Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

If Steelers Go Defense Early in 2014 NFL Draft, Picks Must Play


The Pittsburgh Steelers had plenty of issues on the defensive side of the ball throughout the 2013 regular season.

They had issues stopping the run, their defensive backfield was torched far too often towards the end of the 2013 campaign and injuries highlighted the unit’s depth issues on an almost weekly basis. With all of their aforementioned problems in mind, it makes sense that the Steelers’ brass would want to employ a defense-heavy strategy during the 2014 NFL Draft.

Although I would like to see Pittsburgh’s front office, coaches and scouts target plenty of defensive players early this May, I do have one large reservation if that particular strategy is employed:


Is it really worth it for the Steelers to take a player in round one who might not even see the field or play a pivotal role on Pittsburgh’s defense until the second or third year of his rookie contract?


Make no mistake, the Steelers had three rookies who logged significant amounts of playing time on the defensive side of the ball by the end of the 2013 regular season.

Yet would Jarvis Jones have actually seen much of the field had LaMarr Woodley’s calf injury not forced him to the sidelines at mid-season? Would Vince Williams and Terence Garvin have spent any time on the defensive side of the ball if Larry Foote had not go down with a biceps injury on opening weekend?

Sadly, as we all witnessed last year, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will always reach for his veteran pacifiers whenever he gets the chance to do so. Take Shamarko Thomas for instance. With little depth at safety and injuries at the cornerback position, Thomas saw extended playing time during the first half of his rookie campaign. After Thomas injured his ankle and Will Allen was inked, the former Syracuse star barely saw the field as a safety once he returned to full health.

I am not opposed to the Steelers filling their needs on the defensive side of the ball during the early stages of the 2014 NFL Draft. In fact, I can totally understand why they would elect to select a cornerback, outside linebacker, nose tackle or a safety on the draft’s first two days. I just hope that those highly coveted and touted rookie will actually gain some experience early and often during their respective professional careers.

I would hate to see the Steelers pass up some talented offensive prospects at positions which need upgrades just as bad as spots on the defensive side of the ball (WR, LT and TE). Moreover, I would be particularly incensed to see them ignore play-makers at those skill positions who possess the ability to help this franchise in the immediate future.

It would put a smile on my face to see the Steelers vigorously try to upgrade their defense through the upcoming draft. Whether or not the early round selections will be allowed to contribute is an entire matter altogether.






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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Dick Lebeau Pittsburgh Steelers

  • scott sinclair

    Much as I love LeBeau, as long as he is DC, no rookie will see much playing time

    • Dom DiTolla

      Unless injuries (V. Williams, T. Garvin, S. Thomas early in season) or utter lack of personnel (J. Jones) force him to, rookies are relegated to special teams and the bench with LeBeau.

      I’ll beat the drum almost every day until the draft, but this team cannot afford to upgrade and augment the TE and WR positions early, with play-makers who can step in right away, so they can draft defensive players who might see the field in year two or even year three.

      If they go defense however, those guys better at least see sub-package work if they are capable of contributing. Keenan Lewis and Jason Worilds examples are far too glaring to ignore.

      Agree, disagree, thoughts?

      • Thumper833

        I don’t imagine LeBeau will be around after next season. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if he left now. So the Defense may change and the philosophy of sitting new guys may change. I think they need to go almost all D this year. The longer we wait the worse it will get on D..We can make do with what we have on Offense for now, barring a top 3 O- tackle falling to them.

        • Dom DiTolla

          If LeBeau leaves, then I am all for going defense if the new coordinator actually wants to play younger guys and work them into the lineup early. If he stays however, youngsters likely won’t get in unless a rash of injuries strike or there is zero in terms of personnel at the position.

  • disqus_8tmMXmccaM

    Bpa in first round, defense the rest.

  • Glenn McQuiston

    Completely disagree with the premise upon which the conclusions were drawn. The problems with the Steelers D was not that they were “old and slow”, but, that they were young and dumb. The defense had far more inexperienced players in the lineup that in year’s past and we paid for it for big defensive let downs early in the season. The D, by any measure improved over the course of the season. I would posit that it was not because the old got fast, but, because the young got smarter (or more to the point – experienced).

    • Dom DiTolla

      Well the younger players got chances to play only because the older and slower players got injured. If the status quo remains in place, Williams & Garvin will go back to the bench in favor of Foote, Thomas will rot behind Will Allen, guys like Jarvis Jones will only play because of a lack of depth at the position etc.. This team will be better served for the future by playing younger players early, and should do so if they use high draft picks on defensive players.

      Drafting defensive players, particularly during a rebuilding era, to simply rot on the bench behind declining veterans does little. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fine with this draft being dedicated to improving the defense. I just hope that those drafted are provided with plenty of opportunities to contribute on the defensive side of the ball early in their careers as opposed to what the status quo is now.

  • Niyi Delano

    if i were the steelers, i would go after a serviceable free agent tackle, pass catching TE and possibly receiver in case we lose one of our receivers.

    I would then dedicate this whole draft to the defense. The reason for that would be because, i would cut Troy, Woodley, Taylor, foote and not resign Clark, Keisel and Hood. I would resign wolrids, if he would be willing to make between 4.5 to 5.5 million a year.

    Yes the defense would be young but by 2015 we can now have a new nucleus of guys to build upon and keep ourselves under the cap.

    • Dom DiTolla

      Where is this cap strapped franchise going to find a pass catching TE & receiver in free agency at a reasonable price who can have as big of an impact as well as less of a salary cap hit as a rookie? Personally I’d rather them ink Cotchery, let Sanders walk, and draft a WR, TE and developmental LT in the mid-rounds to fill those needs in a cheap fashion.

      Can’t disagree with your plans for the defense though. Need to cut veteran dead weight, although Taylor might need to stay due to lack of experienced depth at cornerback. I will say that it would be nice to see the veterans released or walk since it would hopefully allow for the younger players and rookies to suit up for significant stretches next fall. You’re actually one of the few who agrees with me in that aspect.

      Whole offseason however depends on whether Worilds stays. If he walks, team will likely need to bring back Woodley for one more year to keep depth in place at OLB since Carter & Sylvester have illustrated that they are not long-term options as starters.

      I am just nervous about this team dedicating most of a crucial draft to defense, especially if veterans are kept around and glaring needs like TE, WR, etc. are ignored for players who might not see the field for a year or two under LeBeau.

      • Thumper833

        The only thing I will say is that the offensive rookies have tended to see the field much more quickly that the D. So drafting D now and O next year might more overall players on the field in the next couple of years…

        • Dom DiTolla

          Like I’ve stated before, I don’t disagree with the premise of drafting defensive players. I just hope that they see the field early on, which is something that hasn’t taken place very often during LeBeau’s second tenure except in rare cases of injuries and a lack of personnel.

  • Carl Eagan

    Worilds had significant playing time in years past and he didn’t show that much. I think his improved play has as much to do with Heywood playing alongside him than improvement by him. The needs on this team are many and won’t be addressed in one draft although I agree for once the drafting duo of Colbert and Tomlin should bring in someone who can play immediately.

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