Steelers Draft 2013: Defensive Line

In a draft class rich in defensive tackles and nose guards, the Steelers will buy only the bargains they can't pass up.

The city was on lockdown alert for almost 24 hours until officials stepped in and did their jobs and calmed the nerves.

But throughout those tense moments, when it appeared the Pittsburgh Steelers would lose Steve McLendon, the heir apparent to nose tackle Casey Hampton, draft analysts were sent rifling through their notes in search of emergency replacements.

Here is what one of those terrified analysts came up with:

* Johnathan Hankins (6-2.7, 320) – It would make sense that "Big Hank" succeed "Big Hamp." He's 21 years old, has those Dick LeBeau sources at Ohio State, and made the biggest plays in the biggest games.

* Sylvester Williams (6-2.5, 313) – A great rags-to-riches story of going from the curb to the first round. And he bellylaughs when he tells it.

* Kawann Short (6-2.7, 299) – Embraced the big stage and impressed everyone at the Senior Bowl. Also blocked 8 field goals at Purdue.

* Jesse Williams (6-3.3, 323) – If this former rugby star becomes as good in the NFL as another former rugby star, Haloti Ngata, the Steelers want some.

* John Jenkins (6-3.5, 346) – A massive man with quick feet out of the SEC.

So even if the Steelers wouldn't have used a first-rounder on either of the above five nose tackles, one would certainly remain available in the second round.

Alas, the research went to waste when the Steelers signed McLendon to a three-year contact and the threat had passed.

The Steelers even have two intriguing back-up nose tackles from last year's rookie crop – Alameda Ta'amu and Loni Fangupo – so even darkhorse nose tackle Brandon Williams (6-1.2, 335) – the Division II Defensive Player of the Year out of Missouri Southern State – wouldn't do the Steelers much good in this year's third round, in spite of his 27 career sacks.

At defensive end, the Steelers are solid with Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward and Al Woods. Of course, a young defensive end is always needed as a project, and Keisel and Hood are entering the final years of their contracts. So if the value's right, the Steelers will draft another one.

One impressive specimen is Margus Hunt (6-8.1, 277), who ran a 4.6 40, benched 38 reps and had a 34.5-inch vertical jump at the combine. That came on the heels of a startling performance against Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, when Hunt was named MVP with two forced fumbles and two sacks (one for a safety).

Hunt went to SMU on a track scholarship and left holding the NCAA career record with 17 blocked kicks. And he still holds the junior world record for throwing a discus 67.32 meters.

Hunt, who'll be a 26-year-old rookie, did struggle early last season, but the obvious stiffness in his play could be explained away by reported back problems.

The best of the rest of the 5-technique prospects could be Michigan State's William Gholston (6-6.2, 281), the cousin of infamous bust Vernon Gholston.

William Gholston was once suspended for punching one Michigan player and twisting the head of another, so perhaps he could become useful in Baltimore some day.

Wexell's Value Board for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Second Round – Margus Hunt, SMU.

Fourth Round – William Gholston, Michigan State.

Fifth Round – Quinton Dial, Alabama.

Sixth Round – Joe Kruger, Utah.

Seventh Round – Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame.


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