If Steelers Go Defense Early in 2014 NFL Draft, Picks Must Play

Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers had plenty of issues on the defensive side of the ball throughout the 2013 regular season.

They had issues stopping the run, their defensive backfield was torched far too often towards the end of the 2013 campaign and injuries highlighted the unit’s depth issues on an almost weekly basis. With all of their aforementioned problems in mind, it makes sense that the Steelers’ brass would want to employ a defense-heavy strategy during the 2014 NFL Draft.

Although I would like to see Pittsburgh’s front office, coaches and scouts target plenty of defensive players early this May, I do have one large reservation if that particular strategy is employed:

Is it really worth it for the Steelers to take a player in round one who might not even see the field or play a pivotal role on Pittsburgh’s defense until the second or third year of his rookie contract?

Make no mistake, the Steelers had three rookies who logged significant amounts of playing time on the defensive side of the ball by the end of the 2013 regular season.

Yet would Jarvis Jones have actually seen much of the field had LaMarr Woodley’s calf injury not forced him to the sidelines at mid-season? Would Vince Williams and Terence Garvin have spent any time on the defensive side of the ball if Larry Foote had not go down with a biceps injury on opening weekend?

Sadly, as we all witnessed last year, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will always reach for his veteran pacifiers whenever he gets the chance to do so. Take Shamarko Thomas for instance. With little depth at safety and injuries at the cornerback position, Thomas saw extended playing time during the first half of his rookie campaign. After Thomas injured his ankle and Will Allen was inked, the former Syracuse star barely saw the field as a safety once he returned to full health.

I am not opposed to the Steelers filling their needs on the defensive side of the ball during the early stages of the 2014 NFL Draft. In fact, I can totally understand why they would elect to select a cornerback, outside linebacker, nose tackle or a safety on the draft’s first two days. I just hope that those highly coveted and touted rookie will actually gain some experience early and often during their respective professional careers.

I would hate to see the Steelers pass up some talented offensive prospects at positions which need upgrades just as bad as spots on the defensive side of the ball (WR, LT and TE). Moreover, I would be particularly incensed to see them ignore play-makers at those skill positions who possess the ability to help this franchise in the immediate future.

It would put a smile on my face to see the Steelers vigorously try to upgrade their defense through the upcoming draft. Whether or not the early round selections will be allowed to contribute is an entire matter altogether.

Stats & Contract Info. Provided By: ESPN.comSteelers.comSpotrac and Pro Football Reference

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