6 players the Steelers will be watching at NFL Combine
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert calls the NFL Draft talent pool as deep as any he has seen in 30 years. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says it's the best in at least 10 years.
For the Steelers, it needs to be.
A fast-deteriorating defense needs help at multiple positions, including some of the most crucial in coordinator Dick LeBeau's scheme. Ben Roethlisberger must be surrounded by weapons, Colbert said. And age is becoming a factor for a team that's 16-16 the past two seasons after being 24-8 the previous two.
Salary cap restraints will limit the Steelers in free agency unless they make dramatic personnel moves between now and March 11. As usual, that makes their draft preparations critical as they start to narrow their possible picks.
The NFL Combine that starts Thursday in Indianapolis gives them the chance to see many, if not all, of those potential picks in a workout-interview setting in which they can assess the player, his personality and his character.
Six players the Steelers will be watching closely at Lucas Oil Stadium:
HA HA CLINTON-DIX, S, 6-0, 210, Alabama. Is being compared to Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. The Steelers have drafted only one safety in the first round in 44 years — Troy Polamalu — but they'll likely have two new starting safeties by 2015. Dix has excellent coverage skills, a Steelers secondary weakness last season. What the Steelers will watch in Indy: Can they take a cornerback or wideout in the first round and possibly get big-hitter safety Calvin Pryor (6-1, 210) of Louisville in the second round?
DARQUEZE DENNARD, CB, 5-11, 195, Michigan State. Even if Ike Taylor returns in 2014 — and he might not — cornerback is a position of great need. Dennard lacks Seahawks cornerback-like size, but he's a playmaker. He doesn't just project, he also produces (four INTs in 2013) and he's physical and aggressive. What the Steelers will be watching in Indy: His 40 time. A good time makes him even more attractive.
MIKE EVANS, WR, 6-4, 225, Texas A&M and KELVIN BENJAMIN, WR, 6-4, 230, Florida State. The Steelers badly need a big, cornerback-shedding wide receiver to complement Antonio Brown, and Roethlisberger loves big wideouts. Evans and Benjamin might be on the board at No. 15. What the Steelers will watch in Indy: Did Johnny Manziel make Evans or vice versa? Is Benjamin fast enough?
RYAN SHAZIER, LB, 6-1, 230, Ohio State.
TROY NIKLAS, TE, 6-6, 270, Notre Dame. The Steelers missed out on the Irish's Tyler Eifert last year, but Niklas could be there when they draft in the second round. Can block and is athletic. Doesn't have great speed, but Heath Miller doesn't, either. What the Steelers will be watching in Indy: As fast as Niklas is developing, how much more upside does he have?
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Rossi: Steelers will make small strides this season
- Steelers have plenty of new faces at wide receiver
- In last preseason game, a final audition for some Steelers
- Why Steelers will — or won’t — snap out of their funk
- Steelers running back blunt about focusing on football
- For Steelers outside linebacker Jones, size is not an obstacle
- Steelers cornerbacks Allen, Gay, Taylor have something to prove
- Steelers notebook: Team cuts 15 players, including LB So’oto, RB Hall
- Steelers’ Polamalu downplays emotional outburst
- Distracted Steelers show nothing in loss to Eagles
- Lopsided loss to Eagles shows Steelers have issues aplenty