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Pittsburgh Steelers welcome Ohio State safety among group of five visitors

No surprise that the flood of defensive backs continues to flow through Pittsburgh prior to the 2016 draft.

The parade of defensive backs through the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex continued Thursday for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Of the 16 visitors thus far (including locals Tyler Boyd and Lafayette Pitts), 11 have been defensive backs.

Ohio State safety Vonn Bell headlined a Thursday group that also included Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones, Clemson safety T.J. Green, North Carolina Central CB-S Ryan Smith and Akron linebacker Jatavis Brown.

Bell, like the previous day's visiting safeties, is a high second-rounder whom the Steelers may consider drafting at pick 25.

At 5-10 3/4, 199, Bell was timed at 4.53 on his pro day but appears to play faster on tape while showing the ability to cover slot receivers.

"Vonn Bell," said teammate Eli Apple at the NFL Combine, "probably has the best range out of any safety in the draft."

The Ohio State cornerback didn't stop there after he was asked about the Buckeyes' free safety.

"He's a great tackler, a great open-field tackler," Apple said. "And he's very smart. He can read offenses and see what they're going to do."

Bell met formally with the Steelers at the Combine and said he would enjoy playing with the former Buckeyes populating the roster in Pittsburgh.

"Those guys just play hard and physical," Bell said. "And those guys love to make plays, being on the ball, just having fun out there. They just showed passion and energy."

As a two-year starter in college, Bell intercepted eight passes with the help of keen instincts and a burst to the ball. Scouts knock him for his poor test scores (such as a 30 1/2-inch vertical jump) and his hesitance in the run game, but Bell admitted at the Combine that he's aware and working on it.

"Sometimes you get lazy," he said. "But as I’ve seen on film, sitting down with some scouts, they were tearing me up a little bit. It’s something to fix. It’s not hard to fix. Just got to run to the ball a little harder."

Green (6-2 1/2, 209) tore up the Combine track with a 4.34 40. The former wide receiver was moved to safety two years ago but has only one year of experience as the starting Clemson free safety, and Green intercepted only one pass in two years.

The 21-year-old is considered to be very raw but with enough upside to be considered in the third round.

Jones (5-9 1/8, 186) is another blazer. He ran a 4.33 at the Combine with the fastest 10-yard split (1.47) and also showed off his strength with 19 bench reps.

A national champion in the 110-meter hurdles in high school, Jones was a two-year starter at Auburn with seven career interceptions.

Known more for his man coverage, Jones doesn't draw the praise from analysts that his Combine numbers suggest he should, but an impressive Senior Bowl capped a week of practice that drew praise from the experts on hand. Joseph shouldn't get out of the fourth round.

Smith (5-11, 189, 4.47) started his career at NC Central as a free safety before moving to strong safety and then cornerback, where he started 22 games and intercepted two passes. He owns the school record with 168 solo tackles and his Combine measurements of 18 reps, 36 vertical, 4.09 short shuttle and 6.88 3-cone would suggest a high ceiling and perhaps value as a sixth-round pick.

Brown (5-10 3/4, 221, 4.49) is a highly decorated linebacker from Akron who is known both for his striking ability and his speed in coverage.

As the Zips' starting will backer in 2013, Brown was named Defensive MVP. The next year he was named the Team MVP. And the next year, 2015, Brown was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. He's compiled a school-record 41 tackles-for-losses with 18 sacks and nine forced fumbles in those three years.

Some of the phrases used to describe Brown are "film junkie" and "Alpha leader," but because of his apparent lack of size and lower level of competition, Brown is considered a late-rounder.

(To read the transcript of a group interview with Vonn Bell, click here.)


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