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Robinson: Variety of talent available among 2014 Top 10 picks

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By Alan Robinson
Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 10:00 p.m.
 

The Steelers haven't drafted higher than 15th in nine seasons and since they took Terry Bradshaw No. 1 overall in 1970, their highest pick was No. 7 overall.

But should they never get turned around in a season that began with four consecutive losses, they could own their first top-10 pick since they drafted wide receiver Plaxico Burress at No. 8 in 2000.

It would be a pick the Steelers simply can't whiff on — their troubles are partly the result of them not having a single current starter from either the 2008 or '09 draft classes. (Five picks start for other teams.) Their only remaining player from those drafts is defensive end Ziggy Hood.

Here's who the Steelers might have to choose from May 8 if they go top 10:

• A left tackle? NFL draft expert Mel Kiper of ESPN said Jake Matthews of Texas A&M, Brandon Scherff of Iowa and Greg Robinson of Auburn all could be there. Scherff is a former high school quarterback who simply outgrew the position and, Kiper said, “is a dominating run blocker, light on his feet.”

• Another defensive end, who would be their third taken in the first round in six years? Stephon Tuitt, tossed out of Notre Dame's loss to Pitt last weekend, is the best at the position, Kiper said, and should be perfect for a 3-4 defense. “He's been unblockable in a number of games,” Kiper said. “He's a top-10 guy.”

• A quarterback? Not likely, unless contract extension talks with Ben Roethlisberger break down. Kiper thinks as many as six QBs could go in Round 1, led by Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.

• A wide receiver? The Steelers might need one if Emmanuel Sanders leaves via free agency. Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Marqise Lee of Southern Cal are projected as top-10 picks.

Fit to be tied

It's largely forgotten now, but the 1963 Steelers who played the Bears to a 17-17 tie at Forbes Field two days after President John F. Kennedy was slain nearly tied their way to a title.

There were five NFL ties that season. The Steelers played three, including a 20-20 tie with the Eagles the following week. (It was the last Steelers game played at Forbes Field. The crowd of 16,721 was nearly 20,000 less than the 36,465 who turned out for the Bears game on a national day of mourning.)

The Steelers were 7-3-3 going into their season finale at New York (10-3). If they had repeated an earlier 31-0 win over the Giants, they would have won the Eastern Conference title and played the Bears in a rematch for the NFL championship.

How could a team with two fewer wins prevail in so short a season, only 14 games? Because the NFL threw out ties when calculating a team's winning percentage, so the Steelers (.727), with eight wins, would have edged the Giants (.714), with 10 wins. It became moot when the Steelers lost 33-17.

Incidentally, the Bears (11-1-2) tied the Vikings by that same 17-17 score a week after tying the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

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

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