This used to be called something else,
A title so vulgar and crass.
But we've cleaned it all up and no longer will use the word "ass."
It may have to do with the month of March
Or re-joining the league's elite.
So let's keep our cool, understand our place and step it up in class.
Nice, huh? I guess picking 30th will do that to a beat writer. Anyway, it's time for the pre-Combine Top 30 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There's more tape to watch, and adjustments to be made, but it's a starting point for our list of favorite prospects.
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1. Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M -- Not really sure when A&M's No. 15 made his way to the top of this list. It probably occurred against Alabama at some point in the last three seasons. But even though Garrett struggled with an early-season injury he's never left this perch. This is such a no-brainer that not even the Browns can screw it up.
2. Jamal Adams, S, LSU -- Not that the Steelers need a safety. Sean Davis was their Rookie of the Year and I like Mike Mitchell more than most fans do. But this guy is just too good. He has the range to cover slot receivers, and Adams' fearsome striking ability sets him apart.
3. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama -- Yes, it's a deep crop of tight ends, and, no, the Steelers don't have a crying need at the position, but this guy's just too good. He can block in-line, on the move, can catch short passes and run with the ball, and run deep patterns and catch up to the ball. All-around tight end who might make Ben Roethlisberger want to play until he's 40 while providing speed and great versatility for their power sets.
4. Solomon Thomas, DE/DT, Stanford -- Won't turn 22 until late December, so he's only going to get better. Much better. The first time I watched Thomas I was reminded of Cam Heyward in his final game, when Heyward dominated Ryan Mallett and Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. That game was sealed when Heyward's D-line bookend, Solomon Thomas, intercepted Mallett. Yep, same name. Not sure what it means but I'm certain this Solomon Thomas will be a star.
5. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama -- Even if the Steelers don't re-sign Lawrence Timmons they have Vince Williams waiting in the wings to line up next to Ryan Shazier, and Williams is so well-liked in the locker room that a rookie would have a hard time forging a spot in the lineup. He would have to be a special rookie to do that, and Foster is.
6. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan -- Reminds me of a bigger, faster Hines Ward, and would certainly put any final touches of motivation into Martavis Bryant's rehab. Davis won't work out at the Combine because of recent and minor ankle surgery, but I would have no trouble taking a Heath Miller draft plan with this guy.
7. Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama -- OK, let's get the last great big man out of the way before working on team needs, and this is simply done out of respect for The Planet Theory. Allen often played on the edge at Alabama, so, there's that too.
8. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson -- If it wasn't for the Steelers' crying need for red-zone help, I would already have started the deep run of rush-and-cover men. But the 6-3 Williams would put an end to those six-FG games.
9. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington -- Let the arguments about the cornerbacks begin. I like this one best. He may weigh less than 190 pounds, and I understand why the Steelers prefer more size in their slot corners, but Jones' fierce tackling is undeniable. He may not be the press man outside corner many want, but there's no doubting his skills in man coverage. Can't help but think of the great Lester Hayes when I watch him.
10. Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA -- A former track star in high school, McKinley's expected to "blow up" at the Combine. He's not ranked this high by most, but it was obvious that he played with a shoulder injury all season. You could see him grab it every once in a while. But you could also see his quick-twitch burst once he was able to get off blocks. The 21-year-old will undergo surgery after the Combine and will miss spring and maybe even summer workouts, but his defensive coordinator, Tom Bradley, is the brother of Steelers team doctor Jim Bradley and could provide the Steelers with all of the necessary information.
11. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama -- The Steelers need more physicality at cornerback, and here's a physical, all-around CB with size, speed and long arms. He's also just a babe at 20 years old. Be interesting to see how physical he is when he's playing with guys his own age.
12. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State -- Lower ranking than most have him, Lattimore has a history of chronic hamstring problems. His medicals will be as important as his 40 time this week, and I expect the latter to be in the 4.3s.
13. Budda Baker, S/SCB, Washington -- OK, this is where some people will click out of this column due to me having Baker ranked so high. But this is the guy I would want if I were Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert. First of all, Baker's enthusiasm for the game is obvious, and in my opinion infectious. Second, he fits a position of immediate need: slot cornerback. And since the Steelers prefer that position be manned not only by someone who can cover, but someone who's physical against the run and can blitz, Baker is all of that. Even at 5-10, 192, he's durable, having played in 39 games in his three college seasons. I also believe his ball skills are better than his five career interceptions might indicate. He's a chronic winner. Not only has he been an integral part of Washington's rise, Baker won three state football championships at Bellevue (Wa.) High -- David DeCastro's alma mater -- as well as two state 100-meter titles and a 200-meter title. The heir apparent to Mitchell would bide his time in the slot as a perfect fit for the Steelers at pick 30.
14. Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State -- Draws comparisons to Ed Reed as a natural ballhawk, but Hooker doesn't seem to have much interest in tackling. Not that he's anything close to former Steelers draft pick Gerod Holliman, but I just can't call Hooker elite, or feel comfortable playing him in the slot, with that shoddy tackling. Perhaps it had to do with his recent labrum surgery.
15. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina -- In a draft thick with corners and edge rushers, I'm going to grab this quarterback right here. I like his accuracy and his poise in the pocket and believe he could be a quality transition from the Roethlisberger era.
16. Christian McCafferty, RB, Stanford -- While I believe McCafferty to be the third-best back in this draft, I believe him to be the best fit for the Steelers as a backup to Le'Veon Bell, a slot receiver and a return specialist. He's a special player who could help the organization win another Lombardi.
17. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State -- A superstar with receiving and return capability who just can't be left off the list.
18. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee -- More of a 4-3 end, but has the potential to drop into coverage in the flat. Has a knack for getting after the quarterback, and the Steelers need a stronger, heavier edge in their current nickel-based system more so than at any time since the Steel Curtain became a 3-4 in the early 1980s.
19. Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan State -- OK, so let's swing for the fences here with a guy who I want to believe was buried out of position over the nose so often that it only appeared his motor and makeup were in question. The Combine interviews will be big for a potential superstar in hiding.
20. John Ross, WR, Washington -- A faster Antonio Brown with outstanding red-zone skills, Ross expects to run in the 4.2s this week. He'll also be probed about his lengthy injury history, which has knocked his name down this list.
21. Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri -- Another defensive end who has yet to show he can drop fluidly into coverage, but at 255 pounds certainly has the potential. He also has the quick-twitch burst, some bend and comes out of a school with a recent trend for developing quality pass-rushers.
22. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame -- The comparison to Cam Newton is just too easy, but of course the most important aspect of quarterbacking is clutch play in the fourth quarter. That's where the comparison falls apart and results in a top 5 athlete being ranked 22nd.
23. David Njoku, TE, Miami -- One of his former teammates was excited to hear that Njoku was coming out in the draft, but added that his blocking skills need plenty of work. That's what the Steelers need most at the position right now, but Njoku is an exceptional athlete who would add a new dimension to the entire offense. It's not likely he'll drop to 30 after what's expected to be an outstanding Combine.
24. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida -- Was going to leave this potential discipline problem off the list entirely, considering his two suspensions in college. But cornerback's a position where you can put the surly guy and leave him alone. As long as he covers and hits the way he did at Florida, and doesn't fail a test, the Steelers would be thrilled.
25. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan -- You see the stiffness and you rarely, if ever, see him drop into coverage, and you say, no, not for this team. But then you see that quick burst to the quarterback out of the 6-5, 272-pounder and you want to take another look.
26. Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama -- A guy who might be ranked as high as third on this list if it wasn't for the consistent warning signs about his character, and not just from the internet scouts. Guys in the business can't stop complaining off the record about Williams. Still, I have to leave this bendy piece of 3-4 pass-rushing perfection on the list.
27. Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn -- His injury history almost caused me to use Derek Rivers or Haason Reddick here, but Reddick is probably more useful to the Steelers as an inside linebacker. Of course, it will be very tempting for them to consider the 237-pound Reddick a prototypical 3-4 OLB even though they play more nickel than anything. As for Rivers, he didn't perform throughout the season as well as he did at the Senior Bowl. Maybe he just got better, and maybe more study will cause me to move Rivers up in the next edition.
28. TreDavious White, CB, LSU -- Running out of spots and I want to remark on a few others, so allow me to use White to stand for a number of physical 6-foot corners, a group that includes my sleeper, Kenny King, of Washington.
29. Quincy Wilson, CB, Flordia -- You want your press man corner, here he is. While Wilson's a question mark against the run and in off coverage, that stuff can be taught. Or so one would hope.
30. Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland -- Don't tempt me, because I just might grab this guy in the first round. The 6-5, 277-pounder looks like an even bigger Rob Gronkowski against his Division II opposition, so, yeah, wow, this guy on the grainy tape sure appears to have it all.