2017 NFL Draft: The next crop of Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers will now transition from wrapping up the 2016 season to building the 2017 team, starting with the draft.

Jan 8, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin looks on from the sidelines against the Miami Dolphins during the first half in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Draft season is fast approaching with Steelers off season buzz about. Ben Roethlisberger retiring? Parting ways with Antonio Brown? Ladarius Green a one and done? Re-signing Le’Veon Bell?

Well that’s a slew of rumors that will either be proved correct or put to rest in the coming weeks/months. A major part of both these rumors and off season progression for the Steelers is looking toward the upcoming draft.

Several needs on the roster can be addressed by the collection of up and coming college stars, lets have quick glance at possible future Steelers.

Wide Receiver:

Assuming the worst, and that’s a pretty bad worst, Antonio Brown will not be returning to Pittsburgh this season, leaving a massive question mark at was once considered the squads deepest position.

Zay Jones, Eastern Carolina

Nov 19, 2016; Greenville, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Zay Jones (7) gets ready for a play during the third quarter against the Navy Midshipmen at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Navy defeated East Carolina 66-31. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Jones has been a beast for eastern Carolina in his years there saving the best setting the record for most catches in a season with 158 his senior season. The guy has hands and tremendous body control ability, something that has been missing among the receivers currently on the roster. He can prove to be a reliable and efficient target for Big Ben very quickly given his clutch ability.

2016 Stats: 158 catches, 1746 yards, 8 TDS.

Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

The speedster from UNC will be turning heads in the pre-draft workouts. Switzer is an athletic freak with potential to be a Swiss army knife, Tyreke Hill, Ty Montgomery type of player. His ability to run polished routes paired with ability to adjust will catch the eye of Todd Haley.

2016 Stats: 96 catches, 1112 yards, 6 TDS.

Safety:

Sean Davis was a pleasant surprise this season and looks to be the future at Free Safety for the black and gold, yet running mate Mike Mitchell will be turning 30 this June and with his play declining Pittsburgh would be smart too look at options for Strong Safety.

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Sep 24, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) is seen during the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The superstar from Michigan would be a premier athlete at the position in Pittsburgh. Peppers displayed among versatility on both sides of the ball, but his defensive prowess are undeniable. His ability to rush the passer, stop the run and drop into coverage is strikingly reminiscent to Troy Polamalu and would be greatly welcomed in the steel city.

2016 Stats: 1 interception, 71 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks

Desmond King, Iowa

Oct 1, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) returns a punt against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The senior ballhawk and Jim Thorpe award winner is an interception machine. His ball skills are some of the best in this draft paired with his leadership/work ethic he is a natural Pittsburgh Steeler. Pairing King and Davis would give pittsburgh a ball hawking defense in a division that loves throwing the deep ball.

2016 Stats: 3 interceptions, 58 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss

Edge/Pass Rusher:

A position of need that has been neglected by the front office, Jarvis Jones has not lived up to expectations, Bud Dupree has shown flashes of excellence and breakout potential but he is just one man all the while James Harrison will be 39 by next seasons start. Pittsburgh needs some help rushing the quarterback.

Tim Williams, Alabama

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) sacks Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Williams has been a stud for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa with his freak athleticism and surprising speed at the position. Williams has incredible speed of the snap along with being a stout run defender, pairing Williams and Dupree could prove to be a terror for opposing offenses.

2016 Stats: 31 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 9 sacks

DeMarcus Walker, Florida State

Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) rushes against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Camping World Stadium. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Mississippi Rebels 45-34. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A star defender from a star studded defense can be a quick impact player right from training camp. Walker has exceptional work ethic as well as fantastic power along with his natural pass rush ability. Standing at 6″4, 280 pounds the behemoth can be a wrecking ball, even more so then he was in his final collegiate season.

2016 Stats: 68 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, 16 sacks

Quarterback:

Ben Roethlisberger will be 35 by the beginning of next season and already stated that he doesn’t know if he’ll return. While there may not be a Dak Prescott just waiting in this years draft, its clear that Landry Jones is not the future of the franchise.

Josh Dobbs, Tennessee

Dec 30, 2016; Nashville , TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) drops back to pass during the first half against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The aerospace engineering major has had his ups and downs in his career at Tennessee, but his work ethic and love of the game are undeniable. Dobbs has displayed resilience in the face of constant scrutiny while leading the Vol’s to several bowl wins off his clutch drives. His deep ball ability must be respected and could be furthermore honed under tutelage of Big Ben.

2016 Stats: 2946 passing yards, 27 TDS, 12 Interceptions, 831 rushing yards, 12 TDS

Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech

Dec 29, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Jerod Evans (4) looks to pass the ball during the first quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The one year starter at Virginia Tech surprised many with his decision to leave school early and declare for this upcoming draft, betting on himself after a solid year for the hokies. Evans displayed exceptional dual threat ability with tough running and a precise, powerful arm. Given that he has only one year of experience as a full time starter there may be questions but his confidence is unquestionable as is his athletic ability.

2016 Stats: 3552 passing yards, 29 TDS, 8 interceptions, 846 rushing yards, 12 TDS

These are just a few options for the black & gold in this upcoming draft, for more news and updates on the Steelers off season be sure to check in on FanSided.

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