks that are made in less than a week. The ESPN analysts took their own respective turns in the hot seat Thursday night on ESPN2.

Ebron
The two engaged in a head-to-head, three-round mock draft with Kiper picking for teams with even-numbered draft picks and McShay picking for those with odd-numbered picks. Their selections were followed by analysis from former NFL general manager Bill Polian and former NFL director of pro personnel Louis Riddick.

And Polian didn't opt for subtlety after McShay picked North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron for the Steelers at No. 15 overall.

"He's a Pittsburgh Steeler and he doesn't block. That doesn't compute," Polian, a six-time NFL Executive of the Year, said of Ebron. "I don't think he's ready to play in the NFL right now. I think he's too immature. I don't think his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Yeah, he has ability but that only gets you so far."

Ebron may be one of the more polarizing players in the draft.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is the best tight end in the draft and an undeniable talent. Ebron, who caught 62 passes for 973 yards in his final season at North Carolina, has the size and athleticism to create mismatches.

And he is part of the new wave of tight ends who have become such a commodity because of their ability to put stress on opposing defenses.

Ebron would give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a tall target, and he would add a pass-catcher to a group that doesn't have a reliable one after veteran Heath Miller.

But as a blocker he can most diplomatically be described as a work in progress.

Or, as McShay said recently, “He’s a buffet blocker if you will. He kind of picks and chooses when he wants to get interested. But what he does well it’s just hard to find guys that can do it at the level that he does as far as stretching the field vertically and creating after the catch.”

Ebron may be too much of a gamble for the Steelers to pick at No. 15, especially since they have more pressing needs. McShay picked him for the Steelers with Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard off the board though with every other cornerback still available.

Riddick said he would have taken a cornerback for the Steelers, and he is especially high on Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller. Polian added of Ebron, "I would not risk this guy in a Pittsburgh offense that requires you to block."

As for the Steelers' other two picks, Kiper took LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry for them in the second round (No. 46 overall). McShay picked Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland for the Steelers in the third round (No. 97 overall).
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have nine picks in the 2014 NFL draft and this is the fifth in a series that looks at the nine positions they could address in just over a week. 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.

Our fifth look is at offensive tackle.

Added: None

Lost: Levi Brown (unsigned free agent)

Skinny: Draft analysts generally consider tackle a need for the Steelers, and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has them taking Notre Dame's Zack Martin at No. 15 overall in his latest mock draft. I'd be surprised if the Steelers use their first-round pick on a tackle unless one of the top three -- Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews or Michigan's Taylor Lewan -- falls to them, and that is highly unlikely. The Steelers are more likely to entrust left tackle to Kelvin Beachum, who proved to be revelation there last season, and let Mike Adams compete with Marcus Gilbert for the starting job at right tackle. The Steelers could take a tackle later in the draft but with as many other needs that they have it's hard to imagine them using their first pick on one -- especially since they have invested a pair of first-round picks and two second-round selections on the offensive line since 2010.

Draft likelihood: Medium

Extra points

Last OT drafted by the Steelers: Adams, second round in 2012

Last OT drafted by the Steelers in the first round: Jamain Stephens, 1996

Last OT taken 15th overall in the draft: Branden Albert, Chiefs, 2008

OTs drafted under Kevin Colbert/Mike Tomlin: Four

OTs drafted under Colbert/Tomlin still with the Steelers: Two
PITTSBURGH -- Cody Latimer, arguably the fastest rising player in the NFL draft, held a private workout on Friday and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann was among those in attendance, per NFL.com’s Gil Brandt.

The Steelers met with Latimer at the NFL scouting combine two months ago, and he is one of the hottest names in the draft right now.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Latimer as the 29th-best player in the draft, and Todd McShay is also high on the Indiana wide receiver.

"I’ve watched five tapes of his games and he didn’t drop a ball," McShay said. "I was blown away with his skill set."

There is a lot to like about Latimer, a projected first- or second-round pick.

He has good size -- Latimer measured 6-2 and weighed 215 pounds at the combime -- and McShay said he was clocked between 4.39 and 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Indiana’s pro day.

Latimer did not run at the combine since he was still recovering from surgery to fix a broken metatarsal in his foot. The fact he was limited in what he could do at the combine as well as sheer volume of wide receivers in the draft may have contributed to Latimer staying a bit under the radar until the past couple of weeks.

