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Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Mock Draft 3.0: Post-Free Agency Analysis for All 7 Rounds

Unlike last year, March was quiet on the free-agent front for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But enough happened to affect their board for the 2015 NFL draft.

The most stunning news of the month came when Jason Worilds retired. James Harrison and Arthur Moats will be back, and the Steelers are waiting for Jarvis Jones to break out. Outside linebackers should be on their draft radar.

Cornerback was the Steelers’ most glaring need, and it became even more of a need when Brice McCain signed with the Miami Dolphins. McCain tied for the team lead last season with three interceptions. Not taking a cornerback on one of the first two days of the draft would be almost as inexcusable as Pete Carroll’s play-calling in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX.

The best news of March came when the Steelers signed running back DeAngelo Williams from the Carolina Panthers. Williams, who will turn 32 on April 25, has 6,846 career rushing yards and has averaged 4.8 yards per rush in his career. The Steelers don’t necessarily have to dip into the draft for someone to start in place of Le’Veon Bell if Bell is suspended for his pot arrest.

In addition to those developments, compensatory picks have been handed out, and the Steelers were awarded one at the end of the sixth round. Barring trades, the Steelers will have eight picks this year after having nine picks in each of the last three years.

Scouting reports from NFL Draft Scout and NFL.com were used in this mock draft. Selections in our previous mock drafts are listed with the 1.0 pick first followed by the 2.0 pick.

FIRST ROUND (No. 22)

Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 203

Year: Junior

How badly do the Steelers need a cornerback? They actually inquired about Darrelle Revis, according to Pro Football Talk, even though there’s a better chance of “Draft Day 2″ being created than there is of the Steelers signing a big-ticket free agent like Revis.

Drafting a cornerback in the first round for the first time since 1997 wouldn’t be quite as bold as signing Revis, but it would make a lot of sense for a team that was 27th in the NFL in pass defense in 2014.

Brice McCain is gone and Ike Taylor won’t be back. He turns 35 in May and has nothing left. The Steelers can’t scrape any more mustard out of that jar. That leaves William Gay, Cortez Allen and Antwon Blake as the only cornerbacks on the roster who have started a game. Blake has started just one game, and Allen is in limbo after repeatedly getting burned last season.

Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest likely will be available at No. 22. He intercepted seven passes and broke up 38 in his college career. Jalen Collins had just three interceptions, broke up 19 passes and started 10 games in three seasons. However, he’s bigger than the 6’0″, 188-pound Johnson and ran a faster 40-yard dash (4.48 seconds) than Johnson (4.52) at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Furthermore, LSU is more of a football factory than Wake Forest. Collins’ draft stock will rise, and the Steelers should draft him if he’s there at No. 22.

Previous mock drafts: Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami of Ohio; Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

SECOND ROUND (No. 56)

Hau’oli Kikaha, OLB, Washington

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 253

Year: Senior

The Steelers need pass-rushing help almost as much as they need help at cornerback. They had 33 sacks in 2014, their second fewest since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

Hau’oli Kikaha, meanwhile, led the nation with 19 sacks in 2014 after taking down quarterbacks 13 times in 2013. He holds the school record with 36 career sacks, including at least one in 14 straight games. He made 40 tackles for loss and forced six fumbles in his last two seasons.

Kikaha comes with major medical red flags. He tore the ACL in his left knee in both 2011 and 2012.

As stunning as Jason Worilds’ retirement was, the Steelers probably weren’t going to keep him anyway. They re-signed 37-year-old James Harrison, who had 5.5 sacks last season, and Arthur Moats, who had four sacks. Jarvis Jones faces a make-or-break season if he can stay healthy.

The Steelers need to keep searching for a long-term answer at outside linebacker in this draft.

Previous mock drafts: Anthony Harris, SS, Virginia; Lorenzo Mauldin, OLB, Louisville

THIRD ROUND (No. 87)

Jaquiski Tartt, SS, Samford

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 221

Year: Senior

Troy Polamalu has almost certainly played his last game as a Steeler. The only question is whether he will retire as a Steeler or finish his career in another uniform.

Shamarko Thomas, chosen in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, is next in line at strong safety. While no one should be expected to do what Polamalu did in his Hall of Fame-caliber career, there’s not much evidence that Thomas can even be a serviceable starter. He’s played just two defensive snaps since Week 10 of the 2013 season, according to Pro Football Focus.

This isn’t a deep safety crop, so the Steelers can’t wait until the late rounds to address their lack of depth at the position.

Jaquiski Tartt was a 2014 American Football Coaches Association All-American in the Football Championship Subdivision. He intercepted six passes and broke up 20 in four years at Samford, which competes in the Southern Conference.

