Ranking the Steelers’ draft needs

April 06, 2012 By: Admin

In my opinion the Steelers' top needs are as follows:

#1 – Guard

The Steelers started two undrafted free agents at guard last year. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky. But the reality is that each of them could be upgraded fairly easily. Chris Kemoeatu was released. Trai Essex is an unrestricted free agent. And even Ramon Foster is a restricted free agent. So the Steelers basically have a bare cupboard at guard. I’ve often suggested that Willie Colon could play guard, but the Steelers have never shown any interest in moving him.

Even if the Steelers sign Ramon Foster and Trai Essex to new contracts, neither of them is a threat to ever make the Pro Bowl. If you want to know why the Steelers couldn’t run the ball last year, look no further than their guards. Guard is probably the weakest position on the entire team.

#2 – Nose tackle

Nose tackle is the most important position in a 3-4 defense. And Casey Hampton is aging in dog years. Hampton was once among the best nose tackles in the NFL. But he hasn’t been dominant for the past 3 years. Moreover, Hampton suffered an ACL injury at the end of the 2011 season. That’s a difficult injury for any player to recover from. But it’s particularly difficult for a 340 pound player who will be 35 years old next season.

Steve McLendon performed admirably when he was called upon last year. But the reality is that he’s too small to be a full-time starter at nose tackle.

#3 – Offensive tackle

The Steelers could be in great shape at offensive tackle, or they could be in terrible shape. Marcus Gilbert is scheduled to move to left tackle, but he’s unproven at the position. Willie Colon is scheduled to return, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the past two seasons. So both starting positions are question marks. Jonathan Scott is a backup at best. And the Steelers have the potential to bring back Max Starks if he recovers from his injury. So if everything goes well, the Steelers will be sound at the position. But if Gilbert is unsuccessful at left tackle, Colon gets hurt again, and Max Starks doesn’t recover from injury (or the Steelers just don’t bring him back), then the Steelers are screwed.

#4 – Safety

Nobody ever lists safety as a need for the Steelers. But as I explained in my position-by-position review, it’s one of the team’s greatest needs. Both Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are over 30 years old. Moreover, Troy has only remained healthy for an entire season twice in last 6 years. Do you think that he’s likely to get injured more or less as he gets older?

Ryan Mundy is the team’s only viable backup. Will Allen is a special teams player, and Damon Cromartie-Smith is a practice squad player. The Steelers need to start preparing for the future, and there’s no better time than the present to do that.

#5 – Inside linebacker

James Farrior is no longer with the team. Stevenson Sylvester is listed as his replacement on the Steelers’ depth chart. But the reality is that Sylvester has mainly been a special teams player during his 2 seasons with the Steelers. Nobody knows how he’ll do as a starter. Larry Foote is a dependable backup, but at this point in his career, I really don’t want to see him starting.

#6 – Kicker

That’s right, kicker. Shaun Suisham had the lowest field goal percentage of any starter in the NFL last year. He’s automatic on PAT’s and on FG’s inside of 30 yards or less. But when they get longer than that, he’s questionable. Since the kicker is usually the highest scorer on an NFL team, is this really a position where we can afford to have the worst in the NFL?

#7 – Punter

No, I haven’t been smoking crack. But I genuinely think that both kicker and punter are more important needs than cornerback. Dan Sepulveda is done. He gets hurt too often, and the Steelers aren’t going to give him another chance.

Jeremy Kapinos was picked up off the junk pile, and he served admirably. But he’s in the bottom third of NFL punters. With all of those 7th round picks the Steelers have, they should be able to get someone who can punt better than Kapinos.

#8 – Cornerback

That’s right, I think cornerback is a less pressing need than kicker and punter. I still don’t understand why NFL Network thinks it’s one of our top needs. I have a lot of confidence in Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Others may not. But that’s really the crux of the argument. Do you believe in Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, and Curtis Brown, or don’t you?

#9 – Defensive end

Sure the Steelers have taken 2 defensive ends in the first round over the past 3 drafts. But the reality is that Brett Keisel isn’t getting any younger, and the team doesn’t have a lot of depth at the position.

#10 – Outside linebacker

The Steelers have two of the best in the game in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. And Jason Worilds is a capable (but not dominant) backup. Chris Carter is unproven, but Lawrence Timmons can move to the outside in an emergency. So it’s not a vital need, but you can never have too many linebackers in a 3-4 defense.