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Steelers consider Dontari Poe as Casey Hampton’s heir apparent

2012 NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Defensive lineman Dontari Poe of Memphis takes part in a drill during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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After Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe’s stunning performance at the Scouting Combine, there was talk that he could be a Top 5 pick. Then everyone remembered that football isn’t played in shorts and a T-shirt, and that defensive tackles aren’t asked to run 40 yards in a straight line, jump as far as they can or lift 225 pounds straight above their bodies, and Poe has settled in as a prospect who looks like he’ll go somewhere in the middle or late first round. And maybe as far down as No. 24, to the Steelers.

Poe visited the Steelers on Wednesday, and he’s being discussed in Pittsburgh as a potential replacement to their longtime starting nose tackle, Casey Hampton.

Although Hampton remained with the Steelers after he agreed to restructure his contract and clear more than $3 million in cap space, he doesn’t have much time left in Pittsburgh. Hampton is 34 years old and probably won’t be ready to start the season after undergoing ACL surgery.

The Steelers would love to acquire an enormous young nose tackle to serve as Hampton’s heir apparent, and the 6-foot-4, 346-pound Poe may be just the man for the job. Some scouts have said they’re not impressed with Poe’s motor or his production in college, but it’s impossible to overlook his talent. If the Steelers can draft him and develop him, they may have a future Pro Bowl nose tackle on the way in just as their Pro Bowl nose tackle of the past is on the way out.