Looking at The 2014 NFL Draft, Top Five Positions of Need
Oct 20, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
At 0-3, I think that it is pretty safe to start throwing dirt on the 2013 season of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This team is too undisciplined and untalented to turn things around, and they will be lucky to even finish with more than four wins with the way they have collectively played during the first three weeks.
With the 2013 season essentially lost, I thought it would be fun to look ahead to the 2014 campaign and how the franchise will try to get better through the 2014 NFL Draft. So with that in mind, I thought that I would do a quick run-down of what I believe will be Pittsburgh’s top five positions of need heading into “Draft Weekend:”
After watching Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, and Kelvin Beachum try their best to protect Ben Roethlisberger’s blind-side over the last three games, I think it is abundantly clear that the Steelers need to find a franchise-caliber left tackle to protect their franchise quarterback.
If the Steelers are picking in the top five next May, which is a very strong possibility, they cannot afford to pass on blind-side protector for “Big Ben” like Jake Matthews. Heck, if they’re drafting in the top two or three, they could trade down into the top ten for a Taylor Lewan of Michigan or a James Hurst of North Carolina if defensive end Jadeveon Clowney does not interest them.
Roethlisberger is on pace to be sacked over 50 times this fall, and the best thing for this franchise to do is put a talented left tackle in place and then let Adams, Gilbert, and Beachum fight over the right tackle spot.
I was definitely encouraged to see Heath Miller back in the lineup for the Steelers, and he could eventually return to form over the regular season’s final 13 games. Positive feelings aside, Pittsburgh is going to need help at the tight end position sooner as opposed to later.
Although Miller will not be a free agent until the 2014 regular season ends, the depth behind him inspires little hope. David Paulson cannot produce as an “in-line” blocker and David Johnson is a glorified H-back playing the tight end position.
If the Steelers want to hedge their bets at the tight end position, they must look towards selecting one or even two next May. Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington would be a nice fit, and the big-bodied tight end would provide Roethlisberger with a terrific red zone target.
Ike Taylor will turn 34 next year and will be a free agent after that season. Taylor is also scheduled to make $7 million next fall in base salary alone, so he could be released if he is unwilling to restructure his deal. Behind Taylor the Steelers have the hobbled Cortez Allen, the “mediocre on a good day” William Gay, and special teamers Curtis Brown and Antwon Blake.
Lacking depth at cornerback in a passing league is unacceptable, so Pittsburgh’s brass would be wise to acquire some insurance during this offseason. Whether or not they will select mid-round developmental prospects as they always seem to do next May is still up for debate. What is not however is the fact that this team must find some solutions at the position for long-term purposes.
There is a good chance that Larry Foote played his last game with the Steelers on opening weekend, and the Steelers could probably use an upgrade over Kion Wilson and Vince Williams at his old spot. While Sean Spence is a bit of a wild-card in terms of his return, relying on steady contributions from a player who suffered the type of knee injury Spence did is an enormous gamble.
If Pittsburgh trades down in round one, then they might be able to acquire a C.J. Mosley-type of prospect who can not only play the run but also the pass. Putting Mosely in at the “mack” and shifting Lawrence Timmons over to the strongside would give Pittsburgh’s defense a formidable duo, and it would also allow Wilson and Williams to provide some adequate depth at the position.
Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery will be unrestricted free agents after this season, and the cap-strapped Steelers might now be able to ink either one next March. If that happens, the only wide receivers on the roster will be Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, and Derek Moye.
While I like the promise of Wheaton and Moye, Pittsburgh’s offense could stand to use an electrifying play-maker at the wide receiver position. Burners like Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee would add the element the Steelers lost when Mike Wallace departed, and either player would compliment the rest of the receiving corps well with their speed.
Stats & Info. Provided By: ESPN.com, Steelers.com and Pro Football Reference
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