Steelers 2013 Draft Needs Initial Look

I am already getting inundated with questions via Twitter and email on my thoughts about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2013 draft now that the season is over so I will now lay out my initial thoughts on draft needs as a starting point. I am not going to get into specific players yet as we still have bowl games left to be played as well as the Senior Bowl. I usually release my first mock draft after the Senior Bowl as it gives me enough time to knock out some serious film study on prospects.

2013 Steelers Draft Needs

Outside Linebacker – Whether or not James Harrison returns in 2013 is insignificant. Jason Worilds will be entering his final year of his rookie contract next season and LaMarr Woodley is coming off a very, very disappointing and injury plagued season as well. Chris Carter is an enigma all to himself and has struggled to stay healthy in his first two seasons. While Adrian Robinson was certainly exciting to watch during the preseason, we still do not know what his ceiling or floor will be. The Steelers like to keep this pipeline full, and considering the fact that it usually takes nearly two full seasons for outside linebackers in the Dick LeBeau system to get on the field, they will surely draft one this year within the first four rounds. They did not draft an outside linebacker last year, so keep that in mind.

Inside Linebacker – Head coach Mike Tomlin pretty much stated on Monday during his final press conference that there was a little uncertainty moving into 2013 in regard to the inside linebacker position. While Lawrence Timmons has the weak-side spot handled, the strong-side spot has several question marks surrounding it. Even if Larry Foote were to come back next season on a one-year deal his best days are long behind him. Sean Spence, the Steelers third round pick from last season, will be coming off a serious knee injury suffered in the preseason and might be mostly regarded as a weak-side guy more than a strong-side guy. Stevenson Sylvester will likely return on a one-year tender, but he too has shown no signs of being a long-term strong-side solution. The obvious name everyone is focused on here is Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te\’o, and with good reason. If there was ever a player the Steelers might be interested in moving up from 17 to go get, he would be it. We have a long time ahead of us to worry about that, however.

Tight End – When will Heath Miller be ready? He has a long rehabilitation ahead of him after having surgery this past week to repair a torn MCL and ACL so you can count on him missing the mini camps and quite possibly the start of training camp as well. Even if he is ready come week one the regular season the Steelers have serious question marks behind him. David Paulson is not that guy and will never be half the blocker that Miller was in his prime, nor the threat in the passing game. Leonard Pope is unlikely to return and that is a good thing. Miller should have a few good years left in him, but losing him again for a long period of time due to injury would be devastating. Young tight ends can contribute from day one so I expect one to be taken in the first four rounds.

Strong Safety – It looks like the Steelers think Robert Golden might be a candidate to take over at free safety after Ryan Clark is done, but behind strong safety Troy Polamalu sits nobody. Will Allen filled in admirably this past season, but is an unrestricted free agent and up in years. The strong safety class this year is deeper than it has been for the last several, so I would expect one to be taken in the first four or five rounds.

Running BackJonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, Baron Batch and Chris Rainey will all be back next season but Rashard Mendenhall likely won\’t. Do the Steelers have an all-purpose running back in the four? Likely not, but the good news is that the position has become a fungible one over the years. I can\’t see the Steelers drafting one in the first round, but any round after that is certainly a possibility.

Wide ReceiverMike Wallace is all but gone and that leaves Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and David Gilreath as the youngsters on the roster. Jerricho Cotchery is under contract for 2013, but merely a borderline No.3. Plaxico Buress is also an unrestricted free agent, but far from a long-term solution and he will be 36 years of age come the start of next season. The Steelers need some speed to stretch the field like Wallace did so I expect that will be what they will look for in this draft at some point.

Defensive EndBrett Keisel is under contract for one more season so another 5-technique needs to be drafted to groom for down the road. Al Woods continues to be a project behind Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. Unless a J.J. Watt is laying there in the first two rounds I expect this need might wind up being pushed down in priority.

Quarterback – If the Steelers do not sign a more capable backup to Ben Roethlisberger on the cheap during free agency then they will need to draft a project in the mid to later rounds. There is a good chance that either Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich will back next season, but not both.

Guard – The Steelers have addressed the offensive line early in the last three drafts and they hope Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams pan out as their two starting tackles moving forward. Their could be room for a late round guard depending on what happens with Willie Colon and Ramon Foster during the offseason. I really would be surprised if an offensive lineman was drafted in the first five rounds, however.

  • BigC

    I can see us drafting an OG in round one for sure. We have a huge void @ OL right now with Starks, Legs & Foster all FAs in some way. Including Colon we only have 6 OL on our active roster currently!

  • SteelersDepot

    I would lay money that they don’t.

  • WilliamSekinger

    I would love to see Teo drafted by the Steelers although after last years crazy trades, it’ll probably cost way to much to move up from #17 into the top 10. I don’t see it happening

  • Jason White

    Yeah my money would be on either trading up to take Te’o unless he falls to them or they look to take a pass rushing OLB or possibly safety even if they trade back to acquire more picks. We’ll see though. Long way from now.

