The Pittsburgh Steelers made sure to go in on what they likely viewed as the last viable first-round cornerback on their board on Thursday night when they hastened in their first-round selection of Artie Burns, a young and physically gifted player whom the team described as one they are looking forward to molding.
On Day Two of the draft, however, they let the board come to them and managed to come away not only with two quality talents at priority positions, but two players that bring a level of versatility to their team that could hasten their playing time and add more variety on the defensive side of the ball.
In the second round, the Steelers found that they had their choice of talents at a number of positions, most prominently at the safety position, where they are still searching for the successor to Troy Polamalu. After failing to find that piece in Shamarko Thomas, and with Will Allen out the door, they were able to land the 6’1”, 202-pound Sean Davis, who in his collegiate career has started at both safety and cornerback.
One round later, recalling the need to add a piece along the defensive line that can help take away some of the reps from Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, all the while adding another body that can align at the zero- or one-tech in their 3-4 front, Pittsburgh was fortunate to have been able to select the small-school product, 6’2”, 305-pound Javon Hargrave.
Following the free agency departure of Steve McLendon, the Steelers found themselves with just Daniel McCullers as nose tackle-capable bodies along the defensive line. Even if you regard McCullers as a player capable of assuming that role, the depth at the position needed to be restored.
The drafting of Hargrave fulfills that need, and it also serves to check the equally important box of a legitimate third nickel defensive tackle that can spell Heyward and Tuitt for a couple dozen snaps per game, which will have the long-term consequence of having their pedigrees more well-rested for what is starting to feel like another inevitable postseason run.
As for Davis, whom the Steelers talked about regarding as a safety, the team re-signed Robert Golden, and the two share some commonalities. Both played both cornerback and safety—Golden even played a bit of cornerback out of need during his rookie season—and both figure to be able to serve in the rover dime role that Golden infrequently appeared in last season. Davis is also a player that the team can play at cornerback if need be.
With the additions of Hargrave and Davis, the Steelers were able to add two talented and physically gifted players to their growing defense that have the capacity to wear multiple, with Hargrave able to serve as both a 3-4 nose tackle and as a sub-package defensive tackle, while Davis has the coverage ability from the safety position that the team has increasingly coveted. These advantages give them a greater opportunity to earn a role in the defense at a relatively early stage.