Offense Should Drive Steelers First Round Pick

By Jeremy Hritz

The 2013 NFL Combine is complete, and now, the Pro Days will begin, finalizing draft boards in team war rooms throughout the league. Yet as of the first weekend of March, it is still unclear as to whom the Pittsburgh Steelers will select with the 17th overall pick in the NFL Draft. The primary positions speculated in the first round for the Steelers have run the gamut from wide receiver to safety. This past week, Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette asserted that there was a good chance that the Steelers would select an inside linebacker with their first round pick due to the career-threatening injury to Sean Spence’s knee. While many Steelers’ fans would not be opposed to this, how much of a contribution would a rookie backer make on the Steelers defense? As Dave Bryan pointed out several weeks ago, Kendrell Bell has been the only rookie linebacker in the last several years who has come in to start on the Steelers defense. Is it worth using a first round pick on a player that will not be able to make a legitimate contribution to the team considering the many areas of need that the team has, especially on the offensive side of the ball? Or do the Steeler believe that Kevin Minter, Manti Te’o, or Alec Ogletree can get the job done in year one?

If anything is to govern the Steelers first round selection this year it has to be which player can come in and make the most significant impact in his rookie season. If the Steelers are to improve on 8-8 and be in contention for the playoffs this coming season, they must draft a player who can make serious contributions.

It doesn’t seem likely that the Steelers will use a pick on a running back in the first round, though Eddie Lacy’s physical running style is enticing. While Rashard Mendenhall wasn’t awful, he never truly fit the team’s philosophy and was more of a headache than a hero. With that situation all too fresh in the organization’s memory, a running back more than likely will not be taken until the later rounds, and there are numerous candidates that should be available in the second round like Giovani Bernard, Le’Veon Bell, and Christine Michael.

Safety is another position that is difficult to see the Steelers using a first round pick to acquire. While Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are in the twilight of their careers, they can afford to draft a safety in the later rounds and provide them with a year or two to develop.

The two positions that seem to make the most sense for the Steelers are wide receiver and guard. While there are no elite receivers in this year’s draft, Cordarrelle Patterson, Keenan Allen, and Justin Hunter are all big bodied playmakers that could settle in with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jericho Cotchery to make for a solid receiving corps for Ben Roethlisberger. A receiver drafted in the first round won’t have the pressure of coming in and being the number one guy because of the aforementioned trio, but he will help to create matchup problems for opposing defenses. The absence of Wallace’s speed has to be accounted for, and bringing in a young receiver can do just that, and with the presence of the veteran receivers coach Richard Mann, the maturity of a young group of pass catchers can be accelerated (I’ve already made my case for drafting a guard in the first round in my article “Take a Chance on Warmack,” so I won’t revisit that argument).

Is it a guarantee that the Steelers will select a receiver or a guard in the first round in April? Don’t bet on it, but to me, it makes the most sense considering the current make-up of the team. A lot can happen in the days leading up to the draft that will provide more clarity as to where the Steelers are headed with their first pick, but for now, drafting for offense seems the most logical decision.

  • Kusko_Ken

    Gerry Dulacs piece on the ILBs was moronic. Everyone and their brother knows ilb is a need but none of these guys are mid first-round talent guys. If Spence is that bad then they’ll have to address it internally,in the mid-late rounds of the draft, or in FA, not waste a 1st round pick on 2nd round talent to fill a positional need, hell no. I think Olgetree gets drafted late in the first, Mintor and Te’o in early to mid second. it would be great to see Mintor on the board for our 2nd round pick. I hope Te’o ends up in Baltimore, i’d love to watch DeCastro knock Te’o on his ass for the next 10 years or so.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ESU2VFZHEUTQEPJ7AWSN7ODBPQ Emac2

    So, you are going to pass on best player available and make the pick based on who can play the best in the first year? Why do we all “know” that our first pick “must be governed by” the law of instant gratification anyway?

  • richard

    The reason I would like to see the Steelers go offense is simple numbers , defense #1 in yards, offense # 21 . The numbers say the offense needs the help, besides scoring more points helps the defense.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Agreeing it wuld be nuts for Steelers to use our rd 1 pick on an inside linebacker. Maybe thats Dulac becoming senile.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.francis.5201 Robert Francis

