Let’s take a look at the best prospects available in the 2017 NFL Draft that could help rejuvenate the Steelers pass rush.
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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
While the defense performed admirably last week against the Ravens, it is obvious that the Steelers are still in dire need of additional defensive help. Specifically, the Steelers pass rush has been less than stellar and nonexistent at moments this season. With James Harrison set to retire, who will step up as the next great Pittsburgh pass rusher?
Luckily for Pittsburgh, the 2017 NFL Draft is loaded with premier EDGE rushers. The upcoming draft class is filled with both elite talent at the top and admirable depth throughout for EDGE rushers.
I decided it would be a good idea to preview a few pass rushers who could potentially catch the eye of Kevin Colbert and the front office come next April.
Now, this list is not necessarily the 3 top pass rushers in the upcoming draft class, but rather several early-round prospects who I think would fit the Steelers defense. Obviously a player like Myles Garrett would be an excellent addition for the black and gold. However, I decided to exclude him from the list because he will be long gone by the time the Steelers make their first selection, and, unfortunately for him, will probably be on a plane heading to Cleveland after he is presumably selected #1 overall.
With that being said, let’s take a look at 3 EDGE prospects who could potentially be the Steeler’s next James Harrison.
While Barnett certainly has his struggles in the run game, he could certainly help rejuvenate the Steelers pass rush. Barnett is arguably the best speed rusher in the nation, and has racked up 9 sacks on the season. In fact, Barnett has dominated SEC competition throughout his entire career, compiling 47.5 tackles for loss and 28 sacks.
Barnett primarily plays with his hand in the dirt from a wide 9-technique for Tennessee. However, Barnett also has experience as a stand-up OLB, which would most likely be his position for the Steelers.
Unfortunately, most mock drafts have Barnett off the board within the first 15 selections. However, some prospects seem to fall every draft, and Steeler Nation will certainly be hoping that this is the case with Derek Barnett.
Luckily for Pittsburgh, Anderson is almost surely to be available at the time of their first, and possibly even second selection. Anderson would immediately step in as an OLB who could rush the passer and provide solid run defense.
Alabama’s defensive front is so talented, and the Steelers would benefit greatly from drafting as many of their defenders as possible.
After missing significant chunks of time due to recurring injuries, Lawson has seemed to find his groove in 2016. At this point in the season, Lawson has managed to accumulate 8.5 sacks, and has regained his reputation as one of the nation’s most prolific pass rushers.
Lawson is such a violent and explosive player, and his playing style is one that would quickly earn the love of Steeler Nation. As I briefly noted above, my first impression of Lawson was that his playing style is similar to James Harrison.
Both posses strong builds that would make body builders jealous, and have less than ideal height and weight for the position.
However, similar to Harrison, Lawson uses his shorter height to his advantage, as he maintains low leverage while rushing the passer.