5 Late-Round NFL Draft Prospects Perfectly Suited for Pittsburgh Steelers
Recent news that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be receiving three compensatory draft picks, as reported by Fox Sports' Sid Saraf, was a welcome development for a team in dire need of both impact players and depth at a number of positions.
But enthusiasm has to be tempered until those picks are used. After all, two of those three picks are slotted in the fifth and sixth rounds.
For every Richard Sherman and Antonio Brown to be uncovered in those rounds are a slew of players who toil on practice squads and are never seen again.
If the Steelers are to contend for a playoff spot in 2014 and beyond, they’ll have to rely on contributions from this draft class. The following late-round prospects are young men who could prove to be steals and, in turn, should be on the Steelers’ radar.
Devin Street, WR, Pitt
Many Steelers fans are already familiar with Street seeing as he’s been a big part of the Pittsburgh Panthers’ offense over the past four seasons.
A savvy route-runner, Street’s among the most productive wide receivers to ever suit up for the Panthers. His 202 receptions and 2,900 receiving yards are good for first and third all time in program history, respectively.
Unlike those Pitt alumni, though, Street won’t likely be an early-round pick. That’s all the better for a Steelers team that could spend multiple picks at receiver.
At 6’4”, Street’s got the size Ben Roethlisberger’s said to long be clamoring for in a receiver. And his 4.55 40-yard dash time, though unspectacular, is only a hair off Antonio Brown’s 4.47.
Street may not make an immediate impact, but he’s got the size and athleticism to be a real coup for the Steelers in years to come.
De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Pint-sized, change-of-pace running backs have gained immense value in NFL offenses recently. Whether it’s Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead or Jacquizz Rodgers, it seems every team is interested in adding one of these utility players to their offense.
The Steelers looked to join the movement last year with the addition of LaRod Stephens-Howling, but a torn ACL derailed those plans on opening day.
As things stand, the depth behind Le’Veon Bell is woefully thin. In fact, no other running back on the roster has an NFL carry to his credit.
Even if the team adds a back via free agency, they could still look to the draft for another. If so, that’ll likely come at the low cost of a Day 3 pick.
A back with De’Anthony Thomas’ speed and versatility is an ideal target in the later rounds. Prior to an injury-hampered final season, Thomas was electric for the Ducks.
In each of his first two years, he compiled over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 16 scores. Not to mention he did so while averaging almost 10 yards per touch.
As an added bonus, Thomas is a threat in the return game. He managed five kick/punt return touchdowns in his collegiate career.
Morgan Breslin, OLB, USC
After losing James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley in successive offseasons, the Steelers are expected to start Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds at the outside linebacker spots in 2014.
Worilds’ breakout season and Jones’ potential leave room for optimism about the position’s starters. The same can’t be said of the reserves, though.
Recently signed Arthur Moats is versatile and may be seen as the top backup, but he hasn’t registered a sack in two seasons. The other options at the spot (Chris Carter, Vic So’oto, Terence Garvin) have one through a combined seven seasons.
Morgan Breslin has had no such issues in getting after the quarterback. Of course, he’s yet to play at the professional level, but he has made a major leap in competition without faltering before.
The Diablo Valley Junior College product transferred to USC in the spring of 2012 and made an immediate impact. His 13 sacks were good for fifth in the nation.
As noted by Fox Sports’ Ross Jones, that season put Breslin in some impressive territory:
No other USC pass rusher in the last decade has accumulated more tackles for loss (19.5), sacks (13) and stuffs (32.5) in one season than Breslin during his redshirt junior year. That time span features a decorated list of first-round draft picks including Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Lawrence Jackson and Nick Perry.
Breslin’s injury-stunted ’13 left him off the list of combine invites. That just gives the Steelers better odds of picking up the unheralded and now, extra-motivated, prospect.
Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State
The Steelers are rightfully expected to target a cornerback early in this year’s draft. But in this increasingly pass-happy NFL, corner’s a position where it wouldn’t hurt to double-dip.
That rings especially true when considering the status of the Steelers secondary. Ike Taylor’s got secure employment for at least another season, but odds are low he’ll be back in 2015.
Even William Gay will be turning 30 around the same time next season ends. For a player’s who athletically limited to start with, one has to wonder what value he’ll possess as his skills begin to erode.
Utah State’s Nevin Lawson doesn’t have imposing size, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an imposing player. In fact, Lawson is one of the surer tacklers in this year’s cornerback class.
Lawson’s got 4.48 speed and flashed solid ball skills with 34 pass deflections in his past three seasons.
With some fine-tuning, Lawson could prove to be a great replacement for Gay in two years when his contract expires. And in the interim, he could provide valuable contributions on special teams.
Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
Those in the Steelers front office apparently know something that an outside observer wouldn’t.
It’s tough to explain why the team allowed both Ziggy Hood and Al Woods to join new teams. Especially because Brett Keisel’s football future is still a big question mark.
Now, the Steelers defensive line was by no means a strength of the team last year. Nonetheless, when you let two (potentially three) men who started games walk without a contingency plan in place, questions arise.
What that seems to indicate is either the Steelers have a tremendous amount of faith in recent signee Cam Thomas, or they plan on adding more talent up frontt.
Alabama’s Ed Stinson has the look of a prototypical five-technique, and he plays like one, too. Stinson won’t likely appear on many episodes of SportsCenter, but he will prove stout against the run.
The latter should take precedence over the former for a Pittsburgh run defense that declined dramatically in 2013. Stinson has the potential to make an impact like fellow late-round defensive ends Keisel and Aaron Smith.