View Full Version : Steelers Really Don't Have That Many Options in Early Rounds

03-06-2010, 03:44 AM
Steelers Really Don't Have That Many Options in Early Rounds

2/27/2010 FanHouse.com

With a defense that is filled with 30-year-olds and an offensive line that has struggled for several years, you would think that Pittsburgh would have lots of different ways to go with its early-round draft picks.

But when you look at the roster a little more closely, what's clear is that Pittsburgh is keeping the 2008 Super Bowl champs together for one more run at the title. And that means there aren't a whole lot of positions where a rookie can be expected to see significant playing time.

And when you go position by position, there are some spots where it will be hard for a draft pick to even make the roster. Here's a look at what the Steelers could draft, with a number of likely/potential draftees for each position.

Quarterback (0/1?): Ben Roethlisberger is the starter and Dennis Dixon showed enough in his fill-in start against the Ravens to move up to No. 2. The Steelers have talked about bringing Charlie Batch back, likely as the No. 3 QB. If the Steelers re-sign Batch, any drafted or signed rookie quarterback would most likely end up as a training camp spare arm who could potentially join the practice squad.

Tailback (1): Willie Parker is gone, but the Steelers bring back 1,000-yard rusher Rashard Mendenhall as well as third-down back Mewelde Moore. Also, 2009 training camp star Issac Redman has a chance to earn a roster spot. It's likely that Pittsburgh will draft a running back to back-up Mendenhall, but considering how easy it is to draft a running back, they won't have to take one before the middle rounds of the draft.

Fullback (0): Steelers fans have made it clear that they want a fullback. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has made it clear he doesn't like fullbacks. Pittsburgh has three potential hybrid fullbacks on the offseason roster, so it's pretty unlikely that Pittsburgh is going to draft the next Dan Kreider. Tank Summers will be back after a somewhat disappointing rookie season. Carey Davis is still only a restricted free agent, so he'll likely be back with any kind of tender offer and Sean McHugh should return after spending the 2009 season on injured reserve.

Wide Receiver (1): The emergence of 2009 rookie Mike Wallace as a very solid No. 3 receiver takes away any urgency the Steelers may have had about drafting a wideout. Pittsburgh has to start looking to re-sign Santonio Holmes (his contract is up after the 2010 season), but Homes, Wallace and Hines Ward gives the Steelers a receiving corps to envy. If Limas Sweed's offseason problems clear up, he could be the team's No. 4 receiver and filling a No. 5 spot is never hard (Stefan Logan and 2009 undrafted free agent Tyler Grisham could fight for that role). But considering Sweed's as yet unspecified problems, the Steelers will likely draft a wide receiver in the middle to late rounds to battle for the No. 4 spot.

Tight End (0): Pittsburgh has four NFL tight ends already under contract with Pro Bowler Heath Miller leading the way, followed by veteran Matt Spaeth, second-year pro David Johnson and fullback/tight end Sean McHugh. With all four expected to battle for three jobs at training camp, it's hard to see why the Steelers would draft a tight end unless he was an amazing value.

Offensive Line (1): The conventional wisdom in many places this offseason seems to be that the Steelers will make significant changes to upgrade their offensive line. Personally, I don't see it, as Pittsburgh is already bringing eight linemen to camp who have seen playing time, including seven who have started in the NFL. There's room for an upgrade at guard/center or a tackle who can backup now and eventually start, but it wouldn't be shocking if Pittsburgh drafted only one offensive linemen and largely went into 2010 with the same group who came out of the 2009 season.

Pittsburgh will have the entire starting five from last year under contract for 2010.
Doug Legursky, the team's primary interior backup at center/guard last year is also back, as is Ramon Foster (four starts in 2009) and 2009 third-round guard Kraig Urbik. Tony Hills, a somewhat disappointing 2008 draft pick, is also back for one last shot to stick as a tackle.

Defensive Ends (1): It's a great draft for 3-4 defensive ends, as Steelers player personnel head Kevin Colbert has already said. But Pittsburgh doesn't have a whole lot of spots to put more ends on the roster. Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel are clearly the starters, while 2009 first-rounder Ziggy Hood will likely play significant time as the No. 3 end in 2010. The Steelers also return Ra'Shon Harris, a 2009 sixth-round pick. Pittsburgh could draft another defensive end early to battle Harris for the No. 4 DE job this season with the hopes that he would pair with Hood down the road, but Smith and Keisel are both signed through 2011 and Keisel's current contract doesn't end until 2013. It's more likely that Pittsburgh will draft a defensive end in the later rounds to slowly develop into a role player.

Nose Tackles (1): Casey Hampton's new contract ensures he'll be the team's starter in 2010, likely in 2011 and possibly in 2012. His backup Chris Hoke is signed through the 2010 season, although Hoke is likely to look favorably at a contract extension that would allow him to retire as a Steeler. It's a very good draft for nose tackles, so Pittsburgh could look to find Hampton's eventual replacement, but whoever it is will likely be a No. 3 nose tackle in 2010 and only a backup in 2011, so there's no need to draft a first or second round nose tackle.

