Will the Pittsburgh Steelers target a safety in Round 1 of the NFL draft?
With the NFL Draft Thursday, teams across the league are putting the final touches on their draft boards. Like many teams, the Steelers could still be deciding their first round draft pick. If they chose a defensive player, which is the biggest area of need?
The secondary remains the weakest group on the roster with needs at both corner and safety. Though they desperately could use a cornerback, strong safety only has Shamarko Thomas. A safety that could immediately provide impact at that position is Florida’s Keanu Neal.
Like many safeties in this draft, Neal plays the position with violent aggression, always looking for the bone crushing tackle. Loves to play downhill, he can get to his top speed in a hurry. Over his career at Florida, Neal totaled 134 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 2 sacks and 4 interceptions, averaging 8.7 tackles per game his junior year.
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Neal does have a history dealing with nagging injuries. He missed parts of the last two seasons including the first two games of 2015 with a hamstring injury. His reckless abandon playing style will need to be adjusted once he is in the NFL to avoid additional injuries. Neal’s over aggression at times led to 15 missed tackles in 2015 alone.
Over his time at Florida, he has improved playing the center field role in coverage. Neal has great reaction when the ball is in the air, on top of the receiver after the catch. He will have to improve his overall awareness when in coverage.
A violet player like Neal would give the Steelers a dangerous combo with Mike Mitchell. What I mean by dangerous is no receiver will want to go across the middle against the Steelers with Mitchell or Neal waiting to take their head off. If Neal is available in the first round, the Black & Gold may decide to call his name.