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First Round Safety Options for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 NFL Draft

February 14th, 2013 at 10:45 PM
By Mark Mihalko

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has garnered praise after the draft over the past few seasons, and for good reason; with the team picking near the bottom, they have produced good drafts in comparison to other franchises. Unfortunately, while they have been solid, these blue collar or workman-like classes have failed to produce game changers.

'Chargers @ Steelers' photo (c) 2012, Fido - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Of course, by focusing on building the offensive and defensive lines, these drafts were higher on substance than flash. Sure, there is nothing wrong with that and it was something that needed done. However, if you think about it, you need impact players to consistently win. Think about 2011 or 2012, what was the team lacking, especially on defense? Splash plays, and impact players make splash plays.  

Over the past week Steelers101 has broken down the first round wide receiver prospects that may interest the Steelers in the 2013 NFL Draft. While receiver is one direction the team could go, the Steelers have plenty of positions  that they could attack during the draft.

On the defensive side of the ball, they could go multiple directions. With question marks at inside and outside linebacker, cornerback or safety, it would not be a surprise to see them go there early in the process.  Some experts have been projecting that the Steelers will spend another high selection on a defensive lineman, but with Colbert needing a huge draft; it would be hard to add another first round lineman on either side of the ball. For other pundits, they look at cornerback or safety as positions where the team may look for that impact player.

Safety would be a viable position. Just like is the point at wide receiver, the Steelers lack depth at the safety position, and the may not have the salary cap space to keep both starters at their salaries. Back ups, Ryan Mundy and Will Allen are both unrestricted free agents, and may not be brought back. If they depart Robert Golden would likely be forced to play a larger role than he did as a rookie.

This year, it appears that there are two safeties that will draw first round grades.  Those two players. Matt Elam from Florida and Kenny Vaccaro from Texas, could both interest the Steelers with their different skill sets, and both should be around at number 17.

For many, Vaccaro is the top rated safety prospect. The 6-1, 215 pounder is a solid run defender who has the ability to work sideline-to-sideline with enough speed and athleticism to make an impact. In 2012, he recorded 92 tackles, two interception and two forced fumbles in Big 12 action.

Vaccaro is a four down performer. He is a solid special team performer, who has some ability to line up in man coverage in nickel situation and with his size should be able to hold his own against the tight ends that are becoming the offensive rage in the league. The biggest question mark would come from his lack of interceptions coming from a pass happy league. Over the past few months, he has seen his stock start to rise, so much so, he decided to pass on the Senior Bowl. Only time will tell if that decision will come back and haunt him.

For some experts, Elam is a better prospect than Vaccaro, and with a solid combine could jump him on some draft boards. Yes, he is smaller than Vaccaro, coming in at 5-10, 205 pounds, but he may have more upside and is also a four-down player. He is a dynamo who is comfortable near the line of scrimmage and in the deep safety position.

In 2012, he recorded 76 tackles with four interceptions, two sacks, and one forced fumble. He is an athletic and instinctive playmaker, who also plays with a physical edge that would be a solid fit within the Steelers 3-4 scheme.  

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Tags: Football, Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam, NFL, NFL Draft, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers, Robert Golden, Ryan Mundy, Will Allen

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