The Steelers are a week away from the NFL draft so let’s do one last recap of what they need.
The Steelers have needs to fill. Those needs have evolved since the beginning of the offseason. The Steelers have lost a couple of free agents and had a retirement. Some needs have been filled. Some needs, like tight end, came and went. So here’s a quick rehash of what the Steelers need to get in the draft.
The needs have been broken into two categories. We have the early round needs, which essentially indicates the need to draft a starter. These need to be addressed in the first 3 rounds. The rest are the later round picks which vary in importance but do not require a day one starter.
It’s broken down this way because that seems to be loosely the Steelers style. They don’t force things. They just seem to have a list of priorities and then look for opportunities throughout the draft where they can address those priorities.
Tomlin was quoted by Mark Kaboly of Triblive.com as saying, “It’s a strong corner draft.” So although cornerback is perhaps a bigger need than safety the Steelers would take a great safety that drops before a corner that could fall 10 more picks, even if that means he won’t be there next pick.
The results speak for themselves though. There are few if any franchises that have played better since 2000, when Colbert started here, or since 2007, when Tomlin joined him. So here’s one more morning study session for the big test.
Cornerback – For several years cornerback has been a big need. It looks like this might be the year though. The Steelers have been meeting with plenty of cornerbacks, and 1st round talent too, so all signs point to yes on this being the year. We all know how bad the pass defense is. Time to do something about it.
Safety – At the moment Robert Golden looks to be the starter at strong safety. Now Robert Golden is a good special teams player and he did pretty well as a starter last year when he got the chance. But the Steelers are still interested in getting one of the top safeties in the draft. The Shamarko Thomas/Cortez Allen secondary has been abandoned and they’re read to start fresh.
Nose Tackle – Every offseason has the cap casualties. Steve McLendon was not a widely celebrated player, though not disliked. Kelvin Beachum might be a better player. But of all the needs this one may be the most urgent, his absence is the strongest felt. It may be more important than cornerback even. Don’t be surprised if the first pick is a DT.
Quarterback – The Steelers won’t wait until the 6th and 7th round for this one. Either they take a QB in the middle or they sign a vet after the draft. Backup QB, as we saw last year, is too important of a position to not have someone ready and capable at. They won’t force it but if they can find a good backup prospect who can maybe be groomed to takeover, that’s ideal.
Defensive Line – It’s not just a starting defensive tackle that the Steelers need but another backup too. For that matter, a backup defensive end, and how about another backup defensive end. The Steelers have amazing starting defensive ends, and it’s almost a ghost town after that. Expect them to double dip on the d-line.
Offensive Line – The Steelers have added to their offensive line with Ryan Harris. He and Villanueva will compete to start and whoever loses will be a backup. Then Chris Hubbard will return as backup C/G. The Steelers would like another versatile late round addition that can be at least a Chris Hubbard and at best a Kelvin Beachum.
Running Back – Once upon a time the Steelers had one, single, lonely running back on the roster named Le’Veon Bell. They tempted fate. The hubris. And what do you think happened? Injury. So they got a backup. Bell went down. Williams took over and did great. Problem solved … Then he got injured. Add running back as needed. And also Williams is older and his contract is up this year.
Wide Receiver – Obviously, this was not a need we anticipated at the beginning of the year. Martavis Bryant is out. He might do a Josh Gordon and just be gone forever. As great as the remaining receivers are, Bryant added something the rest don’t. He is the always present deep pass threat that forces the defense to play differently. Ladarius Green will help keep the safeties honest but it’d still be nice to get someone who is pure speed. Returning kicks might be nice too.