By Corey Doss
Coach Mike Tomlin has taught and preached the “next man up” mentality in his tenure, and the draft will be no different. This philosophy will ultimately lead to the “next man picked” in this year’s draft. While this philosophy might provide great sound bites for Tomlin’s news conferences, it still leaves the lingering questions of who will the next man picked be, and what positions should be addressed. In order to answer these queries one only needs to look at the Steelers’ legacy.
Ask any Steelers fan what positions need to be addressed in the draft and undeniably the resounding answer will be the defensive secondary. Trae Waynes from Michigan State would be a tantalizing pick to address the needs at cornerback and appease the cries from Steeler Nation. Marcus Peters may also draw some interest at the cornerback position. However, when was the last time the Steelers drafted a shutdown corner? Rod Woodson comes to mind, but that was back in 1987. Although cornerback is an area of need for the Steelers, do not be surprised if they go in a different direction.
With a defense predicated on getting to the quarterback, linebacker is where the Steelers’ legacy has been. Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Joey Porter, Levon Kirkland, Jason Gildon, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, the list goes on and on. For over 40 years the Steelers have drafted and cultivated some of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game. The seemingly bottomless pool of linebackers and the next man up appears to be drying up. With the lackluster performance of the current linebacking corps coupled with the rumors of a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive scheme under new defensive coordinator Keith Butler, the Steelers need to look to replenish the linebacker position in the draft. A great linebacking corps can make up for an adequate secondary, and as history has shown, the Steelers know how to get the most out of this position.
So, who is the next Greg Lloyd in the draft? Randy Gregory out of Nebraska would be great in the Black and Gold. Big, fast and mean, Gregory fits the mold perfectly. Unfortunately, Gregory will be long gone by the 22nd pick more than likely, but one can dream. Shane Ray from Missouri would be a great pick, but again, will likely be gone by the time the Steelers are on the clock. Realistically Dante Fowler Jr. from Florida or Alvin Dupree from Kentucky are where the Steelers sights should be set. Fowler has the potential to be the quintessential Steeler. He is athletic, versatile, has great football IQ and rough around the edges, just the way we like them. Dupree is also a good prospect, but his numbers declined when Kentucky switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The Steelers need the versatility in a player to play in both schemes. For my money, if he is still on the board, Fowler should be the “next man picked” to help carry on the lineage of the ‘Steel Curtain’.
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