<
>

Steelers mailbag: Will the Steelers finally draft a cornerback early?

1/17/2015

Wow, a ton of questions. If you have a question please send to @ScottBrown_ESPN with the #mail.

And away we go...

@ScottBrown_ESPN Yes, but I thought they would last year and the Steelers waited until the fifth round to pick a cornerback -- and Shaquille Richardson, the first of two fifth-round picks made by the Steelers in 2014, is no longer with the organization. The second round might be the perfect place to take a cornerback this year. ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay said recently that there are a lot of talented cornerbacks in the draft but that a lot of them have varying issues that could drop them into the second round. One thing to remember, too, is that the Steelers have not used a first-round pick on a cornerback since Chad Scott in 1997. If all things are equal I think they take an outside linebacker over a cornerback in the first round.

@ScottBrown_ESPN I'm sure general manager Kevin Colbert will say the Steelers are open to trading up or down with their first-round pick. He does every year. Is it likely? Probably not. The Steelers have not traded down in the first round since 2001 when they moved from No. 16 to No. 19 and still got Casey Hampton as well as fourth- and sixth-round picks from the New York Jets. One thing to keep an eye on, though, is where the Steelers are picking in the first round. They are No. 22 overall and that could be a spot that interests a team that needs a quarterback but doesn't want to take one in the top 10. Demand always seems to exceed supply when it comes to quarterbacks. And a team looking to trade back into the first round for a quarterback might be willing to give up the package of picks that would entice the Steelers to move out of the first round.

@ScottBrown_ESPN McPhee might be out of their price range if he hits the open market. The Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker is only 26 years old and he recorded 7.5 sacks in 2014 despite playing behind Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. If I'm Baltimore, I sign McPhee to a long-term contract since Suggs isn't getting any younger -- or at least use a transition tag on him to prevent the fourth-year veteran from hitting the open market. Sheard seems like he has regressed since recorded 15.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons. Sheard had just two sacks for the Cleveland Browns last season so he would be less expensive than McPhee but more of a risk strictly from a playing standpoint. The Steelers would have to be convinced they can get more out of Sheard to have serious interest him.

@ScottBrown_ESPN The eighth-year coach is heavily involved with the draft process. Tomlin is a self-described "draft geek" and the draft is anything but a necessary evil to him. That is why Tomlin has to answer for some of the questionable draft picks that Steelers have made in recent years as much as general manager Kevin Colbert. By all accounts, Colbert and Tomlin work well together, and my guess is that Colbert has final say in draft choices, though Tomlin has heavy input in every pick. Both need to do a better job given all of the needs that the Steelers have on defense.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Mitchell isn't going anywhere. Coach Mike Tomlin made that clear when he said at his final news conference of 2014 that Mitchell's play improved as the season progressed and that the "arrow is pointing up" for the free safety. I think Mitchell will be a lot better next season -- and he better be if he wants a long-term future with the Steelers. My biggest question with Mitchell is whether he is miscast as a free safety. His seems to play with the sensibilities of a strong safety and maybe Mitchell is the successor to Troy Polamalu at the position. Wherever he plays in 2015, Mitchell will be one of the Steelers' most improved players if he stays healthy.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Very. I honestly don't understand the questions about coach Mike Tomlin's job security. Eight seasons into his head-coaching career, Tomlin has won four AFC North titles, two AFC titles and a Super Bowl. He has also yet to have a losing season. Couple his record with the Steelers' history of patience with head coaches -- they have had three of them since 1969 -- and it is ludicrous to think Tomlin is going anywhere anytime soon. I understand fans' frustration with Tomlin on several levels but that would be the same with any coach who doesn't take them to the Super Bowl every season. Tomlin accepts that and actually embraces how high the bar has been set for the Steelers.

@ScottBrown_ESPN Richardson is no longer with the team and Blanchflower spent all season on the Steelers' practice squad. Archer, meanwhile, lost his job as primary kickoff returner during the season and the Steelers never took advantage of his world-class speed after taking him in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft. Part of the problem with that is with players like wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell on the Steelers, Archer is going to get limited touches. But if he doesn't make the most of those next season or emerge as a game-breaking kickoff returner Archer is going to look like a luxury pick the Steelers couldn't afford as they continue to re-tool their defense.

@ScottBrown_ESPN I do think we have seen the last of Troy Polamalu in a Steelers uniform -- even if he wants to play in 2015. Polamalu himself said after the Steelers' AFC wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens that it was fair to question whether he has played his last game in Pittsburgh. And that was before the Steelers parted ways with longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Art Rooney II has said he wants Polamalu to retire as a Steeler. But considering that the Steelers essentially fired LeBeau, they won't hesitate to make a tough decision when it comes to Polamalu if they think that is best for the organization.