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.
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.
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.
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.