Tartt was fifth among safeties in the 40-yard dash (4.53) and broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In this mock draft, the Steelers give new defensive coordinator Keith Butler a housewarming gift by using their first three picks on defensive players for the first time since 2003, the year before Dick LeBeau was named defensive coordinator.

Polamalu and Ike Taylor were among the aforementioned picks in that 2003 draft. That turned out pretty well for the Steelers defense.

Previous mock drafts: Jesse James, TE, Penn State; Anthony Harris, SS, Virginia

FOURTH ROUND (No. 121)

Tony Lippett, WR, Michigan State

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 192

Year: Senior

Wide receiver isn’t high on the Steelers’ list of needs, but they seem to have a magic touch when drafting receivers, so they might as well keep feeding the supply line.

This would be the 10th draft out of the last 11 in which the Steelers have plucked a receiver. Lippett brings added value because he also played cornerback in college.

As a receiver, Lippett caught 65 passes for a Big Ten-high 1,198 yards in a breakout 2014 season. He also was second in the Big Ten with 11 touchdown receptions.

Lippett played both ways in Michigan State’s 42-41 Cotton Bowl win over Baylor on New Year’s Day. He caught five passes for 74 yards, including a fourth-down reception on the Spartans’ game-winning touchdown drive. On defense, he broke up a pass and held his own in coverage, according to MLive.com. He also contributed on special teams in the game.

If Lippett is still on the board in the fourth round, his versatility would make him a steal.

Previous mock drafts: Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State; Ibraheim Campbell, SS, Northwestern

FIFTH ROUND (No. 160)

Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 315

Year: Senior

For the first time since 2009, five Steelers offensive linemen started at least 12 games last season. Their lack of depth didn’t hurt them. But when Mike Adams is your top backup, the offensive line needs reinforcements.

Austin Shepherd started 27 games at right tackle for the Crimson Tide. He might be a little raw, but by taking him in the fifth round, rather than the second, the Steelers wouldn’t be using nearly as much draft capital on Shepherd as they did on Adams.

Previous mock drafts: JaCorey Shepherd, CB, Kansas; Tyler Kroft, TE, Rutgers

SIXTH ROUND (No. 199)

Kyle Emanuel, OLB, North Dakota State

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 255

Year: Senior

Kyle Emanuel is among the players the Steelers planned on bringing in for a workout, according to NFL.com. Emanuel helped North Dakota State win four straight Division I Football Championship Subdivision titles. He led the FCS with 19.5 sacks in 2014 and won the Buck Buchanan Award as the nation’s top defensive player at the FCS level.

Considering Hau’oli Kikaha’s medical concerns, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up another outside linebacker in the later rounds.

Previous mock drafts: Geneo Grissom, OLB, Oklahoma; Kyle Emanuel, OLB, North Dakota State

SIXTH ROUND (No. 212)

Damian Swann, CB, Georgia

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 189

Year: Senior

The Steelers use their compensatory pick on another cornerback.

Damian Swann is a little undersized, but he’s scheme versatile. He’s not afraid to blitz, get his hands dirty in run support or cover big receivers and tight ends. He intercepted eight passes and broke up 25 in four years at Georgia. His collegiate stat sheet also includes 10 tackles for loss and four sacks and he led the SEC with four forced fumbles in 2014.

No aspect of Swann’s game is strong enough for him to project as a starting cornerback in the NFL, but if he can be useful on special teams, he’s worth a sixth-round pick. In addition to Jalen Collins in the first round and Tony Lippett’s experience at the position, the Steelers essentially get two and a half cornerbacks in this mock draft.

Previous mock drafts: Compensatory picks hadn’t been awarded.

SEVENTH ROUND (No. 240)

Martin Ifedi, DE, Memphis

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 275

Year: Senior

Recent drafts are starting to pay dividends on the defensive line for the Steelers.

Cameron Heyward is poised to become a team leader on defense. Stephon Tuitt, a second-round pick last season, earned a starting job in December. Nose tackle Daniel McCullers, chosen in the sixth round last season, shows some promise.

However, Brett Keisel’s retirement leaves the Steelers thin at defensive end. They actually have to hang on to free-agent bust Cam Thomas for the time being.

Martin Ifedi owns Memphis’ school record with 22.5 sacks. He can line up at various positions on the defensive line and could fit in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Perhaps with his 33 7/8″ arms, he could develop into a disruptive force in sub packages.

Previous mock drafts: Brett Boyko, OL, UNLV; Andrew Donnal, OL, Iowa

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