Steelers 2012 Draft Needs

Steelers 2012 DraftDuring the Steelers bye week I have had several request to start looking forward to the Steelers 2012 draft and while I think mock drafts are pretty ludicrous to throw out there right now with 6 weeks left in the 2011 season and the bowl games yet to be played, I will wet your appetite with what I see as the possible needs for the Steelers based on what we have seen through the first 10 weeks to go along with the impending potential 2012 salary cap challenges I wrote about earlier in the season.

I take my mock drafts pretty serious, as you have seen over the years, and have quite a bit of scouting and research left to do before I release my first one. Just throwing names out there off of a master ranking list in November would not be doing my readers a service as the bowl games and Senior Bowl will really better sort out the college prospects and make scouting players much easier. Once the underclassmen declare, it also will paint a much better picture of what the 2012 draft pool will be.

Steelers 2012 Draft Needs

Left Guard – His arthritic knee aside, Chris Kemoeatu has two years remaining on his contract and is scheduled to count almost $5.262 against the salary cap next year. He has already missed a few games this year with his knee and I would be surprised if he doesn\’t miss another one or two before the season is over. While he is still one of the better trapping guards in the league when healthy, his pass protection continues to be a huge concern. I fully expect the Steelers to part ways with him after June 1st so they can stretch out the dead money over a two year period. Doug Legursky will be a restricted free agent after this season and I fully expect him to be tendered and re-signed with ease and is best suited to remain a back-up center and swing guard. Regardless of what happens with Kemoeatu, a guard will likely be on the early shopping list for the Steelers. I could see Legursky competing with the draft pick to start the season at left guard as rookie interior linemen have an easier time contributing right away in the league. I fully expect Ramon Foster, also a restricted free agent to be tendered and retained as well.

Nose Tackle – Veteran Casey Hampton is currently scheduled to count almost $8.057 in 2012, according to my numbers, but there is no way he can be retained at that price. The Steelers will likely approach him to lower that number with an extension or he too could be a post June 1st salary cap casualty. Regardless of what happens with him, the Steelers need to draft a nose tackle of the future. Chris Hoke will be unrestricted once again following the season and might just decide to call it a career. Steve McLendon has come on strong this season, but there are concerns with his size moving forward as an every base formation down nose tackle. McLendon will be an exclusive rights free agent after the season and will be back in 2012 baring some sort of unforeseen circumstance like a career ending injury. At worst he will be the back-up in 2012 in my opinion.

Inside Linebacker – 2011 will likely be it for James Farrior as I wrote previously as he is scheduled to earn $3.825 in 2012. With Larry Foote scheduled to count $3.6 million in 2012, the Steelers will be forced to depart with one or even both because of cap concerns. At very best, Foote is retained and his cap number lowered with a short extension. Foote left once and certainly does not want to leave again. Stevenson Sylvester hopefully will be able to assume the Buck role if both Farrior and Foote are gone, but I have not seen enough of him to have total confidence in that just yet. The inside linebacker class is regarded as a deep one this year and this could be addressed within the first 3 rounds easily.

Free SafetyRyan Clark still has two years remaining on his contract and it is not totally out of the question he too could be cap casualty after June 1st. In the end I think he stays, but regardless the Steelers need to start grooming someone to take over in 2013. Ryan Mundy should be easily retained as a restricted free agent to back up both Troy Polamalu and Clark, but there is no guarantee that Will Allen will return despite having a year left on his contract. The free safety class, much like the inside linebacker class, looks to be deeper this year then it previously has, so good value can be found here in the middle rounds of the draft.

Wide ReceiverMike Wallace will be a restricted free agent when this season ends and almost certainly will be locked up long term. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are the future, but Sanders has battled foot problems and now a knee problem early in his career. 2011 is looking more and more likely to be it for Hines Ward and right now the future of Jerricho Cotchery with the Steelers after this season is up in the air. Cotchery is looking for one last pay day and should he contribute greatly down the stretch, he might be tough for the Steelers to lock up long term. While I think Sanders will recover and start contributing, spending a 4th or 5th round pick on another slot receiver type is not out of the question.

Defensive EndBrett Keisel is having a fantastic season and behind him waits 2011 number one pick Cameron Heyward. As we sit here 10 weeks into the season it is hard not to see Keisel returning as he has two years left under contract. He still should not be ruled out completely as a salary cap casualty however. Personally I hope he is retained. Aaron Smith is almost certain to retire now so that leaves just Ziggy Hood on the left side. Behind Hood currently sits recently signed Al Woods and Corbin Bryant remains on the practice squad. The Steelers are reportedly high on both, but it makes sense to add another 5 technique left or right defensive end in the later rounds.

Tackle – Right tackle Willie Colon should return to health in 2012 and Marcus Gilbert will likely be flipped over to left tackle. Max Starks future is uncertain, but should he continue to play at the level he has since being re-signed, it would make sense they try to re-sign him to another one or two year deal. The salary cap situation will play a huge role in this decision as will the asking price for Starks. Jonathan Scott is under contract for $2.7 million next year and all that means is he is an easy cap casualty that will save the Steelers $2.2 million to throw the way of Starks if they so decide. A late round tackle in this draft would likely have a tough time making the 53 man roster if Starks is back, but at the very least could be a practice squad project.

Cornerback – The Steelers could very well end up with a late compensatory draft pick this year for Matt Spaeth and if they do get the extra pick, we will throw in a late round cornerback for good measure. Keenan Lewis should be back as a restricted free agent, but Bryant McFadden almost certainly will not. William Gay will also be unrestricted, so there is a chance that the Steelers will have two spots to fill there. Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown figure to play a much bigger role in 2012, so the Steelers have time to take a late project, most likely from a small school.