    I agree, Jeremy! I’ve been playing process of elimination, and I think WR makes a lot of sense. Most of the top tier DEs and OLBs will be gone, and there are some reasons not to buy the hype about a few of them, anyway. Vaccaro would make sense if he’s there and the team likes him, but there will be value at S in Rd. 2. I am not sure any of the TEs are worth pick 17, and I’m hoping they sign ILB Erin Henderson for that hole. C. Patterson has too many ?’s to be my pick at 17, and I think T. Austin is too small and too much like Brown and Sanders. I like Keenan Allen – I hope we see more of him before the draft. One of Bleacher Report’s mocks has the Steelers taking Austin in the 1st and Da’Rick Rodgers in the 3rd or 4th. I wouldn’t mind that combo, either. There are needs on defense, but not as many as some think. (Time to see if Worilds, McClendon and Hayward can be every down players; CB is strong; we could use depth at some other spots.) I support this being a draft that seeks dynamic weapons on offense: WR, TE, and RB. It’d be hard to complain about snagging Jonathan Cooper at 17, though.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Tyler Eiffert may very well be the best “receiver” available at 1.17. He would start day one. And when Heath returns he could stay on the field as a complimentary weapon in 2 TE sets. And help our young OTs with chip blocking on the edges. He is rumored to have the strongest hands in the draft. And instantly provides our best red zone threat. His combine numbers were better than expected. And he presents much better value than any WR aside from Patterson IMO.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    Love it. I’m totally into selecting Eifert rd 1. We’d need to go WR in rd 2 as well though.

  • RMSteeler

    I think TE Zac Ertz may be worthy of a #17 pick unless someone ridiculous falls that low. Steelers will pick by their board ranking, most likely, as usual. Ertz would also fill two needs. A tall receiver, both possession (First downs) and red zone (TD’s). Regardless of the first round, I would like to see Ryan Swope taken in round 2. As a slot receiver, he would be a match up nightmare for defenses. Especially if the Steelers OL gets a good start in the running game. A Slant/Go on a fake hand off would be deadly with him. Even more so if they have Ertz run a slant to the middle behind him. Slot production has to improve since the loss of Hines.

  • Superdriller316

    And how are you going to address it internally? We have 2 ILB’s under contract, and 1 is injured. If our defense is so complex, then no one who comes in can play in the first year, right? We tried getting an ILB in the later rounds, guess what??? They SUCK. Sly has been sitting on the sideline for 3 years. He SUCKS. Food for thought: Lambert 2nd round pick, Kirkland 2nd round pick, Brown 2nd round pick, Bell 2nd round pick, we gave up a 3rd for him. Timmons 1st round pick, Farrior 1st round pick. We need a starter at ILB, and we need it now, and if we don’t, everyone will be bitching next year why didn’t we draft one this year. By your logic we shouldn’t even draft any defensive players this year. We have enough backup on the roster now for every position. They won’t see the field anyway, because our defense is so complicated. One last thing, where are you going to find the money at for a FA?

  • Jollyrob68

    Playmakers Cooper (a guard)Yes he’d be perfect. Eifert, playmaker #1Te who can play out wide and Miller may not be ready.
    The Prize playmaker for The Steelers:
    Tavon Austin- Replaces Wallaces speed to take the top off a Defense.
    Punt/Kick returner with Brown or instead of Brown to keep him healthier.
    Extra ZoneScheme RB, Can excel in Reverses, Bubble Screens(Steelers favorite)
    Allows team to go 5 wide and still audible in or out of a run for mismatches.
    Steelers can also trade down acquire additional picks and still draft a very good Wr or Te.

  • Jollyrob68

    He can also play out wide

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Then where are u going to find more 1st round picks for our major needs of other positions. Cant get everything with our first 2 picks.

  • Superdriller316

    So, what do you think our biggest need is?

  • rob.pghsteelersfan

    WR should be the steelers first round pick. Either Patterson or Allen. Even with Wallace on the team the Steelers needed a big bodied WR who is able to win the jump ball, go up and get the ball at its highest point, and make the tough catches while getting hit. Also someone who is more of a dominant and physical blocker in the run game. The Steelers do not and have not had an even similar WR since Hines was in his prime. Allen or Patterson could fill that role and become an eventual real #1. One of these WRs would also leave Sanders where he is most comfortable in the slot. With the aging defense and the fact that a defensive player will not start year one, the offense has to be the focus in the first round and on the field next season. Just because neither of these receivers is considered elite does not mean the tesm shouldn’t draft them. If they were they wouldn’t be there at 17 and they could still become elite in the NFL. Selecting a guard shouldn’t be an option in any round of this draft e

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    While I know we employs a 3-4 defensive scheme, I don’t see us using a thumper much longer as we use nickel cb more than ever. Cortez allen’s playing time likely will increase next season and considering the frequent of aerial attacks in nfl, it makes sense. Our problem truly lie within our d-line, not the talent but how we use them. It’d be much better if we allow them to play one-gap attack and have best tacklers at our OLBs (one of reasons why I hope we keep James Harrison for a season more)

