Originally written March 24, 2012 on Bleed Black & Gold:
On to the defensive side of the ball.  While the Steelers may look on the offensive line in the first round the defense is where the talent is in the later part of the first round. The Steelers have gone defense 3 of the last 5 years in the first round.  They picked up Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward to bring youth to the defensive line.  Both are already seeing significant playing time and Ziggy has been a starter for almost 2 seasons now. They also added Lawrence Timmons who will  has filled his role nicely.  Timmons played out of position for most of the 2011 season due to injuries at the linebacking position.  He will be relied on more this year in his true role with the release of James Farrior.  Timmons had a break out season two years ago and if he stays at middle linebacker I expect nothing less. The defensive side of the ball has much more top tier talent this year.  In the first round all three levels of the defense will get a number of picks.  The strongest area is the defensive line.  Defensive ends are a plenty this year.  The Steelers will most likely be staying away from the defensive line in the first round unless Dontari Poe falls.  They have spent 2 picks in the last 3 years on the defensive end.  It is not a priority right now.  Nose tackle would be a priority but outside of Poe no one is worthy of a first round pick.  Thus there will be no defensive linemen on this list. It will be in the backside of the defense that the Steelers will look to make an impact.  The Steelers could choose from any of Inside to outside linebacker.  The draft also is strong at the position of cornerback.  There is only one safety who I would take in round 1.  Here are 5 possibilities for the first round. At Pick 24 the Steelers select:
  • Dont’a Hightower- Hightower has been a name that is on everyone’s radar.  He is a thumper type middle linebacker.  He would fill the void left by James Farrior from day one.  Hightower is a very good pass rusher and hits like a truck.  His most intriguing aspect of his game though is his leadership.  All through this draft process his teammates have who mostly will be first round picks call him their leader.  He made all the calls at Alabama and set up every defense.  Hightower would look great in the black and gold.
  • Stephon Gilmore- Gilmore is someone I have been high on for a while.  His stock has skyrocketed though in recent weeks.  He went from a possible second round pick for us to a possible first round pick.  He ran a 4.4 40 at the combine and looked great in drills.  He did well for himself with everyone watching. Gilmore would fit perfectly in the Steelers defense.  He is already a zone corner.  He will not shy away from a tackle.  I think this may be high for Gilmore but he is a perfect fit.  If Hightower is off the board he may be hard to pass on.
  • Mark Barron-  Barron is the only safety I would consider in the first round.  He can play either safety position.  He is a good tackler and reads the ball well.  His injuries have made it hard to get a good look on him in the draft process but his tape speaks for itself.  He is expected to work out at Alabama’s second pro day.  Teams will get to see him then.  It will be closer to draft time as well and he can be fresh in their minds.
  • Dre Kirkpatrick- Kirkpatrick has taken a bit of a tumble in the draft process.  At the beginning of the year he was touted as a top 10 pick.  During the year his stock fell off a bit.  People are worried whether Kirkpatrick will be a safety or a corner in the NFL.  If a team plays a man scheme Kirkpatrick will struggle and will need to be moved to safety.  In the Steelers scheme though Kirkpatrick could thrive.  He is a solid corner that hits hard which helps him break up passes.  I do not see him making it to the Steelers as I can not see his stock dropping that far.  If he does it would be a steal for the Steelers.
  • Janoris Jenkins- Santonio Holmes, I mean Janoris Jenkins is a big question mark.  He is Santonio Holmes from top to bottom.  It was like you were reading the Santonio Holmes story and they just changed the name.  His off the field issues are huge.  That being said he is like Holmes in another way as well.  Jenkins has talent that is undeniable just like Holmes.  With what happened with the Steelers and Holmes I do not expect the Steelers to pick Jenkins.  He could be the best candidate on the board though at 24.  It is an interesting thought for the Steelers to contemplate.  Is he worth the risk?
This list is heavily dominated by guys from Alabama.  It is hard for the Steelers not to look at players from Alabama though.  They run almost the same defense and they have the best defense every year.  You can not help but look.  I have not and most likely will not go away from Hightower in this draft process.  He is the guy that I want in all ways, forms and fashions.  He is the best fit for the Steelers and he fills a need.  There is a possibility that Hightower could be off the board at the Steelers pick.  As much as he has been talked about going to the Steelers someone could jump up and snag him from us.  The Jets and Lions also have middle linebacker needs and pick before us.  If that is the case I would take Stephon Gilmore.  He just fits to well not to.
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