  • Cody Younkin

    They will draft an outside linebacker first round, i wish they wouldnt but they are too predictable, Teo will never happen so dont get tour hopes up. If they dont draft safties eric ried/matt elam in the 1/2nd rounds i will slap Colbert in the face. They need anoth big time reciver for the passing game as well. If they would trade the later round picks for 4 solid/starters players would be best advised. Worry mostly about the defense this year!!!!

  • Pete

    Dave, agree with pretty much everything you wrote. Hasn’t there been talk from time to time about Timmons taking over Foote’s (Farrior) position at some point? He’s the guy that sets the defence. Is Timmons smart enough for the task? Even after Spence comes back they need to add depth in the middle. Spence is smart but he’s too green to play Footes position. The OLB position has no replacement for Harrison. They need to draft someone who can push Harrison. Easier said than done. And yeah, what’s up with Woodley? Butler made a brief comment about Woodley’s conditioning?

    I think it should be easy to draft a WR with speed. They are abundant. Should be interesting to see what they do about TE, SS, DE, ILB and OLB. I don’t see RB as a high priority. Isn’t it a little early to be assigning the #1 draft pick? Last year it was Dontari Poe or Dont’a Hightower. DeCastro was a dream at #24.

  • Dan

    I did not know our RBs were fungible until today. Thanks Dave for learnin me a brand-spanking new word!

  • Seriously?!? You don’t even address cornerback! These are the top needs in my opinion.
    2)wide receiver
    3)inside linebacker
    6)tight end
    7)outside linebacker
    I think they could go with any of my top 5 needs with their 1st round pick, but I would love to see them draft a corner. Of course they’ll go elsewhere if they resign Keenan Lewis.

  • mlc43

    You SERIOUSLY have OLB that far down on your list, wow!

  • Ahmad

    CB is your #1 need when the Steelers were #1 against the pass for a second year in a row? And PLEASE justify OLB being at the bottom of your list.

  • zyzak

    They need guards, DeCastro looks like a bust. Colon can’t stay healthy. A running back in the first would be nice too. Mnto Tao wouldn’t fit LeBeaus system

  • Hell ya CB at #1. Did you not watch any of the games after Ike went down? The reason we were #1 was because of the system and not so much the players. What if Keenan is not resigned? Also, inside linebacker is a bigger need over outside. If we keep Harrison we have too much money in the position to take another OLB high in the draft. I like Jason Worilds too.

  • Check out Woodley’s and Harrison’s contracts. A team can’t afford that much money into one position by taking another OLB high in the draft. Worilds is a good player too. The OLB’s had a down year. I think the Steelers will bank on our 2 starters returning to pro bowl form.

  • He might drop into our laps because of his speed.

  • mlc43

    I can’t think of one capologist I’ve read that has Harrison coming back. He can’t restructure and he’s the biggest source of clearing cap (cutting) room we have. That being said, he’s misses too many games…time to move one. OLB is one of the biggest needs.

  • mlc43

    CB is a definite need, even if we are able to sign Lewis. However, Safety is a need that has to be addressed this draft. WR is definitely not a rd 1 concern and most likely not a rd 2 concern. I could see them drafting a RB higher than a WR.

  • Tom

    Wee bit early for that kind of talk.

  • You might be right about James, but at the end of the season there was 2 players creating turnovers. Cortez Allen and James Harrison. We need him back and I think he has a couple years left in him.

  • What else do we have to talk about?

  • mlc43

    How does DeCastro look like a bust!!!??? I’m not saying he will not be but there is absolutely nothing pointing to this at this time. He was grading out pretty high in the preseason before his injury and then he got….well…injured. Can we let him get a full off season and a few games before we make a decision on him being a bust LOL. Geesh!

  • JT

    I don’t see a replacement for Wallace if he leaves. Speed doesn’t seem like something Haley wants to and/or knows how to use here in Pittsburgh. I see a possession or size guy being taken.

  • Pete

    You might be right. They could go for another Burress type red zone threat. I don’t think the WRs performed up to their potential and I don’t think it was Haley’s fault. Ben was playing very well until he got injured. And it seems like the OL was run blocking very well only when Adams was playing. They’ll find another good WR and it won’t be in the top 2 rounds.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Agreeing with those, u can see we need almost every position, & not enough 1st round picks to do it. Lookin like gonna be a long 10 years, like in the 1980s & 1990’s etc. Aint draftin any ILB at 17, its not enuff of an impact position we can get one with a late pick.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Finding a way to get Manti Te’o and Marcus Lattimore would be a great start to the draft for the Steelers!!

  • steelirish33

    You must be a football wizard to already see DeCastro is a bust after what….the 3 whole games he has played. Probably safe to give him a little more time. As for Te’o, he plays in a 3-4 system at ND. He had over 100 tackles and 7 ints this year in that system. Hes excellent against the run and good in pass coverage. LeBeau employs a 3-4 system the last time I checked. Te’o would look great in black and gold. You my friend need to watch a little more football..

