Ah, Mel. May your hair remain forever untouched by the ravages of time. Or a stiff breeze.
With that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Obviously, the big news of the day is what the team does with disgraced quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Rumors have been flying all over the place that the Steeler are actively shopping Pig Ben. Jason La Canfora at NFL Network says only two teams have been approached and only the Raiders have shown interest. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter says pretty much every team drafting in the top 10 has been called with only the Bills and Rams saying they pass.
NFL trades are all about screwing over the other team. Everybody wants to get something for nothing. Here is where the Santonio Holmes trade is coming back to bite the Steelers in the ass. They gave him away for practically nothing. I’m sure many teams are playing the Not Interested card because they think the Steelers will get so desperate to unload the scumbag that they’ll get a call on Friday night saying “Okay, Ben for your third round draft pick. Deal?”
The bottom line is if the Steelers are truly fed up with Ben, and I would think he has more than wore out his welcome in our great city, then the trigger must be pulled. If no deal is made, one of two things will happen. The Steelers will suck next year while Ben serves his suspension and then he comes back and plays great to lead them to the playoffs. Sad as it sounds, at that point Steeler Nation will put their blindfolds back on to his dickishness. Then when he screws up again (and he will because the man is clearly a sociopath), his trade value will be zero. The second scenario is he comes back and all these issues finally get to him. If he plays terrible, all of his remaining supporters will suddenly turn on him (see Stewart, Kordell or Maddox, Tommy) and want him gone. Then other teams will say “Clearly Ben’s been overrated all along” and you end up selling him for half of what he’s worth.
No, the time to make a move is now.
The question is what move do you make. What is proper compensation for Ben Roethlisberger? A high first rounder plus a bunch of lower round picks? Multiple first round picks? A first rounder or high second rounder plus a good player or two?
And let’s say you end up trading into the #6-10 range. By all accounts, Jimmy Clausen should still be on the board around then. Do you take him as your QB-of-the-future? Or do you take a late first/high second round pick and take Colt McCoy? Or maybe you’re happy with Dennis Dixon and recently re-acquired Byron Leftwich so you take a developmental QB such as Tony Pike or Jevan Snead in a later round.
Of course that’s getting way ahead of ourselves. For now, let’s just operate under the assumption that nothing happens and the Steelers end up right where they started with pick #18. This leaves them with ten picks in this year’s draft, one in each round plus three extra in the 5th. This is almost universally estimated to be a very deep draft, particularly in the non-skill positions. This is a good thing since the Steelers need help in pretty much every department.
Whatever happens, even though Pittsburgh’s MODEL franchise, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are playing the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 of the playoffs tomorrow, I’ll be glued to the NFL Draft. Make sure you check back here as I promise to have an update posted quickly after any major news breaks.
In the meantime, let’s quickly take a look at some of the areas I believe the Steelers absolutely have to address if they want to get back on top of the mountain, regardless of who is standing behind center.
OFFENSIVE LINE - Yeah, this is a broken record. I started this blog three years ago and I think I’ve listed O-line as their biggest area of need before every draft. Waiting to take an O-Lineman in the fifth or sixth rounds has failed miserably. The only two young linemen who started for the team recently (Darnell Stapleton and Ramon Foster) have both been undrafted free agents. Which means they were better than the projects they’ve taken in late rounds. This team has surrendered 50 sacks each of the previous two season and while some of it is due to their mushbrain QB holding the ball forever, that is a very high number. Combined with the fact they’ve been below average running the ball, particularly in short yardage, means they really need to do something about this line.
This draft is deep with OL prospects. OG Mike Iupati is considered a stud guard prospect who the Steelers would be idiotic to pass up. Bruce Campbell, Anthony Davis, and Charlie Brown are all excellent OT prospects. Florida’s Maurkice Pouncey is a rare first round caliber center that would definitely merit consideration. In later rounds, Jon Jerry, Vlad Ducasse, and Roger Saffold are all interesting names to remember.
CORNERBACK – Anybody who watched the Steelers’ laughable secondary play last year will agree with me that Will.i.am Gay is not an NFL caliber starter. Ike Taylor is, although at times last year he totally phoned it in. Still, he was matched up with a Pro Bowl level WR every week in 2008 and did a fantastic job so he can do it when he wants to. The Steelers took two CB prospects in the middle round last year (Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis) but Lewis never got on the field and Burnett struggled in limited playing time. I don’t think you can count on either of them.