But he excelled at Indiana, catching 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns last season as a junior, and Latimer has upside since he didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school and instead concentrated on basketball.

The range where Latimer is projected to go in the draft does not match up well with where the Steelers pick. But the draft is so flush with wide receivers Latimer could last until where the Steelers' pick in the second round.

Or he could be an option for them in the first round if they trade down.

“He’s competitive, can run after the catch and has great ball skills,” McShay said.

He also has the size the Steelers are lacking at wide receiver. Keep an eye on Latimer -- it's something the Steelers are apparently doing as well.

PITTSBURGH -- ESPN analyst Todd McShay labeled Bradley Roby as "a classic boom or bust" player in the 2014 NFL draft.

And that was before a report surfaced that the Ohio State cornerback faces a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired.

Roby already had some baggage when he declared for the draft following an inconsistent junior season at Ohio State, one in which he missed the opener because of a suspension.

The latest incident, which occurred last Sunday in Columbus, could cost Roby a chance of going in the first round. And he may experience something similar to what happened to former Buckeyes offensive tackle Mike Adams two years ago.

Adams, a first-round talent, slid to the Steelers in the second round, in part because he failed a drug test at the combine. Could Roby, whom the Steelers recently hosted for a pre-draft visit, fall to them in the second round in two weeks?

It's hard to imagine the Steelers considering Roby at No. 15 overall because the pick would be fraught with risk. But Roby's physical skills are undeniable, and he may be too talented for the Steelers to pass on him in the second round if he lasts that long.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Roby as the 39th-best player in the draft, and McShay said, "I actually think he might be the most athletic corner in this draft."

But McShay also issued a caveat emptor when it comes to Roby, who is 5-foot-11, 194 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

"I'd be real nervous to pull the trigger on him because I don't know what I'm getting," McShay said. "It's a young man that has some growing to do. I think he's got to become more focused and there's just a lot of inconsistent tape on him.

"He's a wild card. He could be the best defensive back in this class five years from now or he could wind up being another first-round cornerback that doesn't pan out in the league because he didn't need to do what he had to do mentally and from a preparation standpoint."
PITTSBURGH -- A highly regarded pass-rusher and one of the top performers at the NFL scouting combine are among the players visiting the Steelers today.

Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, a projected second-round pick, and Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon are the Steelers’ latest pre-draft visitors.

Lawrence led the Mountain West last season in both sacks (10 1/2 ) and tackles for losses (20 ), and the 6-foot-3, 251-pounder projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Lawrence as the 44th-best player in the draft and there is a possibility he could get taken late in the first round.

The Steelers have hosted a handful of outside linebacker prospects, including UCLA’s Anthony Barr, a projected first-round pick.

McKinnon is the second running back to visit the Steelers, and he is an intriguing prospect for several reasons. The 5-9, 209-pounder rushed for 3,899 career yards and he gained most of those as an option quarterback.

McKinnon, who led Georgia Southern to a 26-20 upset at Florida last season, played running back in the Senior Bowl and really turned heads at the combine two months ago.

He tested as well as anyone in Indianapolis, running the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds and notching 32 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press, tops among all running backs. Both speedy and shifty, McKinnon fits the profile of the kind of back the Steelers may be seeking to complement Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.

McKinnon has been projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick.

Teams are allowed to host 30 out of area prospects for visits prior to the draft. Sunday is the last day for pre-draft visits.
PITTSBURGH -- This draft is loaded with wide receivers and Mel Kiper Jr.'s ranking of the top 100 players Insider in it is the latest affirmation of how deep and talented the position is this year.

Almost one-fifth of the players on Kiper's list are wide receivers as there are 19 of them. To put that into perspective, consider that there are 19 quarterbacks and running backs combined among Kiper's top 100 players, a list that was released on Tuesday.

There is high-end talent, as well as depth at wide receiver, as Kiper ranks eight wide receivers among his top 32 players and four of them in his top 13.

Clemson's Sammy Watkins is Kiper's highest-rated wide receiver (No. 2 overall) followed by Texas A&M's Mike Evans (No. 6), Oregon State's Brandin Cooks (No. 12) and LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. (No. 13).

