Hightower isn't Steelers typical early target

One of the most popular first-round pairings is Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower going to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But that would go against the team's draft history.

The Steelers have selected only one linebacker in the first round in the past 20 drafts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That was Lawrence Timmons in 2007.

I'm not saying the Steelers would pass on Hightower or Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. This trend just shows the Steelers typically find their linebackers after the first round and have had success doing it that way (LaMarr Woodley was a second-round pick, James Harrison was undrafted, Stevenson Sylvester was a fifth-rounder and Jason Worilds was a second-rounder).

In fact, the Steelers have drafted eight linebackers since 2007 (Mike Tomlin's first season) -- which is tied for the most of any team in that span.

Here are numbers and notes for the Steelers heading into the NFL draft, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

  • Total picks: 10 (24th, 56th, 86th, 119th, 159th, 193rd, 231st, 240th, 246th, 248th)

  • Only one of seven 2011 draft picks started a game last season (Marcus Gilbert – 13 starts)

  • Ten picks would match the Steelers' most in draft since 2000 (10 in 2010)