I was enjoying some playoff football when I read Jeremy Hritz\’s article relating to the importance of the Pittsburgh Steelers drafting some elite talent to replace Mike Wallace, but it ended up breeding more and more thoughts so I decided to write a speculatory article instead. The initial thought was that the 1st pick should go to defense in the form of a pass rushing proficient outside linebacker type to replace James Harrison. However, Jeremy\’s article was very thought provoking because it makes so much more sense to draft an offensive player. The defense was ranked very high once again this past season but it will look quite different this year, and even more different the following year as more familiar faces depart. The offense, on the other hand, struggled to find its identity and needs a running back and wide receiver.
I\’m not going to get into draft eligible players or position analysis quite yet, but let\’s explore where the merit is. We\’ve heard so much about getting a receiver with some size to make the life of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a little easier and increase the facets that defenses have to protect against. This offense needs to get it together and the financial situation would be helped by a young talented receiver earning less money on a rookie contract for up to 4 years. That decision is important but might get nulled out if the Steelers can\’t run the ball. The offensive line will have to hope for more stability and less injuries, but the last year\’s draft additions of David DeCastro and Mike Adams in the top 2 rounds should imply the offensive line won\’t get any attention early in the draft. Running backs are tough to draft because they typically don\’t last as long in the NFL as other positions might and many teams find successful options outside of the 1st round.
So we have limited the Steelers needs into what might happen in the first round. Wide receiver, outside linebacker and safety are the highest profile options in the first round. However, while an even minded person might suggest that since the offense needs the most help that wide receiver is the favorite, we have to remember that the Steelers are not aggressive in drafts. They let players come to them and often go for the best player available. I think those 3 positions will allow the Steelers to find someone without having to reach, while still allowing them to capitalize if a desired player drops a few spots.
So since the first round is always the most speculated on and the most highly debated pick, I would narrow Steelers fans searches to receivers, safeties and outside linebackers. Dave Bryan has already begun putting up some draft profiles on a pair of edge rushers who have raw potential but are projects at best that would find easier success in other systems. The Steelers have never really gone for the speed demon, long bodied outside linebackers but instead favor the thicker, power rushers who have an easier time plugging the run as well. So my advice would be, if you\’re going to draft a project at outside linebacker, draft him after the 1st and leave the focus to a wide receiver. The backup plan would be to grab a safety if the wide receivers go early.