PITTSBURGH -- And with their first pick of the 2014 NFL draft, the Steelers select ... Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame.
The first of many mock drafts to be released by ESPN Insiders Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. has the Steelers addressing the defensive line with their top pick in 2014. McShay just completed his first mock draft, and here is his reasoning behind the Nix pick:
McShay: "Nix might be a little bit of a reach here. He didn't have a great season in 2013 for the Fighting Irish, and when NFL teams get a look at a couple of bad tapes of his play (he didn't perform well against Michigan State, in particular) his stock could drop. But I still have a hard time seeing him fall out of the first round, given the way he dominated in 2012. With his size and the way he can move, he has the potential to be a very good player. If the Steelers are comfortable with his durability and work ethic, he could become their new Casey Hampton. Offensive tackle and secondary are two other need areas they could address here."
McShay also lists offensive tackle, cornerback and safety among the Steelers’ biggest needs. I would have no problem with the Steelers taking a nose tackle with their first pick given the difficulty they have had stopping the run this season.
The Steelers slipped from No. 2 in rushing defense last season to No. 19, and they are giving up 25 more rushing yards per game this season. They Steelers have already yielded 19 rushing touchdowns this season compared to nine in 2012.
That’s not to pin such a precipitous decline in their run defense on nose tackle Steve McLendon, who took over for Hampton this season. But McLendon is not a prototypical nose tackle, and I think the Steelers need a player there more in the mold of a Hampton.
Here is what former NFL scout Matt Williamson said about McLendon’s future with the Steelers:
“I think in a perfect world he would be your fourth defensive lineman,” said Williamson, an ESPN NFL analyst. “This defense needs a Vince Wilfork and they don’t have one.”