Taking an In Depth Look at The Steelers Draft Needs

The NFL offseason is in full swing and as we move into April it’s time to focus on the draft. The Steelers have a long history of building via the draft and keeping the guys they draft when they prove they are valuable assets. The black and gold are in a transitional period as they have just released several big name veterans at different positions on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.  The time has come to infuse some more youth with the existing core of vets to try to continue this current run of success the team has enjoyed. 

There are certainly some very obvious position the Steelers need to draft and positions we all believe they should draft in the early rounds.  However, despite what we the fans may think they should do; the Steelers are known for taking the best player on the board when it’s time for their pick; no matter what position the player plays or if the team actually needs to fill that position. It’s a strategy some may call flawed, but how can we argue with the documented success it has brought upon the men of Steel? 

The two most glaring positions that must be filled in this draft in the early rounds are offensive line, both tackle and guard and defensive line, in particular nose tackle.  While many of us in the Steel Nation have been clamoring for an offensive lineman to be picked in the first round for many years now, the Steelers generally don’t do that, with the exception of Maurkice Pouncey, who has turned into a perennial pro bowler already.  Drafting an offensive lineman in the first round to help protect Big Ben and boost the run game would be something we’d love to see, and as Ben turns 30 this year it seems logical the team would like to prevent him from taking the punishment he’s been accustomed to over his career.  Art Rooney II has also proclaimed he’d like to see the team run the ball more.  Beefing up the line can only help that endeavor as well.  As much sense as this all seems to make; our suspicion is it won’t happen in round one. The draft pundits all agree this draft is very deep for o linemen and we believe the Steelers agree with that assessment. Drafting two linemen this year, at least one in the first two rounds is an absolute must for this team, in what portion of the early rounds they do that will keep us guessing til draft day.

Working with the assumption the Steelers do believe the offensive line class is deep this year;  we believe they will go with either a Nose Tackle in round one or possibly an inside linebacker.  Both positions are team needs but we think the team is a little deeper at linebacker. Nose Tackle has Casey Hampton coming off an injury and playing in the final year of a three year contract. Really it may be the final year of his tenure as a Steeler too.  Finding his replacement, a run stuffer who can play in the 3-4 scheme and clog the middle of the field is a huge priority for this team and a draft pick that you can bet will be made in one of the first three rounds for sure. 

The first three rounds will in all likelihood bring that inside linebacker as well. The team said goodbye to James Farrior and Larry Foote is most likely playing in his final year with the black and gold as well. Bringing in a big time play maker is a priority as the Steelers are the class of the NFL when it comes to linebackers and have been for years.  They want to stay strong in this unit and will find a guy who fits into the 3-4 scheme and plays hard hitting-aggressive Steeler football. 

After filling the needs on the offensive line (we project 2 picks), nose tackle and linebacker, we believe there are several different directions the team could go.  The next position we anticipate they’d go would be back on the defensive line at the defensive end position. Aaron Smith was released and retired. On top of that, Brett Keisel is another vet who is most likely facing his final year with the team and the Steelers have drafted a couple of young bucks in the first round the past couple years with Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward  to begin to fill the big shoes of their predecessors.  That said, they could stand to add some depth and don’t be shocked if they do. 

Many fans believe the team should draft another cornerback as they believe the unit is weak.  The unit is not weak, it was the best pass defense in the league last year and the corners, led by Ike Taylor, had a great year covering the opposition’s receivers. Don’t let the Denver playoff game sway you, the unit is one of the better units on this football team on either side of the ball. Even with William Gay departing via free agency; they really don’t need to draft this position this year. Ike Taylor will be back as the top corner on the team, Keenan Lewis will most likely be back as a nickel back at the very least and the team is very high on both Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown, draft picks from last year. The real positions they need to look at in the secondary is Safety. Yes they have Polamalu and Clark, both are great players, yet they are aging players. Polamalu is one of the best to ever play the position but he’s so aggressive and plays with such reckless abandon that he is injury prone. Bringing in a young safety would be extremely beneficial. They could learn from Polamalu and Clark, pick up the defensive scheme and when it comes time for Polamalu and Clark to move on, the replacement is already on the roster. It takes a bit of time for the safeties to learn and understand the defensive schemes the Steelers run.  It’s no secret the team has many blitz packages and currently allows Polamalu the freedom to lineup where he sees fit.  That didn’t happen overnight. Many forget that Polamalu was nothing more than mediocre  his rookie year simply because he was learning how to play in the system. Picking the replacement now is a great way to avoid that situation again later.

Some positions that have minor needs would be Tight End as Heath is in his final year of his contract and the backups are unproven. Wide Receiver may be a position the team needs to go after if Wallace and Cotchery end up bolting via free agency, also with the knowledge that Antonio Brown is a restricted free agent after this season as well. Drafting a kicker could be an option for this team as well. If you’re sold on Suisham as the long term answer for this team then that makes one of you. We don’t trust him in the clutch and there’s a good reason he’s bounced around the league during his career. Lastly quarterback. Yes, Quarterback. The team certainly isn’t going to be looking for a new starter or not even for Ben’s eventual replacement quite yet, but, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a young guy in the fold as a backup. Right now they will most likely have Leftwhich and Batch as the 2nd and 3rd string guys and will let Dennis Dixon walk away.  We’d like to see Leftwhich back and then have that new young guy playing in the 3rd QB spot for a year or two before they become ready to become the top backup on this team by 2014. This may be asking for a lot but if they could grab someone similar to Matt Flynn like the Packers did in round 7 a few years back, the Steelers will have made a fantastic pick.

Whether the Steelers draft the way we think they will, completely opposite or somewhere in between; the one thing we will always do is trust in what they are doing until they prove otherwise. They traditionally leave the football decisions to football men and unlike other teams around the league, they draft players that fit into the schemes they run rather than trying to plug guys who may be talented in a scheme that just won’t work for them. The Steelers will do what’s right for the 2012 team and beyond and they will continue their run of success because of it.



One Comment on "Taking an In Depth Look at The Steelers Draft Needs"

  1. Boss Steeler Chick on Fri, 6th Apr 2012 7:27 pm 

    Great analysis. Thanks.