Outside Linebacker (1): Pittsburgh's starting outside linebackers are arguably the best pair in the league--James Harrison was the league's defensive player of the year in 2008 while LaMarr Woodley has 25 sacks in his first two seasons as a starter. But behind them, the Steelers have no one they can count on in case of an injury. If Harrison or Woodley was lost for a significant amount of time, Pittsburgh would likely need to move inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons to the outside while backup inside linebacker Keyaron Fox would step up to start. It usually takes Steelers' 3-4 outside linebackers a year to learn the system, so it makes sense for Pittsburgh to draft someone this year to become the primary backup in 2011. But whoever it is will likely have to spend a long time as an apprentice with Harrison and Woodley around.

Inside Linebacker (1): James Farrior showed signs in 2009 that he's finally starting to slow down, while Timmons alternated between making outstanding plays in the passing game and getting caught up in traffic on running plays. Fox has proven that he's a very solid backup in addition to being one of the team's best special teams players, so Pittsburgh doesn't have a glaring immediate need, but drafting Farrior's eventual replacement makes a lot of sense.

Cornerback (1): OK, here's a position where a draft pick could make an immediate impact. William Gay faltered in his first year as a starter and Ike Taylor has only one year left on his current deal. So Pittsburgh could use some help at the corner spot. The Steelers did draft Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett last season, so there already is some young blood on the roster, but a first-round cornerback would have a chance to start immediately. The only problem is that after Florida cornerback Joe Haden, who will likely be gone before the Steelers pick, there aren't many corners who carry a possible first-round grade.

Safety (1): Even if the Steelers re-sign Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh needs a young safety to bulk up what was one of the team's thinnest positions in 2009. If Clark isn't re-signed Pittsburgh will either have to sign a starting safety in free agency or draft an immediate starter. Drafting a starter at safety isn't easy in Pittsburgh--neither Troy Polamalu or Chris Hope, both Pro Bowlers later on, could learn the system well enough to start as rookies. In fact, you'd have to go back to Darren Perry in 1992 to find a Steelers' rookie safety who stepped in and played well as a starter. If Pittsburgh re-signs Clark, the ideal safety for them would be a combo safety who was able to play free or strong safety, both to eventually replace Clark and capably fill in if Polamalu goes down with another injury. If the Steelers don't re-sign Clark, they're more likely to look for more of a pure free safety who can serve as a compliment to Polamalu's free-lancing style.

Special Teams (0): With Daniel Sepulveda and Jeff Reed under contract, Pittsburgh doesn't need a kicker or punter and Stefan Logan played well enough last year to make return ability a bonus rather than a needed selling point for a wide receiver or cornerback.

03-06-2010, 08:51 AM
That is nine different positions. I'll add that we need 2 safeties, not one. We could also draft two offensive linemen. The writer is simply wrong. We could go any of these directions in the early rounds...


The only positions we won't be drafting in the early rounds are TE and QB.

03-06-2010, 10:35 AM
I think the article is right on. I think in terms of need, this is what we're looking at:

S - Most likely losing 2 safeties which includes our starer
ILB - We need some depth at the ILB Position. Farrior is starting to show his age and the only other option is Fox.
CB - In a pass happy league, the Steelers need a top-end corner. I do have hope for Lewis and Burnett though. That is why CB is #3 on this list.
C - We need a dominate center
OT - Not sure what the Steelers would do if Starks gets hurt and/or Colon isn't resigned. We have not heard much from T Hills. Other tackles include Essex who started at guard last year and Foster also played guard.
NT - We still need to get a NT very soon. Hampton only signed a three year deal. We need to get someone to mold into our future NT. I believe Hoke is close to 36 y/o.
DE - We still need to get younger on the DE. I think Ziggy will be a good player and I still have hope for Rashon Harris. Still, injuries always occur on the d-line and we need depth. It also has helped us in the past where we can rotate people in so everybody stays fresh.
RB - Depth is needed. I believe they are going to give Redman every opportunity to make the team this year. He knows what he needs to do.
OLB - Depth is needed

Discipline of Steel
03-06-2010, 10:54 AM
S (Starter + backup)
CB (upgrade)
C (upgrade)
RB (backup)
OT (backup)
OLB (backup)
NT (depth --> eventual starter)
ILB (depth --> eventual starter)
DE (depth)
WR (depth)
OG (none)

03-06-2010, 12:43 PM
This is the best most rational assessment I have read since the off season began. Heck, I could have written it it is so good :wink:

The key is that the author recognizes that it will be very difficult to find a rookie who will play much let alone start. As correctly pointed out CB is the obvious position but there is no real top end talent and IMO we will see Burnett and Lewis take big steps and challenge Gay. Burnett showed the coverage skills lastseason and one unfortunate drop turned most everyone against him but the kid can cover. The only question is whether his size is too much of a detriment against big receivers. Lewis I believe can play but as many have pointed out may be ultimately targeted for Safety.

So where does that leave us for this draft. IMO it means that we can really take the best player available without regards to position and yes IMO that does mean it could be RB (CJ Spiller) although that probably won't happen.

I think this is a great year to trade down andpick up additional picks because the DB class is so deep but if we stay the following players represent the top options who will possibly be available at #18:

ILB: Ro McClain, Sean Weatherspoon
OLB: Brandon Graham
DT/DE: Jared Odrick
NT: Dan Williams
OG: Mike Iupati
OT: Trent Williams, Anthony Davis
CB: Kyle Wilson, Devin McCourty, Patrick Robinson
S: Taylor Mays, Earl Thomas

I think with this group of players you may not see your favorite picked but Colbert will get a good one in Round 1 again.