The depth at wide receiver gives the Steelers flexibility if they want to address cornerback with their first-round pick.

That may be the Steelers' most glaring need and this may finally be the year that they take a cornerback with their first-round pick for the first time since 1997.

There are 11 cornerbacks among Kiper's top 100 players, though the position does not have nearly the high-end talent as some other positions, according to his rankings, including wide receiver and offensive tackle.

Kiper has only Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert (No. 14) and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard (No. 15) among his top 32 players. Kiper's next highest-rated cornerback is TCU's Jason Verrett at No. 37.

Based on Kiper's top 100 players, it would make a lot of sense for the Steelers to take one of the top cornerbacks with the 15th overall pick -- assuming Gilbert and/or Dennard is still available -- and wait until the second or even third round to pick a wide receiver.

The Steelers' draft board, of course, may look a lot different than Kiper's.

But it should also reflect the quality and quantity at wide receiver, a position the Steelers have had success addressing later in drafts.
PITTSBURGH -- Odell Beckham Jr. to Pittsburgh got a little more momentum -- at least outside of Steelers’ headquarters -- on Monday when ESPN analyst Todd McShay wrote that the two would make an ideal pairing.

McShay weighed in on a handful of good fits for teams not picking in the top 10 of the upcoming draft, and Beckham and the Steelers topped his list.

Beckham
Beckham caught 26 passes last season that were thrown at least 15 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information, making the LSU wide receiver an attractive intermediate and deep threat. McShay also thinks the 5-foot-11, 198-pounder could thrive in the no-huddle attack that limited the hits Ben Roethlisberger absorbed in the second half of last season since the veteran quarterback focused on getting rid of the ball quicker.

“Beckham would help [Roethlisberger] do that because of his ability to beat press coverage with his quickness and to separate quickly,” McShay wrote. “In addition, Beckham has the ability to create after the catch and be a deep threat for when Roethlisberger does extend plays and stretches the field with his arm strength."

McShay has the Steelers taking Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard 15th overall pick in his latest mock draft with the Packers selecting Beckham six picks later.

What is important to note is that McShay's mock drafts reflect what he thinks teams will do, not the player or players he would select if he were picking for them.

Mel Kiper Jr., meanwhile, has the Steelers taking Beckham in his two most recent mock drafts. And in one of those drafts, Kiper makes picks as if the ESPN analyst were the general manager of every team (i.e., what he would do).
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are meeting with a pair of defensive players Monday, including a potential first-round pick.

Barr
UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr and Wisconsin defensive tackle Beau Allen are the Steelers' latest visitors as the team prepares for the upcoming draft.

Barr is considered one of the best pass-rushers in the draft while Allen is a projected late-round pick after moving to nose tackle last season when Wisconsin switched to a 3-4 scheme.

Barr is an intriguing prospect because of his production at UCLA -- the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder recorded 10 sacks last season -- and his upside as a pass-rusher. Barr played fullback for two seasons before moving to defense, and he is still learning on that side of the ball.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Barr as the 15th-best player in the draft.

"He has a decent arsenal of moves, using quick feet and hands to free himself, and he's disciplined against the run, pursuing with speed when the play runs away from him," Kiper writes of Barr. "I love the effort, and the athleticism, but as a former fullback, he needs to grow in his awareness."

ESPN analyst Todd McShay isn't as high on the former Bruins star. McShay ranks Barr as the 30th-best player in the draft.

The Steelers are unlikely to draft an outside linebacker in the first round since they took one with their first-round pick last year in Jarvis Jones. But they do need to add depth at the position and are expected to draft an outside linebacker prospect at some point.

Allen could be a late-round possibility for the Steelers if they don't take a nose tackle early in the draft. The 6-foot-2, 333-pounder recorded 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season for the Badgers but did not get invited to the NFL scouting combine.

Allen tested well at Wisconsin’s pro day though he was limited in running drills because of a hamstring issue.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 players outside of the Pittsburgh area for pre-draft visits. This is the final week of visits for NFL prospects.
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.
I wrote an earlier post that included ESPN NFL analyst Matt Williamson’s take on what defines a No. 1 pass catcher as part of a larger argument for the Steelers drafting a tall receiver.