The player to look out for is Joe Haden, possibly the most complete corner in the draft. It’s expected he’ll be gone by pick #18 but I have seen mocks where he’s predicted to slide. If he falls to the Steelers, it’ll be something they have to consider. Boise State’s Kyle Wilson has flown up draft boards from a mid-2nd rounder to a probable first rounder. #18 might be a little bit of a stretch for him but people seem to think he has starter potential. Patrick Wilson is another CB with first round potential. In later rounds, Kareem Jackson, Devin McCourty, and Chris Cook are names to keep an eye on.
WIDE RECEIVER - I’m sure some of you are asking, “WHAT?” Hear me out. With the trade of Santonio Holmes, the Steelers are in a very dangerous position at WR. Mike Wallace had a fantastic rookie season but can he take it to the next level as a full time starter? Let’s say he can. Hines Ward has already started making noise about retiring. I don’t think he’s leaving the team after this season but how much longer will we have him? And more importantly, how much longer will he be able to play at a top level? Look how fast Marvin Harrison or Joe Horn’s skills deteriorated.
Arnaz Battle has never done anything. Ditto with Limas Sweed, who has talent but lost last season to depression so it’s not like you count on him going forward. I love Antwaan Randle-El but he’s not a top receiver. He’s a #3 slot guy who can run gadget plays. He’s not a game-breaker or a playmaker. With Santonio gone, the Steelers really need to think hard about finding a replacement.
The good news is, there are a number of talented WR prospects in the draft. Notre Dame’s Golden Tate would be my ideal choice since he has said that his hero is Hines Ward. He’ll probably go early in round 2 so I don’t think the Steelers have a shot at him. They may have a shot at others, though, such as Arrelious Benn, Brandon LeFell, or Mardy Gilyard. Pitt fans will remember Mardy torturing them with long catch-and-run TDs so he’s definitely a playmaker. In later rounds, they could look at guys like Eric Decker, Riley Cooper, or Jordan Shipley (who I think will turn out to be a poor man’s Wes Welker).
Of course, that’s just the big three. Feel free to disagree and give me what you think are the Steelers draft needs. I concede there are other areas they could address which wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The defensive line, in particular, is an area deep in prospects. For example:
DEFENSIVE LINE – Yes, they spent their first pick last year on DT Ziggy Hood. And, yes, they just signed 32-year-old Casey Hampton to a big money multi-year contract. It still doesn’t change some harsh facts. Brett Keisel is 31 and average at best. Aaron Smith is 34 and has suffered a season-ending injury two of the past three years. When you have a roster full of over 30 lineman with only Ziggy in the future plans, that’s a problem. Luckily, this draft is fairly deep in DL prospects and I could see somebody like Lamar Houston or Mount Cody taken in round 2.
RUNNING BACK - Rashard Mendenhall is really the only back on their roster. Mewelde Moore can carry the ball in a pinch but he’s more of a third down/receiver type. Beyond those two, who do they have? Issac Redman doesn’t impress me as anything but a short yardage guy, Frank Summers showed nothing last year, and Stefan Logan is a midget. If they could pull a Joe McNight or Ben Tate in a later round, that would be awesome. Although knowing the Steelers, they’ll pick LaGarrette “Sucker Punch” Blount.
LINEBACKER – Again, I’m sure some of you are thinking “They have great linebackers!” Well, Larry Foote looked really old last year and I don’t think he has the Fountain of Youth in his backyard. Lawrence Timmons did not impress me as a run-stopper and also continued his habit of being injured. Larry Foote is a good insurance policy but I wouldn’t say he’s the future. They need to find one ILB to groom as Farrior’s replacement at the very least. Penn State’s Sean Lee reminds me of Paul Posluszny (or Jack Ham, as my dad says) while I think Iowa’s Pat Angerer could be a sleeper. Both guys will probably be had in rounds 2 or 3 so the Steelers will likely have a shot at them.
One things for sure, this is a crucial draft for the Steelers. Last year, we were on a Super Bowl high and we thought this team was stacked at pretty much every position. Now we see them as aging with massive holes and no depth in many areas. If they don’t begin to address some of these issues, it’s going to be a long time before they get back on top of the mountain where they belong.
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