  • steelirish33

    I believe Timmons was drafted around the 15 to 17 area and he is a pretty good player. Probably should have made the pro bowl this year. Besides, Te’o will be gone way before 17. He is a impact player.

  • Well, you could make a case for him being a bust if he continues to get injured.

  • Shannon Stephenson


  • Mike Carroll

    Cornerback has developed into a position of strength on this team. And they’ve done it without the benefit of good pass rush. There’s no question outside linebacker and safety are the two top draft needs on the defensive side of the ball.

  • Crazy talk. Lewis could be on his way out and Maybe Taylor the next year. After Cortez who’s left? No one. Practice squad players and special teams gunners. I guess that’s the definition of strength to you.

  • I think it would be a great pick. I’m hoping the Steelers don’t have to put Foote there next year.

  • alex

    #1 keep Cortez, then, OLB to press the end, i still like Worilds, ILB to replace Foote, TE of the future, and a big WR in that order…ps, keep Foster and Will Allen just for a minute…

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Timmons took years to develop & didnt live up to being a first rounder til this year, thats a lot of years to wait. Yes Timmons a good player now but he didnt have instincts his first several years. Thats actually a case for waiting til later rounds to draft a good ILB.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Wow no ones even talking TE position..! What if Heath’s rehab goes longer than anticipated? Gets reinjured? This TE draft class is shaping up to pretty deep like the safety class. If Ertz or Eifert is there in the 2nd rd how do we not take one of them? ILB isn’t as deep, seems like you got Te’o, Ogletree then the cliff. QB anyone? Or do you all like seeing Batch or Lefty trotting out onto the field? O-line, RB, WR are fine (as well as can be) no need for drafting in the first 4 rds. TE, QB, and best defensive player (any position) should be the focus in each round (not necessarily in that order).

  • steeltown

    Worilds should see the the field more! The guy had MORE sacks than Woodley with 1/3 of the snaps

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Sylvestor hasnt shown much and Brandon Johnson probably wont be back. I hope they re-sign Foote for another year, maybe two, he’s still playing a high level, atleast till Spence is ready to play significant time… and they definitely should draft another ILB.. I think Marshall Mcfadden could end up being a decent backup in the middle, but depth there is an issue especially if Foote walks.

    I think they draft a RB somewhere between the 2nd of 4th Rd, I think Dwyer will be back and obviously Rainey and Batch, but Mendy and Redman I am not sure of, they both showed injury issues and both were passed over by Dwyer at some point.

    ILB, OLB and Safety are a must

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Safety should be addressed soon and WR is a 2nd – 4th Rd concern, especially if Cotchery plays out his 2yr contract. He is easily a #3 WR, plus they showed that they can find talent at WR in mid to late Rds. I also think they draft RB before WR and if Lewis is re-signed they wont draft CB till later in the draft, if at all. There are too many other needs ILB, OLB, RB, WR, S, TE, including one that most arent talking about, DE, Keisel is done after 2013 and Hood is up for a new contract, that leaves Heyward and Al Woods (and Woods might not be back next season)

  • steeltown

    I honestly hope the Steelers do what they have to to retain Foster.. the OL has had trouble staying healthy over the past 3seasons, and not only has Foster been a player that has stayed healthy through it all, but he also can play Tackle or Guard if someone else along the OLine goes down

  • Garrett Hunt


  • I would hope we go for alabama corner millner #1 or if we can get mattheui later in the draft both would fit are team needs perfectly! (Can’t throw the ball if everyone is covered!) And I like Lacy in the second.. He is big aggile back with power and speed.. Wr are easy to pick up later. And if we can’t get millner #1 get the best Ilb we can, hopefully mattheui will be there in the 3rd and get lacy in second.. That of course is just dreaming these players are still there, but anyone of them is a home run for us!

  • Steelers perdictable on draft day.. Thats funny!! Iv heard the best before but predictable is a first!

  • To many needs to trade pics!!

  • keon2

    No i don’t want Teo and has never been fond of him as he shown he cannot tackle big running backs like eddie lacy who play for Alabama. we need a big briusing linebacker like Jarvis Jones from georgia. We need an every down running back maybe Stephon taylor from stanford and Dwyer can be the backup. A big wide reciever with speed. and a fstrong safty like eric reid LSU or Baccari Rambo Georgia

  • Brett

    Should draft either Kenny Vaccaro (S), T. Williams (WR), or Trufant (CB) in first and grab Barret Jones, or Matt Elam in 2nd. There are a lot of quality LB and DL in later rounds such as Brandon Jenkins, William Gholston, Jelani Jenkins, Everett Dawkins, Anthony Mccloud, the list goes on. I think Tyrann should even be available in the 4th because of character issues.