Steelers ability to find CB, WR in draft could determine playoff fate
By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
April 11, 2014
Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Bradley Roby and Darqueze Dennard all make sense for the Steelers.
The Steelers had a winning record in each of Mike Tomlin's first five years as head coach. They made the playoffs four times, went to two Super Bowls, and won the whole thing in 2008. But in the last two years, the team has been the definition of mediocre, going 8-8 in back-to-back seasons.
You'd have to go back to the 1998-1999 seasons for the last time the Steelers had two consecutive seasons of .500-or-worse football. Kordell Stewart and Mike Tomczak quarterbacked offenses that ranked 19th and 20th, and while those defenses were good, they weren't great.
Unlike those teams, however, these Steelers have a franchise quarterback. And in today's NFL, that's the most important ingredient for any playoff team. So what's missing?
Depending on who you ask, the answers range from "Just about everything else" to "This group is probably two or three players away from getting back in the postseason conversation." Not surprisingly, we fall in the latter group.
A quick glance at the roster and the needs are glaring: Wide receiver, cornerback, defensive line, depth at linebacker and, reflexively, the offensive line.
But here's the thing: The offensive line could be a strength. No, seriously. One of the team's biggest offseason additions wasn't safety Mike Mitchell or whomever they end up drafting with the 15th pick next month, it's Mike Munchak, the former Titans coach who will be the offensive line coach in Pittsburgh. He's a Hall of Fame lineman who knows the zone-blocking scheme as well as anyone. He'll be tasked with getting the most out of a young group that features David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey, but also includes second-round picks Marcus Gilbert Mike Adams and and seventh-rounder Kelvin Beachum, who more than held his own at left tackle for much of the 2013 season.
Put another way: Don't expect the Steelers to draft an offensive lineman in the first round. Same holds for defensive line and linebacker. Veterans Brett Keisel and James Harrison could be post-June 1 signings to add experience and depth for near-veteran-minimum salaries. There are just too many other needs, and depending on whether Todd Haley or Dick LeBeau is doing the talking, it starts with wide receiver or cornerback.
One argument for the Steelers targeting a cornerback with the 15th pick is that the wide receiver class is deep. Some evaluators are talking "the best bunch of pass catchers we've seen in decades" deep. Meanwhile, the top cornerbacks only have a few names: Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Bradley Roby, Kyle Fuller and Jason Verrett.