Oct 19, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt (7) during the game against the Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame defeated USC 14-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers Could Have Their Eyes On Defensive Linemen

Earlier today, I looked at the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers could trade down in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, set to begin Thursday night.

If they do, they could have a specific defensive lineman in mind.

While all of the talk surrounding the Steelers centering around a wide receiver or cornerback, defensive end could still be the biggest need on this team.

Veteran Brett Keisel is in limbo as he could still come back to the team, but even if he does, he is getting up there in age. And there is the fact that there is no depth whatsoever on the defensive line.

Cameron Heyward and Steve McLendon return, but the team lost the likes of Keisel (still unsigned), Ziggy Hood (signed with Jaguars) and Al Woods (signed with Titans) this offseason.

They did bring in big Cam Thomas in the offseason and he could play both inside and outside if needed, but at the end of the day the Steelers need a starter opposite Heyward and need depth at every position up front.

With that being said, I can see them drafting at least two defensive linemen when the draft is all said and done.

How early will the Steelers pull the trigger though?

The last time the team used a first-round pick on a defense end was when they selected Heyward in 2011. All in all, seven defensive linemen have been drafted under the Kevin Colbert/Mike Tomlin regime, but only two of those remain with the Steelers.

The last time the Steelers used a draft pick on a defensive lineman was last season when they selected BYU’s Nick Williams in the seventh round. As for the No. 15 pick, the last time a defensive lineman went in that spot was when the Tennessee Titans selected Albert Haynesworth in 2002.

It’s highly doubtful the Steelers would select a defensive lineman at No. 15, but trading to the end of the first round could leave them with a couple of intriguing possibilities.

Both Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman and Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt project as defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme and they are candidates for the Steelers if they trade down in the first round.

Hageman has a chance to be elite as he has a solid combination of height, weight and athleticism. He is a project, but the Steelers don’t really have time to groom him.

Tuitt I am a little more intrigued by. He brings both size and quickness and can be both an effective run-stopper and a disruptive power pass-rusher and should fit in rather nicely on the Pittsburgh defense.

It is worth noting that I have Hageman going No. 29 to the New England Patriots and Tuitt going No. 32 to the Seattle Seahawks in my latest mock draft.

If the Steelers elect to wait and target another position, keep your eye on a guy like  Virginia’s Brent Urban, who looks like a prototypical 3-4 defensive end that the Steelers could target late in the second day or early in the third day of the draft.

As for a nose tackle, even though the Steelers have been linked to Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III almost the entire offseason, I can’t see them using a first-round pick this year on a guy who likely will be on the field just 33 percent of the time, given the amount of sub-packages the Steelers have had to turn to recently.

However a guy like Nix is also an option if the Steelers trade down to the bottom of the first round.

It goes without saying that the Steelers will target a defensive end and a nose tackle at some point during the draft. How early they decide to do so is the only question.

One thing is for sure, though: the Steelers have plenty of options when the first round begins on Thursday night.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Pittsburgh Steelers Ra'Shede Hageman Stephon Tuitt


    It took Cam Heyward 2.5 years, albeit he was banged up as a rookie, to crack the starting lineup. Thus, one must ask how long a prospect as raw as Hageman, with a low motor and poor technique to boot, would take to actually contribute as non-special teams cannon fodder?

    Same goes for Tuitt, although he is closer to Heyward than Hageman in terms of being ready to contribute. Of course, keeping his weight in check will be a huge obstacle for him.

    I’d much rather see them take a talented project later like Urban (as you alluded to) or Taylor Hart who reminds many, including me, of a young Brett Keisel. Caraun Reid could fill a pass-rushing role & Al Woods versatility role, while DeAndre Coleman could be in play later on as well and he has experience in a 3-4 scheme.

    • Matt Shetler

      I agree. I just wrote the piece considering options. I do like Tuitt much better as an option, but like you said it will take whoever they select, if they choose this route, a while to crack the lineup.

      I like the possibilities off Urban and also have my eyes on the guys you mentioned

      • SDAZT.STEEL66

        I wouldn’t touch Tuitt until round two. He loafed quite a bit last season and I fear he will go the way of Woodley once his natural talent runs out. Too much value in the mid-late rounds at DE, and I trust that Mitchell can mine a late round gem or two.

  • [email protected]

    Matt, I don’t see us taking a DE in rd1, but I could very well see a Gilbert/Dennard/Fuller rd 1, followed by Tuitt in rd 2. Like you, I would prefer we avoid Hagemann – too much risk given his on/off motor.

    I have to tell you that you are about the ONLY writer saying how critical NT is – I think any of the three quality NTs (Carrethers, Ellis, McCullers) would do, and it would allow us to move McClendon to DE thereby solving out DL problem. Many who visit this website don’t think this makes sense, but this is clearly the way to go and we would have 2 quality DEs, and stud NT (granted, a rookie), a quality DE draftee in Tuitt and depth at NT and DE in Cam Thomas. Bring Keisel back and that’s not a bad group.

    WRs are sooooo deep, we can either use rd 2 or rd 3 to fill that need.

    Hopefully, Colbert/Tomlin are already considering the drafting of NT and position move for McClendon. We are going to get a really quality CB in rd 1 (one of those 3 will be available and I think it’s a ‘pick em’).

    This draft is really setting up nicely for us…… GO STEELERS!!!!!

    • Matt Shetler

      Thanks. NT should absolutely be a high priority. I don’t like McLendon there much but think he could be a serviceable DE. There’s tons of talent everywhere in this draft. Fix the secondary and the DL and can still grab a WR or TE or both.

  • Carl Eagan

    Where is the evidence Mclendon would be a serviceable much less a good DE?