What is interesting to note is that tight ends Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are among the players Williamson thinks are bona fide No. 1 receivers.

Williamson followed that piece with one on potential No. 1 receivers, a mix that includes wide receivers and tight ends and players who are already in the NFL as well as ones who will be drafted next month.

Seventh on his list is North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron Insider.

The 6-4, 250-pound Ebron would qualify as a tall receiver and his production and athleticism in college -- he caught 62 passes for 973 yards and three touchdowns last season -- make him the No. 1 tight end in the draft

Here is what Williamson wrote about Ebron:
While Ebron lacks the height and bulk of Graham or Rob Gronkowski, he might possess better pure speed. This guy can truly stretch the field like few NFL tight ends. Ebron is fluid and smooth, but he also has an instant acceleration burst. He is versatile in terms of his alignment on the field and should be an instant-impact tight end, as he is noticeably above average in all receiving categories for an incoming prospect.

ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has projected Ebron going between picks 12 and 18 next month, which would put him in the range of where the Steelers are drafting. What makes Ebron intriguing for the Steelers is he could help right away given the increasing frequency with which teams use two-tight end sets and also give them Heath Miller’s eventual replacement.

Former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik wrote that tight end is a hidden need for the Steelers, which is why he thinks Ebron could be an option Insider for them.

Here is what Dominik, an ESPN Front Office Insider, wrote:
Heath Miller is still a very talented player, and he is a great fit in the Steelers’ offense. However, he will turn 32 this season, and the team needs to find a big-bodied tight end via the draft so Ben Roethlisberger can begin building trust in him. They’ll need a young tight end to take over as their primary target at the position in the near future. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, the consensus top tight end in this year’s draft, could be in play for the Steelers at No. 15 overall if he’s still on the board.

Also of note from Williamson’s story on future No. 1 receivers is he has LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. fifth on his list -- three spots ahead of Texas A&M’s Mike Evans.

The 5-11, 198-pound Beckham doesn’t have great size but he makes up for it in other areas, writes Williamson:
He gets separation with the more technical intermediate routes, as well as just using his pure ability to run past defensive backs. Beckham is also a good return man and excels with the ball in his hands. I think I'm actually higher on Beckham than most others, but expect him to make an instant impact in the NFL. I could see Beckham landing in Pittsburgh, Kansas City or Carolina in Round 1.

Kiper has the Steelers taking Beckham No. 15 overall in the Grade A Mock Draft he released last week. The mock draft is one in which Kiper’s picks are based on what he thinks teams should do in the first three rounds of the draft.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has said this is the deepest draft he has seen in 30 years of scouting.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper won't go that far in proclaiming the 2014 draft a potentially special one.

"I don't see it," Kiper said Thursday during a conference call with ESPN NFL Nation reporters. "Now I think there's some positions yeah where you're going to see steals and you're going to see great bargains that you do every year."

What is noteworthy about this difference of opinion: Colbert and Kiper are viewing the draft through different prisms.

The Steelers aren't scouting any of the top quarterback prospects with Ben Roethlisberger in the prime of his career. And that is one position where Kiper said there is quantity but questions about quality particularly when it comes to the quarterbacks who are projected as the top picks.

Kiper also said there is a dearth of true pass-rushing defensive ends after Jadaveon Clowney, whom he thinks the Texans will take No. 1 overall. But the Steelers play a 3-4 defense and they would scout defensive ends who project as outside linebackers at the next level.

That is not to say Colbert or Kiper are off as far as their assessment of the overall draft; just that the two are looking at it from different angles.

Kiper has identified seven players whom he believes are elite ones in the draft and Clowney is among a group that doesn't include any quarterbacks. Rounding out what Kiper called the "Sensational Seven" are: Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

The Steelers are unlikely to get a crack at drafting Evans with the 15th overall pick.

If they go cornerback with their first pick Kiper has Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert rated slightly higher than Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, who visited the Steelers on Wednesday.

But he said the two are so close that Gilbert is 1 and Dennard is 1A as far as cornerbacks in the draft.

"This is the year to get one," Kiper said of the Steelers taking a cornerback in the first round though he added that there is a bit of a drop-off at the position after Gilbert and Dennard. "A corner, wide receiver, d-line and o-line would be the positions of need, I think for the Steelers."

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