    We also have bigger problem on defensive side that got nothing to do with safety or linebackers, its finding Hampton’s replacement or rather a correction of this; aaron smith’s replacement. I hope we grab jesse williams in 2nd, but as for first round my source indicate that it’ll be a receiver. More days pass, more it seem to be Tyler Eifert. Has potential to be easily better than Heath Miller and would only give us more flexibility with the playcalling. Patriots don’t have the luxury of depth at wide receiving position but man, they do more damages with those plays where they have two tight ends. Imagine what we can do with Heath Miller and Tyler Eifert IN both running and passing downs.

  • GhettoBelligerent

    Dude, I know it’s Saturday night and some of us might have had a few…
    but complementary weapon to Heath? Ha ha ha…. you’re talking about a
    Pro Bowl tight end – Heath ! – playing second fiddle to some one who has
    never played a down in the NFL, would be a major reach at 17, and can’t
    block for crap? Sure. The best receiver at 17 would be Keenan Allen –
    but even that would be a reach not worth taking. The Notre Dame hype
    machine don’t work in the NFL- and a red zone threat at Notre Dame is
    not an instant red zone threat in the NFL.

  • GhettoBelligerent

    I say Vaccaro at safety #1 -for the reasons you said in your post: the aging defense and a defensive player won’t start year one. So logic then tells us that if we don’t draft some D right quick, in a couple years we’re effed. The only things we need on offense are a wide receiver (as you suggested) and a RB. Recent history suggests Colbert can get a quality WR after the 2nd round (Wallace, Brown, Sanders, Ward), and likewise with the RBs (WillieP, Dwyer, Redman, Mendenhall – whoops just kidding that last one). Love Troy and RClark to death, but they are getting old, and when they are forced to miss several games this next year like they do now – perfect opportunity for a rookie safety to get a few games experience pinch-hitting.

  • Randy Neff

    Vacarro would be on the field often if Lewis leaves via free agency. And that’s even if Troy and Clark play all season. No way I don’t consider a guy that can flip positons, cover the slot receiver, and play high or low. -Randy N.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Why does everyone say that our first round pick has to make an instant impact? That just doesn’t seem like the Steeler way. If he does, great. If not, long term production is more important anyway. I think it is a little ridiculous to say it will most likely be offense in the first. Who knows who falls and will be there at 17. BPA bottom line.

  • SR88

    Everyone says the first pick has to make an impact because team was 8-8 and losing a couple of key starters.

  • SR88

    But then defense is yet another year older and probably wont play like they did in the last 2 or 3 games last season. Bengals and Browns were great defensive games, but there werent many other than those two.

  • SR88

    If they dont get another, they dont have the people to fill out the starting lineup. Not only do they need a starting ILB, they have to make sure he is good or they will be awful.

  • CW

    Personally I support the idea of going offense at this point if the right player falls to us. However the chances in this draft class, with the real absence of high end talent, of a player that is worth the 17th overall pick on offense being there is pretty remote. Otherwise it would probably be a better move to trade back with one of the teams that have a huge number of picks but not so many holes.

    For instance the 49ers have 15 picks, 1 in the 1st, 2 in the second, and 2 in the 3rd, as well as ten additional picks in later rounds. If Patterson is there, for instance, there’s a good deal of advantage for the Steelers by trading out of the 1st round entirely for the 34th pick, both of the 3rd round picks as well as a later round pick or two depending. Patterson might not be all that much better of a wide receiver than say Justin Hunter or Quinton Patton, either of whom could be available later in either the second or the third, and adding a substantial number of top 100 picks in this class where there’s not a great top of the draft class, but the middle is very solid would help rebuild the team faster.

  • HarryBackside

    Well, the ILB’s in this class aren’t very good. There is no Kueckly, Hightower, or Kendricks in this draft. The Steelers are probably going to have to address their ILB situation through free agency.

  • HarryBackside

    Where to find the money for a FA? The salary cap unexpectedly increased $2.4M. How’s that for a start? This years group of ILB’s is weak. I doubt the Steelers draft a ILB, and instead get a OLB and teach him the ILB position.

  • Nolrog

    They are not taking a guard in the first round. The line is fine, they just need to stay healthy and add depth.

    The skill positions are in need of help. That will be the focus this year.

  • Nolrog

    Look deeper into those numbers. Turn overs, defensive TDs, 4th down conversions. All terrible. Forcing turn overs and stopping the other team on 4th and 12 helps the offense.

