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SCI publisher Jim Wexell posts odds on the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round pick

It's not about who SCI publisher Jim Wexell likes in the first round, it's who they -- the Pittsburgh Steelers -- like, and whether that player will be available. And that's before the public bets into these numbers.

Should the Pittsburgh Steelers try to win the draft when it gets underway on April 28? Or should they try to win the Super Bowl?

While some of you sharpies out there will say you can win Super Bowls, plural, by winning this draft, and the next one, and so on, the correct answer -- particularly with the window threatening to close on a franchise quarterback's career -- is they should try to win the Super Bowl.

That means drafting more for need than the kind of player who excites the talent scout residing deep down inside those of us who love the game of football.

With that preface out of the way, here's my list, in my preferred order, for a Steelers team that is a pass defense away from, in my opinion, winning a Super Bowl. To the right of the name are the odds of the Steelers actually landing him.

Karl Joseph (8-1) -- I've held Robert Golden in high regard since he was a nobody at his rookie camp, but the position to which he's recently ascended -- strong safety -- calls for a dynamic playmaker, according to the team's Super Bowl tradition. In my opinion, Joseph is the only legitimate first-rounder in a strong crop of strong safeties this year. But I don't see the Steelers drafting someone with a torn ACL in the first round, even if he will be ready for training camp.

Vernon Hargreaves (11-1) -- Long odds because he should be the first cornerback drafted. While rumors have been proven false that a "top SEC cornerback" failed a test at the combine, Hargreaves is on the list A.) Because he's the stickiest corner in the draft with great ball skills and B.) He could possibly slip to 25 because he's only 5-10 1/2.

William Jackson (7-1) -- Being so high on this list has nothing to do with the release of Cortez Allen on Friday. No, I moved Jackson ahead of my favorite defensive lineman after someone asked me who I would rather have with a three-point lead and 1:40 left. Yes, that's a scenario I expect to see often this season, and frankly the Steelers need a six-foot cornerback with 4.3 speed and good ball skills over a guy who controls the middle of the pass pocket. Even though opinions vary wildly on Jackson, I do expect someone drafting ahead of the Steelers to take him.

Andrew Billings (7-1) -- OK, so he's not going to help much in the final two minutes, but there's no one else I would rather have for the first 58. This guy will collapse pockets for years. Still, in spite of the fact the Steelers sent nearly the entire organization to Waco, Texas, to take a look at him, I don't see them moving Cam Heyward to defensive end in 2017 and creating an asskicking front four LIKE THEY SHOULD. (Sorry. Got a little excited there.)

Mackensie Alexander (9-1) -- I just like this guy. He strikes me as a tough, ornery cornerback who'll produce in the NFL -- in spite of his 5-10 frame -- far more than he did at Clemson, where he didn't intercept a pass in two seasons. Yet, I don't expect the Steelers to like him as much as I do.

Eli Apple (6-1) -- I guess I'm making him the favorite to land with the Steelers because he, in my opinion, should last until pick 25. No, he's not a zone corner, and no, he's not very instinctive with the ball in the air. But he is from Ohio State, he is 21 years old, and he does have the highest ceiling of the cornerbacks. He's behind Billings and Alexander because I don't see him helping much in the final two minutes of games as a rookie, and he hasn't shown me much interest in sticking his nose into the run game, but he does have the size to do so one day.

* Shaq Lawson-Kevin Dodd (13-1) -- You get both for your $2 parimutuel because, of course, they're from the same barn. The Clemson passrushers, though, are unlikely to draw interest from a team that already has five edge rushers on its roster and will use James Harrison in his final year, Jarvis Jones in perhaps his final year, and of course Bud Dupree, with Arthur Moats as a solid No. 4. While Dodd should be available, Lawson would be as exciting a fall in the first round as David DeCastro was a few years back. And Lawson could help more than perhaps anyone else on this list in the final two minutes. But my instinct for coaches tells me they'll give Jones his long look.

* Jarran Reed-A'Shawn Robinson (11-1) -- Again, the Steelers need defensive linemen in the worst way. I just can't agree with the pundits who believe the Steelers only used two last season by plan. They were the only two they had, and still have. As for these two from the Saban Stable, Reed showed me pass-rush potential at the Senior Bowl and Robinson has the ability to develop it. And they're the kind of guys you want stepping off the bus first in Cincinnati. Both were mere two-gap pluggers in college because it was Alabama's scheme. Reed likely will be gone by pick 25, and Robinson -- even if John Mitchell's stomping on the table with his Crimson Tide sneakers -- I suspect will be passed over for a cornerback.

Artie Burns (8-1) -- And this could be that cornerback. He's 6-foot, ran in the 4.4s at the combine and shows the potential pro scouts want to see. His inconsistent tape is understood because he had to take care of his brothers after his mom died during the season. He looks like Bryant McFadden to me, and the Steelers had a first-round grade on him (drafted him in the second) in 2005. I like Alexander better but I'm thinking pro scouts prefer Burns and his ceiling. I'm keeping the odds relatively high, though, because of the bad tape.

T.J. Green (15-1) -- I've drawn the line with Keanu Neal and Vonn Bell. I like them better than Green but they should not be drafted in the first round. I wonder, though, about Green. He was moved from wide receiver to free safety in 2014 at Clemson and only started in 2015. He's raw as can be, but at 6-2 1/4, 209 Green ripped off a 4.34 40 at the combine and has a very high ceiling. There are whispers of him moving into the bottom of the first round, and if the Steelers hear them they may react accordingly. Still the longshot, though, but wouldn't it be a fun way for you to cash in?

* Pool (10-1) -- I'll put the rest -- Javon Hargrave, Chris Jones, Noah SpenceCorey Coleman, Vernon Butler, Kendall Fuller, all of them -- into this tempting package for the more conservative punters among you. I forgot to do this last year and Dupree became my first unmentioned, unbet-upon first-rounder in this column's history. It won't happen again.


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