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.
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.
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.