Alright let’s get the dirty work out of the way. Let’s just assume that by some miracle, the NFLPA and owners come to some agreement before the Thursday 11:59pm deadline, and the 2011 season saved. I know, it’s like saying the Bungles will win the division sometime before 2020, but stay with me here. Still can’t buy in? I can understand. Let’s go with ‘Fantasy B’; the NFLPA is able to decertify itself, preventing the owners from locking out the players and allowing the players to file for some hefty anti-trust action against the owners – something that’s been mentioned by union officials during this combine week. :Sigh: The 2011 offseason is just dripping with love. So for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll go with option ‘B’ and a full season.
How do the Steelers need to draft in order to stay in contention of another Super Bowl next year?
‘Help Me’ Ike:
It isn’t any secret that the secondary was outright embarrassed at times during the Super Bowl. A few key drops from Green Bay receivers turning into catches and we’re looking at a much different final score. Heck, even Polamalu looked out of character and guessed wrong when Rodgers threw to Jennings for a TD from the 8 yard line. The Steelers struggled with the nickel and dime packages and had been for most of the season. With Lamar Woodley getting the franchise tag this time around, the big question looms with free agent Ike Taylor. Will the Steelers have enough cap room to sign him? He’s 31 and is their best corner. I see them coming to a reasonable 2-3 year contract – say goodbye to Randle El and others to make room. Do the Steelers now draft a corner to help support Ike? McFadden and Gay struggle at times and don’t seem to come up with the big defensive plays (see Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, Super Bowl XLV). But haven’t the Steelers always struggled at the secondary position? I can’t remember the Steelers having an intimidating secondary since Rod Woodson’s tenure. Coach Tomlin said this week, “No question we’re going to have an interest in corner, but I don’t know that there’s been a year that I’ve been here that I can’t say that.” Seems like a familiar tune. And, if corner was such a void since Tomlin had the reigns, why didn’t they draft one in any of the top 4 rounds since 2007? In fact, they haven’t drafted a corner in the first round since Chad Scott in 1997. I think that tradition will hold and Kevin Colbert and Co. won’t spring for a corner during the first round.
One good Pouncey deserves another:
The stake through the heart in SBXLV was Mendenhall’s fumble at the beginning of the 4th quarter. The ball was on the Green Bay 30-yard line and Mendenhall fumbled from a Clay Mathews hit from behind the line of scrimmage. The offensive line had no push, and poor Doug Legursky (you’re a fool if you think Maurkice Pouncey wasn’t missed during this game) missed a key block forcing Mendenhall to push slightly more outside. Another missed block by TE David Johnson on Mathews and out popped the rock. The line struggled with injuries all season. Somehow they held their own for most of the season (the team did make it to the Super Bowl), but struggled with pushing the defensive line during a run and picking up blitzes during passing plays. The running game isn’t what it used to be. I think the days of smash mouth Bettis through the middle knock you on your ass if you try to tackle him days of running are over during the Tomlin era. Tomlin likes to throw and take chances downfield and Roethlisberger is certainly capable of handling that demand (when the offensive line decides to block). But the OL must be able to exert their will onto the opposing defensive line for any success in the run. Mendenhall is fast and can handle running to the outside for most of the game. Isaac Redman is a bit bulkier and can run up the middle; that is if the line could provide some push for some holes to run through.
There are quite a few quality tackles and guards in the draft this year, and I think the Steelers will look long and good at a few. The Steelers have shown that they can draft rookies and groom them quickly to start. They even get lucky with some gems like Maurkice Pouncey. He had such an outstanding season as a rookie – started all 16 games plus 2 playoff games, Pro-Bowl, and one rolled ankle away from starting in the Super Bowl. There is definitely something special about that kid and there are very similar qualities in his younger brother Mike. Mike Pouncey played OG for the Gators and had a very solid season. The position of guard is suspect for the Steelers. Foster, Kemoeatu, Essex and Brooks had a very tough season. Injury prone, sometimes slow and immature at times (how many personal fouls did Kemoeatu rack up in the playoffs?), the Steelers could really benefit from someone as the same stock as Maurkice. The middle of the line would be more agile, especially with Foster visibly slower off the ball than the other three existing linemen.
With CBS being the king of SEC football, I witnessed a few Gator games and kept an eye on brother Mike. He appeared to be fast off the ball and hit the defensive line for a nice push. He pulled well, which the Steelers running game loves to do. As a more agile lineman, I expect he would be able to find and lock up any linebackers or safeties blitzing up the middle to get the paws on Big Ben.
I’ll taaaaaaaaaake…. THAT one:
I would not be surprised if the Steelers possibly trade up in the draft this year for a 10th-20th round pick and beat out some of the other teams looking to boost their offensive line. Pouncey seems like very solid pick at the guard position. If they pick an offensive lineman in the 1st round and depending on how the Steelers would trade up to do so, I could see them picking a corner or two in rounds 2-4. And who knows, maybe they will find a good corner to groom and that secondary will start to get the help it really needs to by 2012/2013.