Reading the Tea Leaves — Discerning the Steelers Draft Plans

The 2008 NFL draft is almost upon us, and the pre-draft hype machine is in full gear. The Steelers needs are well documented: Everything is on the board accept tight end and quarterback. This makes sense. The general consensus, from Dan Rooney down to the press, is that while the Steelers do not have glaring needs, they can certainly improve themselves at just about every position.

Below you see a partial list of college prospects who’ve paid visits to the Steelers.

Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon 1
Brande Albert, guard/tackle from Virginia
Gosher Cherilus, OT, Boston College 2
Malcolm Kelly, WR, from Oklahoma
James Hardy, WR, Indiana
Mario Urrutia, WR, Louisville 3
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina
Ryan Torian, RB, Arizona 3
Carles Godfrey, CB, Iowa
Orlando Scandrick, CB, Boise State
Tracy Porter, CB, Indiana
Aqib Talbi, CB, Kansas
Mike Jenkins, CB, University of South Florida
Ryan Mundy, Safety, West Virginia 5/6
Shawn Crable, LB, Michigan
Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee
Bryan Smith, LB, McNeese State 3
Quentin Groves, DE/LB, Auburn
Cliff Avril, DE/LB, Purdue 2
Dre Moore, DL, Maryland
Keilen Dykes, DL, West Virginia 2
Matthew Slater, Return specialist, UCLA 1

*Mike McGlynn, OL, Pitt
*Jeff Otah, OT, Pitt
*Darrell Strong, TE, Pitt

*These do not count as official NFL pre-draft visits.

The Steelers have entertained college hopefuls mostly from major schools. They’ve interviewed two offensive lineman, one quarterback, three wideouts, three running backs, five corners and one safety, three pure line backers, two defensive neds that they’d convert into outside line backers, two defensive lineman, and one return specialist. On top of that, they’ve “unofficially” visited with two offensive lineman with Pitt?

What can we make of this list? Well, the Steelers are not going to draft a return specialist on day one, so you can scratch Matthew Slater from your board. Likewise, they’re not going to draft a quarterback with their first pick. They seem to be interviewing more defensive backs than any other position….. Hum. The Steelers gave away a lot of games in the 4th, so the secondary could use a boost. Beyond that, most of their other visits are evenly spaced.

The most peculiar piece of this list is the presence of only two lineman. Is this important? Probably not. The Steelers are notably tightlipped about their draft plans. They could have very well avoided bringing a line man to Carson street simply to keep their intentions under wraps.

If nothing else, the Steelers public pre-draft activity supports the notion that they committed to taking the best guy on the board.

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