CBS Sports draftniks Rob Rang and Dane Brugler both released their latest first round mock drafts following the Senior Bowl and both have the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting a defensive player with the 15th overall selection.
Rang has the Steelers drafting Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, while Brugler has Alabama safety Hasean Clinton-Dix being selected by Pittsburgh in that spot.
Nix will have to prove his health before earning a first round selection as he underwent knee surgery in December. When healthy, however, he’s proven himself to be one of nation’s elite run-stuffers. He’d be an upgrade over incumbent starter Steve McLendon, whose play leveled off in the second half of his first season taking over for long-time standout Casey Hampton.
Playmaking safeties are in high demand in the NFL right now so don’t expect Clinton-Dix to last long on draft day. The Steelers need to find the long-term replacement for free agent Ryan Clark at free safety and Clinton-Dix fits the bill.
The Steelers haven’t drafted a nose tackle in the first round since 2001 when they traded down in the first round and selected Hampton with the 19th overall selection. As far as safeties go, Troy Polamalu was the last one selected by the Steelers in the first round as they traded up in 2003 to select him.
As we sit here on the last day of January, I would be surprised if either of these two players wound up being the pick. I think the Steelers will address the free safety position at some point during the draft, but just can’t see it happening in the first two rounds. As far as nose tackle goes, unlike many of you, I don’t see that position as being one of great need and while it is possible that a later round pick could be used on that particular position, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if it was ignored completely with one or two undrafted free agents being signed instead.
Ok, now it is your turn to chime in on both of these players in the comments below and please keep it civil.