Steelers 2024 draft plans solidified after free agency frenzy

After the frenetic free agency period, Steelers draft plans come into focus. What position will be top priority?

Georgia v Georgia Tech
Georgia v Georgia Tech / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

Well, I don't know about you but I think the Steelers had an interesting, for lack of a better term, free agency period, albeit it technically has not concluded, and while we could still sign a player or two, I believe we won't necessarily sign an 'impactful' free agent at this point.

All that means is this: Our attention is squarely on the 2024 NFL draft and rightfully so. With all the moves we have made thus far, releasing players, signing free agents, and trading Kenny Pickett,
the draft becomes paramount in the sense that we need to 'hit' on almost every player this year.

The Steelers will concentrate on the trenches and on the back end in the 2024 NFL draft

Look, I realize that statement is neither a controversial nor earth-shattering statement that we will concentrate on the trenches and the 'back end' in the draft since we did essentially the same thing in 2023 when we drafted Broderick Jones, Joey Porter, Jr., and Keeanu Benton; however, we still have glaring needs in these two areas.

Because I have been around since the 1970s, I am a firm believer in building a team from the inside, out, meaning build the trenches first, then go after the skill-position players. That doesn't always work out as there may be a skill-position player available that you simply can't pass up.

That's fine, but if you look at the Steelers roster as it is currently constructed, we have gaping holes to fill along the offensive and defensive lines and on the 'back end' with cornerback and safety being chief among the holes to fill. Since we have seven picks in the 2024 draft, as of right now, we have opportunities to improve the team.

How or if we improve the team remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. If we want to compete for the AFC North Division championship and compete for the Lombardi Trophy, we need to draft a center, a tackle, and a wide receiver on the offensive side of the ball. On defense, we need to draft a cornerback, a safety, and a defensive lineman.

In what order we draft these players obviously remains to be seen but I believe our two biggest positions of need are center and offensive tackle followed by wide receiver, cornerback, safety, and then defensive line. With the release of Mason Cole, we have one true center currently on the roster.

Broderick Jones was drafted last year to ostensibly replace Dan Moore Jr., but that didn't quite work out so Jones slid into the right tackle position. I thought he acquitted himself rather nicely, but I would argue that Jones is playing out of position, similar to what transpired with Kevin Dotson, who by the way, had a stellar season for the Los Angeles Rams at his natural position of right guard.

If Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin asked me what position the Steelers should draft in the first round, I would reply with this: drafting the best player available should be the course of action, but since we have glaring needs at key positions, I would draft the best offensive lineman available, regardless of position.

I would then draft another offensive lineman in the second round. Picture drafting Jackson Powers-Johnson in the first round followed by Amarius Mims in the second round, for example. I think that would not only improve an area of concern, at least for me but would allow us to not have to worry about those two positions for years to come.

After the first two rounds, I think it will or should come down to the best player available with an eye toward filling positions of need. After trading Diontae Johson to the Carolina Panthers, it is not a stretch to say that we need a wide receiver who can replace the route running that Johnson provided. Say what you want about Johnson, but he was an excellent route runner.

If we draft a wide receiver in the third round, I think it would be very difficult to find a quality cornerback in the fourth round, but since we have two third-round picks, I think we look at drafting a cornerback in the third round, followed by a safety in the fourth round.

How the remainder of the draft unfolds is anyone's guess, but as I said, we need a defensive lineman so I see it shaking out this way: we draft a d-lineman and a linebacker in the sixth round since we have two picks or we try to trade back into the fifth round to take a d-lineman.

I will wrap up this discussion by leaving you with this thought: the Steelers have seven draft picks to address what to me are glaring needs that were not satisfied via free agency, albeit we were rather active in free agency. I hope the draft will be a good one and will put us in a position to compete for the top spot in the American Football Conference.

If the draft is not a good one and the draft class doesn't contribute much or anything, for that matter, I fear that we will endure yet another season of mediocrity and disappointment and that would be unfortunate, to say the least.