The Pittsburgh Steelers have eight picks in the NFL draft, which starts Thursday. We will take a look at their eight positions with the greatest need, mindful, of course, that the Steelers may double on a position or two. Our first look is at nose tackle.
Overview: The Steelers have a veteran in Steve McLendon and a developmental player in Daniel McCullers. Coach Mike Tomlin gave McLendon, who has been solid when healthy, a vote of confidence at the NFL owners meetings last month. McCullers is an enormous human being and the 6-7, 352-pounder could develop into a force if it starts clicking in his second season, when players generally make their most improvement.
Draft priority: Medium. McLendon bulked up to 330 pounds last season to handle the rigors of the position but he still missed four games because of a nagging shoulder injury. McCullers has potential but is still raw after playing limited snaps in 2014. The Steelers gave up 4.4 yards per carry in 2014 -- only six teams yielded higher averages -- so they shouldn’t rule out adding a run stuffer in the draft. The question of whether the importance of nose tackle has been diminished when teams are playing more sub-package football than ever is tempered by the need to stop the run first and foremost.
Last player drafted at position: McCullers. The Tennessee product lasted until the sixth round last season and the Steelers added him with the 215th overall pick.
Dream pick: Danny Shelton, Washington. He could be the second coming of Casey Hampton with more of a pass rush. The 6-2, 339-pounder recorded nine sacks and recovered five fumbles last season. Shelton, however, is likely to be gone by the time the Steelers make the 22nd overall pick.
Practical pick: Carl Davis, Iowa. The 6-5, 320-pounder has the size and physical ability to anchor the middle of a defensive line. Questions about why he did not dominate at Iowa -- Davis had only two sacks and nine tackles for losses last season -- and inconsistent effort will probably drop him into the second round. The Steelers may get a crack at him then.
He said it: “The Pac-12 Conference, there's nine out of 12 teams running up-tempo. It's a demand for our defense to be able to compete and be able to stay out on the field. So I challenge myself every day to practice running to the ball, stripping the ball, working on turnovers. It's just a mindset we have at the University of Washington to be prepared.” -- Shelton on whether he can play extended snaps at his weight.