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First Round Outside Linebacker Options for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 NFL Draft

February 16th, 2013 at 10:42 PM
By Mark Mihalko

One of the biggest headlines of the week for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been the fact that outside linebacker James Harrison will not take a pay cut. General manager Kevin Colbert has talked about change, and with the salary cap situation has Harrison played his last down for the Steelers?

'Manning Handoff, Broncos vs Steelers 2012' photo (c) 2012, Craig Hawkins - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
This is a great question and possibly the key to predicting the plan of attack for the draft. At this point, the team has little depth at the position. Looking at the roster, if Harrison is released, Jason Worilds would likely be penciled in as the starter heading in to training camp. However, truth be told, everyone at outside linebacker on the roster underperformed in 2012 and the Steelers need a boost in their pass rush and to find that, they will likely turn to the draft.

Outside linebacker does seem to be one of the better positions to tap early in the draft process. Unfortunately, the Steelers would likely have to trade up on day one to land one of the top prospects. As the combine nears, Bjoern Werner (Florida State), Jarvis Jones (Georgia), Barkevious Mingo (LSU), and Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), will all likely come off the board somewhere in the top 10 of the draft. Yes, Jones does have some medical issues that need scrutinized at the combine, but he is still likely to be gone before the Steelers select at number 17. If the Steelers are interested in an outside linebacker early in the draft, it appears that they will likely have to choose between two prospects Dion Jordan (Oregon) and Ezekiel Ansah (BYU).

Jordan is an interesting prospect. The 6-6, 243-pound has played a hybrid position at Oregon, often being moved into position to take advantage of his quick burst off the edge. He is an above average athlete and demonstrates a tremendous amount of change of direction skills for his height.

What may be more important to teams like the Steelers is the fact that while he is a DE/LB hybrid, he has not played the traditional end position and is experienced on the edge in a stand-up capacity.  Still raw, having moved to linebacker from tight end as a sophomore, he is still developing and his natural physical abilities could give him the highest ceiling of the top linebacker prospects.

Ansah is a prospect that has been tied to the Steelers on a lot of reports and may be a good fit.  He is bigger (6-5, 278-pounds), but does show more natural power and is committed to the run. Another tremendous athlete, he has the size and athleticism to be a disruptive force for a defense and has experience at multiple positions in the front seven for BYU although he has only played football since 2010.

One of the biggest question marks is his best natural position for the NFL. Like New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, his natural abilities outweigh his experience at this point and there is an incredible risk-reward that front offices will have to debate. At this point, he is raw and relies on his athletic ability to make plays. With that in mind, he does have some flaws; especially disengaging from blockers against the run and lacking an explosive first step as a pass rusher.   

Looking forward to the combine, both of these prospects could see their stock rise with off-the-charts performances and both could be options for the Steelers in the middle of round one if they are still available.

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Tags: Barkevious Mingo, Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore, Dion Jordan, Ezekiel Ansah, Football, James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, NFL, NFL Draft, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers

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