Draft Season usually begins for the fans of NFL teams that are on the doorstep of being eliminated from postseason contention. Although the Pittsburgh Steelers are still technically alive when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs, the amount of help they will need is staggering.
With so many holes to fill on their roster, speculation has already begun regarding which holes are the most pressing to address.
The Steelers have missed on a few offensive linemen in the past few drafts, and they need to upgrade the offensive tackle position. The secondary is one of the oldest in the NFL, and they could easily go in that direction with this pick.
While I agree that the Steelers need to find a long-term answer at the left tackle position, they seem content to give Kelvin Beachum more chances to prove himself. To his credit, Beachum has been a competent stop-gap for Pittsburgh on the blind-side this fall. Unfortunately, his short arms and light frame have worked against him at times and will continue to do so in the future.
Although Beachum is worth keeping as a backup at tackle or a potential starter at left guard or center, Pittsburgh could stand to use an upgrade at the left tackle spot. Although I am not as sold on Taylor Lewan of Michigan as a long-term option at left tackle, I do hope that the Steelers have Jake Matthews of Texas A&M, Cameron Erving of Florida State or even Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama on their radars as potential first round picks.
As far as the cornerback position is concerned, I would love to see the Steelers target one early and double-dip with one later in the draft process this May. Granted, Pittsburgh has not placed much of a premium on drafting that position high in recent seasons. In fact, the Steelers have not selected a cornerback with a first round pick since 1997 (Chad Scott).
Nevertheless, declining veteran Ike Taylor could be a cap-casualty during the offseason. In addition, this team has nothing in terms of experienced depth on their roster outside of Cortez Allen and William Gay. Both of whom are solid veterans to have around and at a team’s disposal. Yet neither strikes fear into the hearts and minds of opposing signal-callers.
If Pittsburgh is drafting in the middle of the first round (12-18 range), then they could have a couple of cornerbacks to choose from who would have the potential to be solid fits in their current defensive system.
Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State and Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma are larger-framed and physical cornerbacks who can play the run and make plays on the ball in the passing game. Either one would be capable of contributing right away on the defensive side of the ball, and Gilbert has experience returning kicks and punts to boot.
I think the Steelers can hold off on acquiring a safety, at least in the early rounds, during the 2014 NFL Draft. While Ryan Clark will be headed elsewhere and Troy Polamalu is in danger of being released, the team has Shamarko Thomas chomping at the bit for playing time. In addition, the team could elect to bring Will Allen and Robert Golden back for depth purposes.
Although I am sure that the front office will be on the lookout for value in the draft at the position, I believe that there is at least one position on the roster which is in much more dire need of an upgrade.
Call me crazy, but I believe that tight end needs to be one of the Steelers’ biggest needs to fill via the draft.
Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of Heath Miller. Moreover, I believe that the veteran has at least three seasons of productive football left in him despite the gruesome knee injury he suffered in December of 2012. Miller’s productivity aside, the Steelers could stand to use a dynamic play-maker to pair with Miller when they run multiple tight end sets. Furthermore, the offense needs some sort of clear exit-strategy at the position when Miller eventually retires or leaves town.
I certainly hate to be a Negative Nancy, but Matt Spaeth, David Paulson and Michael Palmer do not cut the mustard as tight ends who can threaten defenses in the passing game. Someone like Eric Ebron of North Carolina, Jace Amaro of Texas Tech or Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington would be a big-bodied target to stretch the seams for Ben Roethlisberger, and I would not be opposed to see the team filling their need for a tight end early.
Although I do not agree with Jeremiah when it comes to the team’s immediate need for help at safety, his thoughts regarding the offensive tackle and cornerback positions are spot on though. I personally would rank tight end, wide receiver and nose tackle as more pressing needs than the one the Steelers have at the safety position, but that is just my own opinion.
What I think that we can all agree on is the fact that Pittsburgh is in the midst of an arduous rebuilding process, and that the franchise could stand to use upgrades at almost every positional unit on the roster. As the offseason unfolds, I am sure that the Steelers’ draft needs will become more pronounced. Until then however, all we will be able to do is debate and speculate until May.
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