Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert discuss their options on the upcoming draft at a press conference on the South Side Monday.
John Raoux/Associated Press
University of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones could be the Steelers' first-round pick tonight in the NFL draft.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Something Kevin Colbert said the other day about the draft made perfect sense yet was so out of character that a skeptic might consider it disinformation.
The Steelers general manager rarely shares his insight about plans in the draft. He refuses to mention draft prospects by name much less analyze them in public. Every year, he declares a willingness to trade up or down in the first round without providing details.
Monday, he careened from that script. Without prompting, Colbert pretty much nixed the idea of trading to move higher than No. 17 in the first round.
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"I doubt that we move up," Colbert said. "I think the more picks we have the better, in this draft particularly."
• Today: First round of the 77th NFL draft, Madison Square Garden, New York.
• When: 8 p.m.
• TV: ESPN & NFL Network.
• First pick: Kansas City Chiefs.
• Steelers: 17th in first round.
It makes sense because, scouts, analysts and general managers such as Colbert believe this draft is deep but not top-heavy, and that many teams would love to get out of the top 10 or 15, not join that group. But it's not Colbert's nature to tell the world he won't move up, not unless he wants someone to think he won't, like those in his position in New Orleans.
The Saints have the 15th pick in the first round. They are switching to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Rob Ryan, and they need outside linebackers. The perfect fit is Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Thing is, Jones also fits the Steelers perfectly.
Other prospects would look good in a Steelers uniform this year such as Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert or Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. None would look quite as sharp as Jones.
The Steelers have a desperate need for linebackers, inside and out, but more so on the outside. LaMarr Woodley returns after two injury-riddled seasons. Jason Worilds will try to replace James Harrison after three years as a backup and in the final year of his contract. There is little depth.
No position has been more productive and decorated on the Steelers defense than the outside linebackers since the move to the 3-4 base in 1982. They have been plentiful as well. But they've vanished, and there's now more competition for those types of linebackers because 14 NFL teams play the 3-4 defense, which the Steelers nearly had for themselves in the 1990s and the early part of this century. Those outside linebackers used to be found in the middle rounds.
Jones also is not one of those undersized defensive ends who would need a year or two apprenticeship to adjust to playing linebacker in the 3-4. He comes outside linebacker ready because that's where he played and that's where he dominated at Georgia. That he ran such surprisingly slow times at his pro day -- in the 4.9-second range -- might be the best thing to happen for the Steelers because he could have been a top-10 pick had he run faster.
"If I even get to 17, I don't think I get past the Steelers," Jones told NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. "I mean, from what I've been told, I don't think I get past the Steelers."
Baltimore's Terrell Suggs also ran a slow 40, and it hasn't stopped him from being one of the dominant linebackers in the AFC. Teams have passed Jones medically regarding the alleged stenosis that caused Southern California doctors not to clear him to play football after the 2009 season, prompting his transfer.
While Jones might not get past the Steelers, he might not get to them. And, if he is the player they want, they might have to try to get above New Orleans to make sure they can. Two teams in front of the Saints reportedly would like to trade down. One is Miami at No. 12, another is Carolina at No. 14. It would take a pick in the third or fourth round probably to entice them to make the switch to 17, and those picks are considered even more valuable in such a deep draft.
Perhaps Colbert should be taken at his word and he does not want to use a draft pick to move higher in the first round. At least one of those other four players should still be available if Jones is not -- Eifert, Vaccaro or Patterson. Maybe New Orleans will not draft Jones but go for Vaccaro, leaving Jones for the Steelers.
That's how we see it in this annual mock draft. No trade and the Steelers draft Jarvis Jones at No. 17.