By Jeremy Hritz
It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers have several areas of need heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, and while need normally does not dictate who they draft early on, they will more than likely use their later picks to address lack of depth at certain positions. If when the Steelers select at pick 17, the best player on the board happens to be at their position of need, that player will come off of the board. Additionally, if a player that they covet happens to fall just a few selections prior to the Steelers spot in the first round, they may be tempted to trade up. Conversely, if they believe they can move down a few spots and snatch the player they desire, they could do so and stockpile a pick or two in the process.
With the Senior Bowl almost here, the initial mock drafts will soon be available on Steelers Depot. In preparation for the release of my first mock draft, I am offering an overview of the top five positions that the Steelers should address this coming April.
While nobody will argue that Mike Wallace is a complete receiver, his impact on the game-planning of opposing defensive coordinators because of his speed cannot be ignored. His loss will need to be compensated for in some way; otherwise, the Steelers passing game cannot be expected to improve. Ben Roethlisberger has always wanted a tall receiver, and this may be the draft that his wish is granted. While some may recall Limas Sweed when considering drafting a wide receiver early, his bust status does not condemn taking a receiver in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. While there are no darlings at the receiver position in this year’s draft, the Steelers should have their shot at every available receiver, and I believe that they will take advantage of that, especially when considering Wallace’s departure and Heath Miller’s injury.
2. Outside Linebacker
The need for a pass rusher is well-documented and selecting one early is definitely in the Steelers plans. However, with it appearing that no OLB can step in right away and contribute early outside of Jarvis Jones, the Steelers probably won’t pull the trigger on an outside backer until the second or third round. The goal more than likely will be to draft a prospect who can contribute as a role player as a pass rusher and then develop him along the way to be a complete player.
3. Running Back
The Steelers are hurting at the running back position, and they have nothing more than complementary backs in Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, that is if they are resigned. There is some talent in this year’s draft at the running back position, and the Steelers could take a shot as early as the second round on a back depending on which players are available. Value is to be had at the position in the later rounds, but the Steelers could be enticed by a player like Eddie Lacy and his physicality in the second round.
The Steelers need to address the depth at the safety position, which is non-existent. The good thing is that that have about two years to bring a player up to speed to step in for the current elders at the position. While they have Robert Golden, and it appears they are attempting to develop him, they will need to bring in another safety who is physical and can learn from Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu.
5. Inside Linebacker
Lawrence Timmons is set inside, but who will be playing alongside him in 2013? Undoubtedly, it will not be a rookie, but again, there is no depth at the position. If the Steelers do not bring Larry Foote back, either Sean Spence or Stevenson Sylvester will be expected to man up. The Steelers will attempt to bolster their depth at the inside linebacker position in the later rounds of the draft. Early on, I believed it could be a possibility that they could draft Manti Te\'o, but with his recent controversy and with the issues of Steelers rookies from 2012, that seems to be unlikely.
Again, player availability is going to have a tremendous impact on who the Steelers select, but there is no question that they have serious needs at these five positions. When the smoke clears at the draft’s conclusion, it is safe to say that the Steelers will have made a selection in each of the five aforementioned areas.
Stay posted for my comprehensive first mock draft which will be available next weekend prior to the Super Bowl.