  • Bleebo77

    Any thoughts about a QB? Ben is obviously in his prime, but is it time for a young QB to groom into a backup? Also, how much longer is Mendy under contract? Do we need to think about locking him in or drafting a back?

  • SteelersDepot

    no on the QB. Mendy free agent after next season. With Redman, Dwyer & Batch all likely to be on 53 next year I do not see a RB being drafted right now.

  • Somebody knows what happens with UFA Trevis Turner?? I think he would be a good fit in the OL

  • Chrispaciello

    This is going to sound radical, but any chance the Steelers flip to a 4-3 next year? If you lose Casey, Foote, Farrior it might dictate that. You need a strong NT in a 3-4, and if you don’t have one, that is a problem. Timmons has the size/speed to play in the middle.

  • SteelersDepot

    Not going to happen.

  • Guest

    Did you list those in your perceived order of need?

  • Markalan90

    Thanks Dave…always love the draft stuff. I think Starks re-signs and Gilbert moves to Kemos spot and NT become s biggest need. Poe or Ta’amu would solidify dline for a while.

  • burgh_fan

    Don’t think you can say no on a QB so quickly. If I remembering correctly Ben is the only QB under contract for next season. Retaining one of Leftwich, Batch or Dixon as the backup (or signing another vet) seems logical but what about for the 3rd string job? I could easily see a late round pick going to someone who could fill that role.

  • Isn’t it time to draft a legitimate backup for Ben? I’m talking 3rd-5th rd.

  • Scott_McQ

    if healthy (big if), Leftwich is likely the “long” term backup, so he’ll need to be resigned. I think CBatch is done after this year, certainly if Leftwich is brought back next year, and may take a position in the FO or as an asst coach. That would leave room for a late round or UDFA QB as the “project QB.” As for the RBs, with Moore’s solid play this year, would not be surprised to see him re-signed to a 2yr-type deal. I don’t see coach T or the FO putting that much faith in BBatch to take over as primary 3rd down/passing back. If Moore is re-signed, a RB is likely not drafted, unless someone they really like is available late (like BBatch was this past draft). They’ll likely bring in a UDFA or two, as they usually do (Clay, Redman, etc. in past years), to see if someone “sticks.”

  • ponhaas

    I think drafting a rb that can catch and run might not be a bad idea. mendy is gone with his cap hit and slow down before contact doesn’t help his status as a feature back.

  • Chargerz4me

    Very interesting stuff, Thank You! Looks like the salary cap is really going to dictate a lot of moves, which in turn will effect the draft.

    Personally, I do not expect to see Farrior, A. Smith, Hines, Kemo, A. Battle, W. Allen, Mcfadden, Sepulveda, Suisham, Hampton, J. Scott, and maybe R. Clark back in Black and Gold, in 2012. That would be a huge turnover in starters from 2011 opening day to 2012 opening day.

    I hope that they are able retain Starks and Foote.

    I take it that the salary cap hit to release Colon would be too severe?

    So much for the Steelers being the oldest team in the league. Looks like that will be changing very soon.

  • Won’t happen. Ziggy Hood could play NT in a jam, and do a decent enough of a job, until the team could acquire a more permanent solution.

  • Cap hit? Mendenhall is scheduled to make $650K in salary for the 2012 season, which is all the team would save if they let him go. The remaining $1.36 million comes from his signing bonus, and has already been paid out. This counts toward the Steelers salary cap, whether Mendy is on the team or not.

  • hanjonquin

    Sign this kicker next year, remember this name folks. GREG ZUERLEIN.

  • Joel Miller

    I see no chance Gilbert moves inside…the guy more likely for that would be Colon, but honestly I don’t see that happening either. I suspect that they will want Gilbert at LT and Colon at RT with Starks as the backup for both. Scott has shown that he isn’t good enough to play except in emergencies at RT.

  • Emac2

    I think a stud guard is our top need. I wouldn’t reach too much but a first round guard to help reestablish the run game would be nice

    I do not think we resign starks and am happy with Gilbert moving over the LT and the return of Colon.

    It’s never to early or often to discuss long term roster planning BTW.

  • Pete

    Nice analysis. I like Starks and hope he’s re-signed at a reasonable price. I don’t feel Gilbert is yet better than Starks at LT. He must grow more but I think Gilbert will be good.

    Hampton definitely has to come back with lower numbers while they draft his replacement. I agree NT and LG may be the 1st two taken by the Steelers in the draft.

    I’m not high on Colon and he is looking more injury prone. McFadden and JScott are probably gone.

  • James13

    In my opinion… we might need a backup Quarter Back just in case because Big Ben has had the broken toe,thumb, and some knee problems and Charlie Batch will not be able to play as if he were playing in his younger years…..anyway this is still my personal opinion

  • James13

    5th oldest……. just sayin

  • Bergland

    I agree. I watched him kick a 58-yarder that could have easily cleared 65 yards. He’s made like 20 field goals in a row, including a perfect 9-9 from 50+ yards this year and 18-18 from 30+ yards.

  • Bergland

    I agree. I watched him kick a 58-yarder that could have easily cleared 65 yards. He’s made like 20 field goals in a row, including a perfect 9-9 from 50+ yards this year and 18-18 from 30+ yards.

  • cole2012

    they need a back up QB Because charlie batch is pathetic and he cant play anymore get rid of him and dennis dixon all he does is run so step in up steelers and draft a QB to backup BIG BEN

  • Mikedr26

    it is time for steelers to take up a back up for ben so when situations like injuries in wild card happen ben could have some healing time, they need a good qb that ben can put under his wing

  • KEC2863

    I coached him in soccer when he was younger and is a great kid.

  • Robhenderson

    Ziggy Shades the Nose on passing downs.