With Casey Hampton more than likely on the PUP at the start of the 2012 season and the release of Aaron Smith, at first glance the Steelers defensive line looks in dire need of some help. Enter ESPN’s Adam Schefter with this:
This draft is so deep at defensive tackle that it’s easy to see the Steelers looking in that direction on draft day. The one thing about Pittsburgh’s defense is that it’s aging, quickly — the Steelers need an infusion of youth and talent. Then again, they also could use some reinforcements to help protect Ben Roethlisberger. But the needs along the defensive line would seem to be the most pressing and if there’s a bona fide prospect available, Pittsburgh could pounce on him.
Unless you’ve been under a rock lately or just staring longingly out the window for the leaves to appear on the trees, any Steelers fan knows that the team has slashed their way under the cap. I think Schefter misses the fact that by getting rid of many higher payed players thus far during the off season, they’ve also dumped a bunch of 30 somethings along the way. Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Bryant McFadden, Chris Hoke – all over the age of 30 and gone. The average age of the Steelers starting lineup right now is around 26 years old – that includes factoring in Charlie Batch’s age of 62. And can someone explain to me how you can age ‘quickly?’ I’m pretty sure the team is aging just as fast as any other team in the league. He is correct that the Steelers need to continue their tradition of infusing youth with talent that already exists on the team – it’s won a few Super Bowls so far.
I don’t doubt the Steelers will be looking to score a DT on draft day. But let’s not get carried away and use words like ‘pounce.’ If the defensive tackle list is as deep as Schefter says it is (and more or less it is), then the Steelers can take their time to fill a need when they want to. That’s the beauty of the Steelers’ draft ‘system.’ They draft by value congruently with need. The Steelers don’t pounce. Cougars pounce (the kind at the zoo or at the bar, take your pick). Colbert is calculated and patient.
Secondly, if there ever is a more urgent need to fill for the Steelers it’s the offensive line. The Steelers won’t ignore that they need to protect their $100 million investment. The passing game and running game are dependent upon at least two picks this draft. And, even with a need like that the Steelers will still look to a higher value by the time pick #24 comes rolling around. Cordy Glenn will more than likely be off the board. The guard class is deep too. So, the Steelers won’t rush that pick either. The highest value congruent with need right now lies within Dont’a Hightower. Farrior is gone and they will need a 3-4 ILB ‘quickly’… oh shoot there I go using that word. But this time the word is being used in the right context.
The defensive line is not the most pressing need. It’s a LeBeau offense, and it will take time for any rookie to get acquainted. That’s why Dont’a is such a good fit – he already has played in a Nick Saban true to the ‘T’ 3-4 defense. A huge step in the right direction for getting someone in the lineup and starting quic…soon. Steelers fans know better, and know that ‘The Hood’ will step up should Hampton be placed on the PUP. Guys like Sylvester will step up in the LB spot should Hightower need more time. Don’t be surprised if a DL/DT pick comes after round four. And don’t be surprised if that player is a gem – Colbert has a way with knowing what the hell he is doing.