With the 2013 NFL Draft just around the corner, it’s time to unveil team-by-team projections for the first three rounds before the three-day festivities kick into swing on April 25. Here’s part three of the series on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
First Round (No. 17 Overall): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
With the top three pass rushers who can line up at 3-4 rush linebacker off the board (Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo and Ezekiel Ansah) and the next three (Jarvis Jones, Damontre Moore and Alex Okafor) not worth the reach, Pittsburgh opts to pick up the best available and replaces Mike Wallace in the process with the addition of Cordarrelle Patterson. Scouts have cooled on Patterson to a degree due to his limited major-college experience, but he’s a steal in the No. 17 spot.
Second Round (No. 48 Overall): Corey Lemonier, DE/OLB, Auburn
The Steelers struggled to generate enough sacks (tied for 15th in the league) last year and just lost James Harrison, who tied for a team-high 6.0 sacks in 2012—which was also by far his lowest single-season sack total since 2006.
An agile and versatile long-limbed 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB by the name of Corey Lemonier offers the Steelers’ new-look defense some much-needed young talent and the run-stuffing and pass-rushing ability to help put the unit back on top.
Third Round (No. 79 Overall): Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
The loss of Keenan Lewis was a pretty big blow to the Steelers’ secondary and the team was already projected by many to pursue an early-to-middle round safety before his departure as an eventual replacement for Troy Polamalu.
How far Tyrann Mathieu falls depends on how many teams will believe his off-the-field troubles are in the past. Though the LSU product comes with a major warning label, he’s well worth the risk in the middle of the third round.
The very fiesty and incredibly instinctual versatile defensive back is just as dangerous to receivers on defense as he is in the open field as a punt returner, as Mathieu finished fourth in the nation with 16.2 yards per punt return in 2011.
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!