Offense? We’re talking offense? Yes. The Pittsburgh Steelers need to put zero focus on drafting any offensive players in the first two-rounds of the NFL Draft. And then turn all their attention towards it.
The 2018 NFL Draft is loaded, again. For the second-straight year, NFL teams have more talent in the first three rounds than they know what to do with. While this isn’t necessarily a good thing for players, it is a positive for teams looking to stack their roster late into the draft.
In mock draft after mock draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers go defense in the first two rounds. Inside linebacker and defensive back, mainly a safety, seem to be the direction most experts have them headed.
As they should. Pittsburgh has two major needs to fill with young talent – inside linebacker and safety.
With Ryan Shazier more focused on being able to walk again and Mike Mitchell becoming more of a distraction than an impact on the field, the Steelers have two obviously holes this offseason. Outside of signing Le’Veon Bell to a long-term deal and bringing back their own free agents, Pittsburgh has a small list of to-does this offseason.
Pittsburgh will turn their attention to the offensive side of the ball, eventually. After using their first two picks on defense, the third round could feature some options they might not want to pass up.
Despite popular demand saying this team’s only loss ends are the guys trying to tackle running backs and wide receivers, the Steelers could use a skill player or two. Come the third round of the draft, there’s going to be two positions they might not want to over look this offseason.
The first is running back. This draft is stacked with them. James Conner is a hometown hero, and everyone would love to see him succeed in Pittsburgh, but more than likely he’s never going to sculpt into the feature back this team needs.
Conner’s hard-hitting style of play screams Pittsburgh. He’s a big back who can overpower anyone, and with a full head of steam, is one of the most dangerous young runners in the league.
He’s not today’s NFL running back, though. To be an every down runner today, you need speed. Even the biggest of the big are fast. Look at Derrick Henry and Marshawn Lynch. Maybe they aren’t outrunning every cornerback, but if they get the right cut you’re going to have a hard time keeping up.
Conner isn’t that guy. He’ll run you over, but he isn’t versatile enough to make a move and find open field. For a powerback who’s looking to split carries, that’s perfect, but you still need that feature back along side him.
Which is where the draft comes in. Yes, Pittsburgh is probably going to hand Le’Veon Bell a ton of money and have him around for the next two to five years. But what if they don’t?
Ronald Jones II, Derrius Guice, Nick Chubb, Royce Freeman, Josh Adams, the list goes on. These are guys projected in the second round of lower. At most there’s going to be two running backs picked in the opening round. Maybe only one.
If Pittsburgh can find themselves sitting at the end of the third round with names like this still there and no long-term deal worked out for Bell, yet, it’s hard to say they wouldn’t make a move.
Not that any of these guys are Le’Veon Bell, but a lot of them have the potential to be. If the Steelers were ever going to move on from a player who’s making a scene out of contract negotiations, this would be the time.
Then, there’s tight end. Vane McDonald has a lot more hope than Ladarius Green did, but to be honest, he still doesn’t look like the answer at tight end.
Jesse James is the guy, but he’s the backup guy. His ability to block and contribute in the short passing game is key and something this team isn’t going to get rid of. But, he’s not a vertical threat, and this team needs a tight end who can run.
McDonald could still be the guy, but his $4.3 million cap hit in 2018 doesn’t do him justice. If Pittsburgh is looking at cap casualties to clear up room to sign Le’Veon Bell and extend Ben Roethlisberger for another season, dropping $4 million is going to be high on their list.
Which takes us to the fifth round of the draft. Surely not as deep at running back, but certainly deep enough to find a compliment to James.
Here you can find guys like Dallas Goedert, Jordan Aikens and Troy Fumagalli. Not guaranteed stars in this league, but players who showed they have strong pass catching ability off the line, and could protect when needed to.
It isn’t that McDonald wasn’t worthy of another shot in Pittsburgh, but that he came at a bad time. After dealing with the Ladarius Green fiasco, this team likely isn’t trying to bounce from injured tight end to injured tight end. If McDonald didn’t show he can stay healthy enough last season, the Steelers might just go with another young guy and give up on their veteran search.
The first two rounds of the draft are defense. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it. After that, though, it’s a toss up. With the amount of talent at running back and tight end late, and the very apparent need for both, Pittsburgh could very easily already have the third and fourth round circled on their board.
At least they should.