The Steelers, Under-the-Radar Yet Still Important Positional Needs, and The Draft

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Due to their need for depth and future starters at the Safety spot, Mark Barron could be on the Steelers' radars come April. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

Most of “Steeler Nation” would agree that Guard, Nose Tackle, and Inside Linebacker are the positions with the most issues surrounding them entering the 2012 season.  All three positions need either upgrades and/or talented bodies to fill the vacated spots on the roster, and Pittsburgh will likely be looking at all three spots early and/or often this April in the Draft.

While the Steelers’ most glaring needs exist at Guard, Nose Tackle, and Inside Linebacker, there exist some other holes/needs for upgrades at different positions on their roster which the Front Office might consider filling and upgrading this April as well.  Thus, I would like to do a short breakdown of six other positions which the Steelers could look to target in this April’s Draft, and why Pittsburgh would consider going in those different directions.

Offensive Tackle

The Steelers appear to be fine on paper with Marcus Gilbert and Willie Colon set to man the Left and Right Tackle spots in 2012.  Yet much like the other spots on this list, the Steelers aren’t as set as they may think at Offensive Tackle based on inexperience, injuries, and depth.

Marcus Gilbert will be manning the Left Tackle spot in Year 2. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

In terms of inexperience, new Left Tackle Marcus Gilbert immediately comes to mind.  Don’t get me wrong, 2011′s 2nd Round pick did a solid job as a Rookie filling in for an injured Willie Colon at Right Tackle, started 13 games last season, and earned the team’s Rookie of the Year award.  Heck, Gilbert even went above and beyond and played Left Tackle in the Steelers’ playoff loss to the Broncos a few months ago.  Nevertheless, Gilbert is only in his 2nd year and has limited experience on the Left side at the pro level.  In time I believe Gilbert will do a fine job protecting Ben’s blind-side, because there is no denying his talent.   I do however question his experience at such an important position, and it could be an issue at times this season.

Gilbert might not even play the entire season at Left Tackle because he might be asked to switch over to the Right side in case of injury.  Why you may ask?  Well, injury-prone starting Right Tackle Willie Colon is supposed to be back and manning his old spot in 2012.  As awesome as it would be to have a veteran like Colon come back and help to shore up an improving Offensive Line, I’ll reserve my excitement until I see Colon play at least 10 games.  For those of you that were not aware, Colon missed the entire 2010 season with an Achilles injury, and followed that up by going down in Week 1 against the Ravens with a torn triceps.  I’m rooting hard to see Colon come back and start logging quality playing time for the Steelers.  Yet as I stated previously, I’m reticent to feel comfortable about his presence at Right Tackle until he starts playing a full health and staying there.

In terms of depth, the Steelers might want to start thinking about adding some players at Tackle.  Presently, the guys they have there are either simply not the answer, or are needed elsewhere along the Offensive Line in 2012.  I am not sure whether or not the Steelers will be bringing Jonathan Scott back this season.  But seriously?  Do you want to see Scott taking a majority of the snaps again?  Watching Ben get abused down the stretch in 2010 and in that Indianapolis game last season was enough for me to stomach.  Ramon Foster will be on the roster and could be a viable option as a backup.  He has Tackle experience after playing there at Tennessee, but has limited reps. there as a pro and would be needed if anything happened at the Guard spots.

Pittsburgh could get lucky in Round 1 if the versatile Cordy Glenn falls to them at #24.  Glenn would fill a need at Guard now, and has the upside to possibly play Tackle in the future.  Scouts, Pundits and Draftniks alike do not see Glenn’s stock plummeting to #24, so the Steelers will likely be out of luck.  Because the Steelers are fond of Tackles (Max Starks, Marvel Smith, Marcus Gilbert) with larger frames (>6’5″ 320 lbs.), Pittsburgh could take a look at Levy Adcock (6’5″ 322 lbs.) of Oklahoma State and Lamar Holmes (6’5″ 323 lbs.) of Southern Mississippi in Rounds 4-7 which fit their “Big Tackle” mold, and could contribute down the road at either Tackle or Guard for the franchise in a couple of years.



On the surface, the Steelers look pretty darn set at both Safety spots.  They have a Pro Bowler in Free Safety Ryan Clark, and a Future Hall of Famer in Strong Safety Troy Polamalu, both of which make up one of the League’s best Safety tandems.  Best Safety tandem in the League aside, Pittsburgh could be in the market for a Safety beginning this offseason due to depth and injury concerns.

While Ryan Mundy is the only proven backup at either Safety position, the Steelers could be in trouble if injuries happened to strike both Clark and Polamalu.  In fact, if Mundy ends up leaving as a Restricted Free Agent this offseason, the Steelers have almost no depth after him.  Behind Mundy on the depth chart are the following players: Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, Will Allen, and newcomer Myron Rolle.  Sure, each of these guys can contribute on Special Teams and do a serviceable job for the time.  But are they at the stage in their respective careers ready to start on a consistent basis with the 1st Team Defense?  My answer, and the answer of many I’m sure would be a “no.”

To remedy their future need at Safety in the Draft, the Steelers could choose one as early as Round 1 if they select Alabama’s Mark Barron.  While Barron is the best Safety in the Draft Class, he would likely only be selected by the Steelers at #24 if Pittsburgh missed out on guys like David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn, and Dont’a Hightower who would be BPA’s and BPA’s at Positions of Need at that spot.  If the Steelers decide against Barron, they could find a solution in later Rounds (4-7) of the Draft like a Duke Ihenacho of San Jose State (6′ 213 lbs.) at Strong Safety, or a Sean Cattouse of California (6’2″ 203 lbs.) who played both Free and Strong Safety in college.

