The Steelers are staring down at the LB position for their top pick of the draft this year. At least, that’s what everyone expects. But, I believe that the Steelers should (and quite possibly are) look at drafting a safety first and foremost – specifically a player by the name of Kenny Vaccaro.
Vaccaro is a safety out of Texas, and could be the future of the Steelers deep secondary. He is a very versatile player. He can defend both pass and run. He is quite physical and has good speed. He ran a disappointing 40 of 4.63 at the combine, but don’t let that jade your feelings about Kenny. So Kenny has the intangibles at being a very good strong or free safety. Why should the Steelers be aggressive in drafting him?
Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and Carnell Lake.
Those are the three reasons why. As we well know as Steeler fans that Dick LeBeau’s defense is one of the most complicated schemes to grace the NFL. The learning curve is steep, and most defensemen don’t have a shot at becoming a starter until at least their second or third year. Very few have been a starter from day one when they are drafted to the Steelers defense. There’s no question that Vaccaro will have a huge advantage by learning the positions from two of the best safeties in the league in Polamalu and Clark. The icing on the cake is having someone like Carnell Lake as the secondary coach. With the quick rise and development of Cortez Allen and the (finally) solid play from Keenan Lewis, you can’t deny that Lake’s positive impact on the corners and safeties.
Clark is done in 2013 unless he gets an extension, which is highly possible. Troy is slated to play through 2014. However, his large hit on the salary cap and decline in health the last two seasons could put his future in jeopardy. He very well could become a cap casualty in 2014 instead of playing out his contract. The time is right and the iron is hot to strike a golden opportunity to draft someone who could be the next top safety in the league by drafting Vaccaro.
Are there other pressing needs? Yes. Linebacker is certainly a huge need, especially if Harrison or Woodley are released to make cap room. But, there’s really no one there to act as ‘the teacher’ once a rookie linebacker is drafted. That person may take a couple to three years before they are ready – as has been the case with most of the Steelers linebackers. The team could see faster and more positive returns with a guy like Vaccaro.
I wholly endorse that kind of pick, and hope the Steelers also see the ripe opportunity.