2015 Steelers NFL Mock Draft: 7 Rounds v9.0

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Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers need to improve their pass rush. Many see this franchise as one which is in desperate need of outside linebackers. I completely and totally agree with that sentiment. However, the addition of a player who can pass rush from the defensive tackle and defensive end positions would add an enormous boost to a defensive line which already has Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.

Xavier Cooper of Washington State is one player who could add more pocket collapse and athleticism along Pittsburgh’s defensive line, and he would be a sensible selection for the franchise in the second round.

Although he possesses shorter arms (31.5”), Cooper the type of height and weight (6’3” 295 lbs.) to work well as a five-technique in Pittsburgh’s defensive system. The fact that the former Cougar lined up in many different spots along his team’s defensive line during his collegiate career (36 games, 34 starts) only makes him a more dangerous contributor.

Armed with a good combination of short-area quickness, strength and active hands, Cooper is the type of player who could immediately help in sub-packages as a pass rusher at the professional level. Cooper racked up 121 tackles, 13.0 sacks and 31.5 TFLs during his collegiate career, and displayed the ability to gap shoot along the defensive line should serve him well as a pass rusher.

As I mentioned in my breakdowns of Christian Covington and Marcus Hardison, adding another pocket collapsing defensive lineman to the mix with Heyward and Tuitt would alleviate some of the pressure on what could be a very talent-thin outside linebacker corps. While Cooper will likely need to add strength and anchor better if the Steelers want to make him a full-time five-technique, he would still be a valuable weapon for a team looking for more from their pass rush and defensive line depth now that Brett Keisel is gone.

Next: Round 3