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  • JohnJStewart

    Great points that I agree with-we have a lot of needs as first and second string options. That’s why mocks that show us making moves to get more picks in the 2nd & 3rd rounds are very interesting to me. On one mock, someone suggested a trade w/NE (so they could take a WR) our 24 & 88 for 27 & 63. Here are my resulting picks:27-Hightower ILB;56-Ta’amu DT; 63-Silatuli OG; 120- Massaquoi OLB; 152-Potter OT; 184-Pellerin DB; 216-Bryan TE; Comp-Thompson DE. [152 OL could be Datko, Reynolgs, Brooks, or Nix--could be some solid prospects at that point.] Pellerin can be a CB or FS- tall, fast and rangy. Bryan is interesting – big, strong good blocker; great hands. Taylor Thompson has the Aaron Smith build-strong at the point of attack-could be a surprise pick out of SMU.

  • DomDiTolla

     @JohnJStewart I like where your head’s at with regards to how the Draft could break down for the Steelers.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers ended up making a few moves on Draft day.  I actually alluded to it in a previous article and broke down some moves they could make in Round 1.
    Not sure I’m sold on Silatolu or Potter however.  Silatolu is a bit of a project and will likely take close to 2 years to make an impact transitioning from D-II.  I like the massive Brandon Brooks, Brandon Washington, or Kevin Zeitler over Silatolu as they will have a more immediate impact and will be ready to play sooner.
    Potter is much lighter (303 lbs.) than the Tackles the Steelers have usually taken in the last decade (Smith, Starks, Essex, Gilbert).  If its Round 4-6 I see them taking a bigger and athletic Tackle Levy Adcock or Lamar Holmes over a smaller guy like Potter who could get manhandled by the bigger edge rushers at the pro level.
    If they are in the market for a blocking & receiving TE, Bryan is a terrific choice.  I should have mentioned some all-around TE prospects in later rounds they could take, but Bryan could be good value in Rounds 5-6.  It’s a weak class this year, and people are a bit too ooh-ed and aah-ed by glorified WR’s like Ladarius Green and Orson Charles who would not be ranked as high.

  • hart6399

    So Lamarr Woodley having a hamstring injury makes him a question mark now? I think sometimes these “writers” make ridiculous points to back up their agenda. Just ridiculous.

  • craig.nicepickcowher

     @hart6399 I think the point was that he hurt himself, and was a ghost of himself after his return from that injury.   The idea of having depth at that position in case that happens again is a point to be considered.  Very far from ridiculous. 

  • DomDiTolla

     @craig.nicepickcowher  Exactly Craig, obviously you were paying attention.  If you had read the article hart6399, the point is that depth at OLB (as well as depth at the other positions I discussed) should be considered this offseason because the Steelers really could have used it at the tail end of last year.  If Harrison and/or Woodley get hurt again in 2012, it would be nice to have more depth because there is only one guy with starting experience (Jason Worilds) behind the starters.  And if injuries or suspensions (Harrison’s case) happen the Steelers are going to need some help.  Plus, with Harrison being 34 it doesn’t hurt to have some competition with Worilds and Chris Carter for backup spots in camp either.
    Good teams acquire depth and quality players before positions become outright issues.  But hey hart6399, you’re entitled to your opinion, and thank you for reading.

  • hart6399

     The point of the article is understood. The whole paragraph that focuses on Lamarr Woodley is ridiculous. Simply put….they need depth in case of injury without having to focus on how Woodley was injured and “was a shell of himself”. Makes it sound like he has lost something when that would be a ridiculous statement at this point after a minor hamstring injury…..not a torn ACL or something like that. A hamstring injury to a passrusher would obviously cause that. All teams have to acquire depth and still have limited roster spaces to consider also.  I think I can figure that out. Nice condescending leave with “hey, you’re entitled to your opinion” as if you are a draft expert and GM. Thanks for allowing folks to have an opinion. Much appreciated.

  • craig.nicepickcowher

     @hart6399  @DomDiTolla What makes focusing on Woodley ridiculous?  He was a shell of himself when he returned from his hammy.  In fact most players are when they get hamstring injuries.  Minor?  I think not considering his first few games back he sat out a bunch of series because it kept bothering him – so yeah he lost something of himself and will need to prove he hasn’t lost it altogether when he comes back to camp.  Though an ACL tear is more ‘serious’ because it requires surgery, a hamstring can be almost as serious because of how it can keep coming back to haunt a player the rest of the season – see Johnson for the Texans last season too.
    So if you understand, why do you keep coming back to argue the point?
    Dom’s not condescending.  He truly thanks all of his readers for their comments no matter how argumentative they are.  We all appreciate our readers and their opinions.  How about just ditching the chip on your shoulder?

  • hart6399

     @craig.nicepickcowher  @DomDiTolla
     So I keep responding? You are mighty touchy. Are you two dating or something?

  • hart6399

     @craig.nicepickcowher  @DomDiTolla
     And I have a chip, but to question anything you ‘writers’ say is just silly. I would say the chip rests squarely on your shoulder.

  • hart6399

     @craig.nicepickcowher  @DomDiTolla
     And the hamstring injury was minor, but any minor injury lingers IF time isn’t allowed for it to heal. Continuing to play with it will make it look more severe.I would doubt it would be a problem that would carry over the entire offseason and make him less of a player considering he is a very young player. The point of focusing on his hamstring injury..still ridiculous. The point was the depth……not the health and deterioration of Woodley. But it’s okay…… are welcome to your opinion.