4/14/19-Steelers 2019 Early Round Draft Needs

By: Mike Pelaia

The 2019 NFL Draft is just around the corner and it’s that time of year where every team has hope. Every team plans to grab the next set of guys that will loft them from pretender to contender, from playoff bound to Super Bowl bound and from Super Bowl bound to Super Bowl champs.

The Steelers are no different. Last season, the Steelers went from a sure fire playoff team to needing a win and help from the Cleveland Browns just to make it in.  Only one of those two things happened and the rest is history.

Le’Veon Bell officially left the mix, as expected but then, the Antonio Brown implosion occurred and he’s now gone too.  Addition by subtraction? Perhaps, but, a hole that needs to be addressed at some point in this upcoming draft.

Yet, with, or without Brown the Steelers knew the first line of business needed to be gaining and inside linebacker to perhaps finally replace Ryan Shazier and to find a second cornerback to compliment Joe Haden.

They addressed these needs, to a degree, via free agency. They signed linebacker Mark Barron away from the Rams and cornerback Steven Nelson from the Chiefs. They also addressed the Brown loss by signing away Donte Moncrief from the Jaguars.

Had the black and gold not signed Moncrief, I may have stated that replacing Brown would have been a top two priority but I believe they can wait until the 3rd or even 4th round to try to grab a receiver. With JuJu Smith-Schuster clearly the number one receiver, last years 3rd round pick James Washington ready to step up, Eli Rogers returning, Ryan Switzer as a decent slot guy and Moncrief, the Steelers have a decent start at receiver. They can address the need on day three of the draft if necessary.

Despite the signing of Barron, the Steelers number one need in this draft is still to find a replacement for Shazier.  His loss was a devastating blow to a defense that was on the rise and hasn’t been able to fully recover since his injury in late 2017.  They need to find that playmaker up the middle, the guy who can stop the run, cover the pass and be an overall leader for a defense that desperately needs one.

There are two guys in this draft that stand out above the rest that fit that category. They are Devin White of LSU and Devin Bush of Michigan.  Then there is a second tier guy, in my mind out of Alabama, Mack Wilson. 

I don’t believe the Steelers have a chance at White at all but think they could potentially see Bush when they draft at 20 and will most certainly have an opportunity for Wilson but he’s a caliber below the other two.

I believe the Steelers should use some of their draft capital and move up a few spots to secure Bush and if they were able to land him, the defense would change over night. He’s a playmaker that can be paired with TJ Watt on the outside and one that will impact this team from day one. As I write this, it is my belief the Steelers will find a way to get Bush, whether they move up or they are lucky enough to see him fall to 20.

In the second round, even with the addition of Nelson, the Steelers have to address cornerback. It’s a position that takes a little time to grow into and with the pending free agency of Haden after the season, it’s an area that must be addressed early in this draft.

There is some depth at corner this year and the black and gold should have an opportunity at a quality player when they draft 52nd overall.  While I would love for the Steelers to nab Greedy Williams out of LSU, a guy they could think about in the first round if Bush is gone, I think they’ll more likely have their choice of Amani Oruwariye of Penn State, Justin Layne of Michigan State, Trayvon Mullen of Clemson or Julian Love of Notre Dame.  

They need a guy who can play physical football, a guy with size and a guy with football intelligence.  I believe Mullen is the man they will select 52nd overall. He stands 6’2’’ and weighs in at 190 pounds. He has the big game experience and playmaking ability.  Coming out of the ACC, I believe he has the experience to step in and be a guy who can help in 2019 but really step into his own in 2020 and beyond.

No matter how the draft slices, the Steelers must grab an Inside Linebacker and a Cornerback in the first two rounds. They cannot ignore their most glaring needs.  From there, in some form, they need to address wide receiver, defensive line, safety, add offensive line depth, look at adding a third running back and potentially another playmaking tight end.

With 10 draft choices this year, it will be a busy April for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

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