The Pittsburgh Steelers are hosting a few 2014 NFL Draft prospects today, as Steelers official site writer Bob Labriola reports that Rice Owls cornerback Phillip Gaines, Minnesota Golden Gophers star defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman, and UMass TE Rob Blanchflower are in town. Gaines, like Walt Aikens, is a small-school prospect with plenty of sleeper potential, and Blanchflower is in the same boats. The Steelers could use a TE behind Heath Miller to develop, and there are some who believe they could go after a top pass-catching TE so much that Eric Ebron could be an option for them in the first (other say WR, but most people say that the Steelers will go for another CB). Since corner is a big position of need for the Steelers, Gaines would make plenty of sense as a pick later on, even if the Steelers pull a stud corner like Justin Gilbert in the first.
While I think the Steelers should take one of the very talented cornerbacks in this year’s draft class, they could choose to build on the defensive line instead. There are some people who believe the Steelers should replace Steve McLendon at nose tackle, but I believe McLendon is a solid player who shouldn’t get axed.
Hageman is easily the biggest name of the three players in for a workout with the Steelers today, and he and Louis Nix are two big names to watch for on the defensive line. If the Steelers are interested in upgrading on that part of their defense, then either of them could be the pick. I would go in a different direction, but they could feel that Hageman’s disruption and upside makes him a good fit for them as a nose tackle or, more likely, a 3-4 DE. There’s no doubt that Hageman has elite physical tools, but he’s very boom-or-bust due to some inconsistent play in college. He’s worth a first-round grade, but his floor is so low that I would avoid taking him in the top 20 despite his high upside.