  • Nolrog

    Vacarro is a safety, Lewis a corner. I don’t see how one effects the other. Vacarro might be on the field often because Troy and Clark are injured a lot, but they aren’t going to draft the S of the future and then turn him into a nickel corner.

  • zyzak

    Steelers should let the Bengals take Eifort, so he can torment us for years

  • Randy Neff

    Allen was the nickel last year. Vacarro fills that role. He covered slot receivers at Texas. Lewis leaving impacts the subs. Vacarro sees the field often even if Clark/Troy are healthy. BTW, Clark is the last year of his deal.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    OLB & safeties, then halfback, big receiver, & offensiv guard. Before ILB. We actually have more prospects who can be made into decent ILB, than for our OLB & safeties & starting LG, & Ben already didnt hav enough target last year. All those non-ILB positions I mentioned were a problem for us already last year. We dont hav enuff high picks this year, but those positions were more urgent holes already last season.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    If Steelers pick Vacarro I wuld be fine with that, & bet the fans wuld justify it after we select him.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    And noone wuld bet that Troy or Clark will in 2014 be a Steeler or healthy. And Vacarro demon tackler on STs his rookie year, our tackling on STs lacked. He culd play on D the 2nd half of rookie year becaus Golden did. Vacarro is an impact player though.

  • Maurice_hill_district

    I agree completely with all that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ESU2VFZHEUTQEPJ7AWSN7ODBPQ Emac2

    Everyone? You mean all of the kids and new fans?

  • Jim McCarley

    Picking in the 17th slot, there is never a guarantee that anyone that the Steelers feel is worthy of a first round pick and a position of need will be there. In my opinion, the Steelers have put a great deal of effort in to the OL and rightfully so, BUT, at some point these players will need new contracts and how many contracts do you want to negotiate with a line full of first and second round picks? Even though the OL did not play well in the past, THAT was not the single area of poor play. The team needs new blood throughout and picking another OLman in the first or even second round might be a mistake. If there is a running back there that the team feels is a franchise guy, then take him. The same with a pass rusher. many times last season, a sack would have gone a long way to solidify the season. Too many third and longs made against the team because the QBs had all day……IMO, a fresh set of legs in the backfield or the defensive edge is needed far more than another OLman or an inside backer or even safety……All are areas of need, just not in the first two picks, imo.

  • Garrett Hunt

    To me we could do the season over 100 times and finish better 90% of the time. I think injuries played the biggest role.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I agree completely except for the fact of drafting Vaccaro. If the Steelers see him as a reach at 17 I don’t think it will happen, but if they are high on him then it very well could. I just see better players being available at 17, thats all.

  • LouPGH

    Here’s my problem with the main proposition of the article: to my mind, most of the skill position players are a reach at #17, especially at Running Back. (Let’s assume Patterson is gone by then.) Plus, we have had a lot of success finding Wide Receivers in the mid- to late- Rounds.

    One of the Guards (Warmack or Cooper) could still be available, but I doubt the Tackle (Johnson) falls that far. Of course, there could be another run on pass rushers like last year, which might allow those guys to fall. Right now, though, I don’t see that happening. If one of them is available, it is tempting, but I still think you have to consider what defensive talent is available given the mileage on many of our defensive starters.

    Personally, I see a ton of value in trading down. There seems to be depth at many of our positions of need. That depth is a double edged sword, however. I could see a team like SF (a big need at Safety and has 11 picks) jumping ahead of Dallas (a team that has been linked to Vaccaro) to get Vaccaro, if there weren’t so many good 2nd and 3rd Round Safeties available. The situation just outlined would make me happiest, but it too seems unlikely.

  • LouPGH

    I’m pretty sure the “he” was referring to in the third sentence was Eifert, not Heath, although the way the sentence is structured your confusion is understandable.

    I think that because SSS refers to Eifert as “he” throughout the rest of the post. He goes on, “[a]nd help our young OTs with chip blocking . . . He is rumored to have the strongest hands in the draft. . . . His combine numbers . . . And he presents much better value . . . .”

  • Superdriller316

    Well, most of that money will be used to tender our RFA, then you need 4-5 million for the rookies, and what ever is left will be used to try and resign Lewis and Foote and any of our other UFA they might want to keep. And like you posted on the other article, “NO” to OLB, they are all over hyped and have a “but” to them. So, why draft one and try to teach him ILB?

