Share This Page

Steelers might opt for safety valve in NFL Draft

| Monday, April 22, 2013, 11:40 p.m.
Getty Images
Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International looks on during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2013 in Indianapolis.
Getty Images
GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 05: Safety Charles Woodson #21 of the Green Bay Packers reacts in front of quarterback Joe Webb #14 of the Minnesota Vikings after the Packers stop the Vikings on third down forcing a field goal in the first quarter during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 5, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Safety Kenny Vaccaro #16 of the Texas Longhorns celebrates after a defensive stop against the Rice Owls at Reliant Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Houston, Texas.

Troy Polamalu turned 32 on Friday, which isn't an advanced age by many standards but is one at which NFL teams often begin scouting for a player's possible replacement.

The Steelers might have the chance in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday to draft a highly skilled player who would be the logical replacement for Polamalu, whose multi-dimensional skills and playmaking wizardry have made him one of the league's elite players.

If they so dare to do.

Kenny Vaccaro of Texas is widely acknowledged to be the best safety of a very good 2013 class, a player that ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said has skills similar to Polamalu. The Rams need a safety and, choosing at No. 16, they could snatch Vaccaro before the Steelers can even consider taking him.

But if Vaccaro is there at No. 17, he is certain to tantalize the Steelers.

“People are starting to appreciate safeties more, now that tight ends are turning into freaks and controlling the middle of the field,” Vaccaro said. “So you've got to have a safety who can cover and come up and hit.”

Doesn't that sound like Polamalu?

The Steelers have multiple needs — though they insist they never draft for need — and are likely to stay with their proven method of taking who they believe to be the best player available on the board when they choose.

Even in the second round, that could be a safety.

“There's an elite group that are all going to go high,” Kiper said. “You're going to have a run on safeties in the second round. If Jonathan Cyprien (of Florida International) is not a first-round pick, he will be a second. Matt Elam (of Florida), if he's not a one, he will be a two.”

Kiper added, “There is a lot of depth at safety.”

Cyprien is interesting because he chose to attend Florida International rather than a high-profile school. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock calls him a “wild card” because he could go anywhere from the late first round to possibly early in the third round.

“I think I'm No. 1 because I can bring a lot and contribute to a team winning games, and making plays when called,” Cyprien said. “I want to shine in all that I do.”

Elam is a big hitter in a smaller body; at 5-10 he's a couple of inches shorter than Vaccaro and Cyprien. But he has been beaten in coverage at times simply because he was shorter than the receiver he was defending.

“The only downside with Elam as far as teams are concerned is there's nothing they can do about 5-10, and occasionally you're going to have to live with that,” Mayock said. “But on the positive side you get a kid that tackles, a kid that's tough, a kid that cares ... I think he's going to play a lot of years in the league.”

Elam has heard Pittsburgh mentioned as a possibility and, he said, “That would be a great opportunity.”

But only if Vaccaro doesn't beat him there first.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

Related Content
Top NFL prospects at linebacker come with injury, off-field issues
Manti Te'o isn't attending the first night of the NFL Draft in New York in Thursday. Maybe because he would have needed to pack an ...

NFL teams seeking defensive lineman won't be disappointed
Potential or performance? High-risk or high-reward? A starter for today or a star of tomorrow? The defensive line might be the most loaded position in the ...

This year's crop of QBs has NFL scouts less than impressed
There hadn't been a year for quarterbacks like this since the Elway-Marino draft of 1983 — Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, ...

A loaded lineman lot awaits in NFL Draft
An offensive guard hasn't gone in the top 10 of the NFL Draft in 16 years. Chance Warmack of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of North ...

Top-heavy class of wide receivers gives Steelers some options
Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee is a "height, weight, speed freak," according to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. Patterson is a natural talent at wide receiver ...

Steelers could find value at tight end
Jarvis Jones? Kenny Vaccaro? Cordarrelle Patterson? Tavon Austin? No, no, no and no. For all of their multiple needs — and they might have more than in ...

NFL Draft littered with potential cornerback starters, even in middle rounds
When a player talks about how he is dying to play football, he doesn't mean like this. During a routine University of Houston practice Nov. 6, ...

Draft features decorated kickers/punters, but they are late-round picks, at best
Numerous NFL teams will be looking for the next Blair Walsh in the NFL Draft. Except they won't want to pay too much for him, ...

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.