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

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Outside Linebacker

I’m sure that many of you are saying: “Outside Linebacker?!  Really, right now?!”  Well, I have a good mind to think that the Front Office and Keith Butler would be interested in acquiring at least a little depth this offseason at the position.  While Outside Linebacker is not what you would call one of Pittsburgh’s most “pressing needs,” it certainly would not hurt to add someone else to the roster.

Having a little more depth behind Deebo couldn't hurt. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

James Harrison, while awesome, is coming off of an orbital bone fracture.  Add to that the fact he is 34 years old and is the poster-boy of Goodell’s witch-hunt to eliminate physicality and big hits in the game, and I’m not sure how much longer Deebo will keep playing.

LaMarr Woodley is coming off of a hamstring injury, and was a ghost at times last season when he was on the field.  It was comforting to see him almost back to form in the Arizona and New England games, but that injury made him basically a non-factor the rest of the season.  Hopefully he will be able to come back at full strength in 2012 because the Steelers have limited depth at the OLB position.

The top backups on the roster are Jason Worilds and Chris Carter.  Worilds did a nice job in spot duty last season, but still has not started a full campaign yet for Pittsburgh, and Carter missed time due to injury and saw relatively little playing time outside of the New England game.  Adding some depth over the next couple of seasons will be crucial for Pittsburgh if they wish to keep up their steady pass rush in the event of injury.

And who knows, maybe the Steelers could target a pass rusher in Rounds 4-7 to add some depth this season.  A couple of names which come to mind in those later Rounds which could be had are former Defensive Ends Cordarro Law (6’2″ 261 lbs.) of Southern Mississippi and Frank Alexander (6’4″ 270 lbs.) of Oklahoma, and Miles Burris (6’2″ 246 lbs.) of San Diego State who has some versatility from playing in a 3-3-5 scheme with the Aztecs.

 

Tight End

As of right now, the Steelers have a Pro Bowler in the form of Heath Miller, and a solid Fullback/TE in David Johnson on their roster.  However, Heath is entering his 8th year in the League, and Johnson is going to be a Restricted Free Agent this offseason and does not possess what you would call “great” hands.

Sure, Weslye Saunders could develop into a solid backup and possibly even a starter with his athletic ability and his high ceiling.  Yet Saunders has been suspended for the first 4 games of the 2012 season, and his window could be closing fast if he does not prove himself this offseason.  Jamie McCoy might get his shot in camp, but he is still an unknown and has yet to log a single statistic for the Steelers.  That being said, it would not be a bad thing if Pittsburgh acquired another pass catching TE to shoulder the load with Heath and possibly stretch the Defense out a bit for years to come.

Although this TE Class is considered to be one of the weakest in the last decade, Pittsburgh could still look in that direction come April.  Colbert has mined some gems before at the position, so we shouldn’t worry.  And there could be a few sleepers at H-Back/TE like Evan Rodriguez (6’1″ 239 lbs.) from Temple or Rhett Ellison (6’5″ 251 lbs.) from Southern Cal for the Steelers to take if they are available in Rounds 5-7.

 

Running Back

I am personally not on the “Steelers need a RB” bandwagon that many jumped on after it was announced that Rashard Mendenhall was likely to miss significant time in the 2012 regular season.  Nonetheless, to appease those which do believe that the Steelers need help at RB, I’ll make a case for the acquisition of depth at that position.

Probably the biggest “knock” on the Steelers not having Mendenhall is a lack of experience at the position.  Sure, the combination of Redman, Batch, Dwyer, and Clay may not have logged the most Carries over the courses of their careers.  Yet, Running Back is a position that is arguably the easiest to transition to in the N.F.L. from college, and there are so many instances of inexperienced Running Backs taking advantage of their chances in the pros because they fit the style of Offense they play in the best.  Take for instance Arian Foster, or any Running Back under Mike Shanahan, or the New Orleans Saints backfield.

Luckily for the Steelers, quality Running Backs can be had all over The Draft Board.  As long as the Back fits the system which the pro team employs, protects the football, and can do exactly what is asked of him, he will find success in a RB-By-Committee system.  That being said, there are a few mid-late Round prospects (Rounds 5-7) which Pittsburgh could target:

If Pittsburgh is looking for a bigger Back to help shoulder the load with Redman and compete with Clay and Dwyer, they need not look further than Southern Cal’s Marc Tyler (5’11″ 219 lbs.) or Mississippi State’s Vick Ballard (5’10 219 lbs.).  Both have good size and know how to pound the rock inside.  In the event that the Steelers decide to get somebody to push Baron Batch for the 3rd Down Back spot, they could take a look at Ronnie Hillman (5’9″ 200 lbs.) from San Diego State.  Hillman is a solid receiver out of the backfield and could also double as a Kick/Punt Returner if need be.

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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.
    Thanks-John21

  • 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

     @DomDiTolla
     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……..you are welcome to your opinion.