    Spence was drafted for his instinct. Tomlin said Spence was the first to move when the ball was snapped. Instinct is like speed, it can’t be taught, either you have it or you don’t. Would you draft a 4-5 round QB who doesn’t have the IQ and make him the franchise QB? If no, why would you do it on defense then? The guy with the green sticker on his helmet doesn’t just repeat what the call is. He needs to know what everyone’s job is, he needs to be able to read offenses and call audibles. I’m sure there are OLBs that can make the switch, but we don’t have any under contract. For me, if I need a flathead screwdriver, that’s what I get, not go buy a Philips screwdriver and grind it down.

  • Superdriller316

    Ben had more than enough targets. The problem was that “Young Money” had their head in their asses and didn’t get the job done. They couldn’t catch the ball and when they did they dropped it. They are a bunch of immature kids that need a swift kick in the ass. Do a little research on this site, since Ben has been in town, he’s only averaged 23+/- points a game.

    You would think if the Steelers wanted to move one of the dead weight OLBs to ILB they would have done that last year, but they didn’t. That being said, I don’t think they think there is a viable player on the roster to move. If they aren’t good enough to play OLB what the hell makes you think they can play ILB.

    There are players that can fill every position all through this draft and it can be done without taking an OLB in the first, the kid from UCONN, Williams is just as good if not better than Jones and you can get him in the 4th or 5th.

  • HarryBackside

    If the Steelers go after a FA ILB then they don’t need to re-sign Foote. The Steelers still have ways of freeing up cap space if they need to spend to get a FA. Woodley wasn’t re-structured, and no cuts have Bern made.No one is saying that the Steelers don’t need held at ILB, and hopefully they can address it through the draft, but it won’t be in the first round. The talent just isn’t there.

  • HarryBackside

    roundILB is the biggest need, but the talent still has to match the pick. There isn’t an ILB prospect worthy of the first round much less the 17th pick.

  • Superdriller316

    And why is that? Because they both ran a 4.8? They both were very productive. Hell Te’o had more picks than all of our secondary put together. They both had over 100 tackle, so why aren’t either one worth the 17th pick?

  • Superdriller316

    With the cap higher, what makes you think there will be any cuts now. I think they keep James for another year now. Not so sure about Willie.

  • HarryBackside

    I’m not saying there will be cuts, but if there is a FA that can help the team out, It’s an option they can use to make some space.

  • HarryBackside

    Because none of the ILB’s in this draft are on the same level as Luke Keuchly or Dont’a Hightower.

  • GhettoBelligerent

    Yeah I think you’re right… says the man who might have had a few when he posted that.

  • GhettoBelligerent

    If we get Vaccaro there will be no tormenting by Eifert, Gronk, Hernandez, or anybody else, because they will either be clamped up or flat on they arse.

  • steeltown

    As long as they retain K.Lewis and Foote then I think Offense should drive the majority of their picks, including the 1st RD, unless they select Vaccaro or one of the TOP 3 or 4 DE/OLB’s falls to 17

  • tim

    A 3-4 defense is a two gap defense. you can’t play one gap in a 3-4 or you are in big trouble. And no defense is designed for the olb’s to make the tackles. you do not understand defensive schemes

  • LouPGH

    It confused me too the first time I read it, and I was sober.

  • SR88

    Every team in the NFL can say, “If we could do it over again…” The problem is they cant and if the offense was good, the defense wasnt, defense was great down the stretch and offense was pathetic.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I am not saying “if we could do it over again….”. I’m saying I don’t think last year’s 8-8 record should signify things to come next season, meaning an immediate impact is not necessary for our rookies except on special teams like usual.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Not really, I think many people have this mindset. For instance, read the 2nd paragraph in this article. I just don’t get it.

  • Jollyrob68

    He can play out wide or in tight.

  • Jollyrob68

    Nice logic but Defense was a paper champion. Worilds needs to be on the field more. As well as,McLendon

  • Jollyrob68

    Best player maybe Cooper a Guard and id take him.

  • Jollyrob68

    They’re going to a zone blocking system and need a left guard & depth. Cooper will be hard to pas on. If they don’t want a guard and he’s the BPA then trade down get an extra pick.

  • Jollyrob68

    SF has 15 picks and they should be moving up for better players. Their window is now & they need Wr,safeties

  • SteelSpine

    Haheh, I love this stuff. (both these posts of Ghett & zyz)

  • Jollyrob68

    We have no idea how Ryan Clark is going to play do to age. plus When’s the last time Troy P played a full season?

  • LouPGH

    Wow, you’re right. To go to the Super Bowl and be sitting on that many draft picks is insane. Here’s to hoping they like Vaccaro enough to trade up to get him. Hell, they could trade up in the 1st with us and take a Kicker and still be just fine.