PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers began working on this NFL Draft on April 29, 2012, exactly one day after last year's draft ended.
The man-hours by the coaches and scouts spent watching games and traveling, viewing video after video of player after player, interviewing athletes and coaches, gathering 40-yard dash times, assembling data, assessing statistics and personality profiles and weighing empirical evidence are incalculable.
And it will mostly be one player — the one the Steelers choose Thursday night with the No. 17 pick — that is how all those hours and all that work is likely to be remembered.
Just like they remember 2004 for Ben Roethlisberger and mostly forget Ricardo Colclough. Just like they remember 2003 for Troy Polamalu but mostly forget Alonzo Jackson. Just like they remember 1991 for Huey Richardson and mostly forget ... well, that entire draft is eminently forgettable.
So what will it be for the Steelers in 2013: One to remember, or one to forget?
One that helps them win a Super Bowl like the 2004 draft or one that, like the 1983 draft, begins to send them on a sharp downward spiral that will require multiple drafts for atonement?
And, mostly, who will be the one?
Unanticipated trades and unexpected personnel decisions can skew any draft, just as it did a year ago when guard David DeCastro fell to the Steelers at No. 24, well below where he was projected to go. And they could again in this draft, one in which no two mock drafts seem to look remotely alike.
The draft pool is considered to be good at some positions — wide receiver, cornerback and safety. But less so at others — quarterback, running back and defensive end.
For the Steelers, predraft speculation has centered on five players: outside linebacker Jarvis Jones of Georgia, running back Eddie Lacy of Alabama, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee, tight end Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame and safety Kenny Vaccaro of Texas. Wide receiver Keenan Allen of Cal also has been mentioned.
The Steelers have a need at those positions, though perhaps less so at safety. Jones is a high-motor, high-production pass rusher who would seem to be the logical successor to James Harrison. He also plays a position where the Steelers are down two players.
Lacy would be a feature back-type for a team that badly lacks one.
Patterson is seen as the receiver perhaps best equipped to replace the ever-so-fast Mike Wallace, though there are questions about some of his on-field decision-making and off-field preparation.
Vaccaro is seen as the best of a talented group of safeties and certainly might be enticing to a team that has two safeties who will be in their 30s next season in Ryan Clark (34) and Polamalu (32).
“There will be a good player at No. 17, there's no question about that,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said.
The best player — and the best fit — appears to be Jones, though the Jets at No. 13 and the Saints at No. 15 could snatch him away first. There were some questions about a spinal condition that caused him to leave Southern Cal for Georgia but not enough that he was brought back for a second round of NFL testing.
Jones thinks the Steelers would be a good fit, and he certainly does not expect to go any lower than 17th.
“If the Steelers took me, it would be a great place to play,” Jones told PFT Talk, an online show that also featured Colbert the same day. “I love playing in the 3-4 system. I definitely understand a lot of the concepts and the things that they do there, being that I played in a 3-4 system. I think the Steelers are a great place to play, especially on defense.”
The Steelers appear to think Jones would be a great fit to play for them, too; he visited them several weeks ago for an in-house interview, no doubt in part to discuss the spinal issue.
If Jones is around at No. 17 slightly past 10 p.m., the wait will be over for him. And the Steelers.
Where the Steelers draft in each round:
Round 1: No. 17
Round 2: No. 16
Round 3: No. 17
Round 4: No. 18
Round 5: No. 17
Round 6: No. 18, No. 38 (compensatory pick)
Round 7: No. 17
This article was written by Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE.