2014 Draft Critical For Steelers (As Is Every Other Year)

This upcoming draft is a critical one for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Have you heard that one before?

It’s said every single season about just about every team. How often does a team not face a critical draft? How often does a team have such a fully stocked roster that they can actually afford luxury draft picks to add spice to their team? Not very often.

Let’s grant, however, that perhaps this upcoming draft is more critical than the still also critical drafts of the team’s recent past.

They cleared off a major, glaring need from the board when they were able to sign Mike Mitchell at free safety to start. At least that’s what it appears to be on paper. We’ll have to see it on the field before we know more.

But Ike Taylor is hanging on by a whisker, and the chances seem pretty good that the Steelers need to find a cornerback not currently on the roster to potentially take on a starting role by 2015, if not some time during the course of this season.

Two of their top three wide receivers left in free agency and they appear to be turning to a second-year player with six catches to enter the starting lineup. In a class so deep at wide receiver, it would be foolish not to add somebody of quality here after suffering the losses that they did at the position.

Oh, and they only have one starting defensive end, by the looks of it.

So let’s grant that perhaps this draft is indeed a bit more important than the average draft. The chorus has been echoing long enough. That doesn’t mean everybody has the proper justification for their argument when making that case.

Take a recent article by Gil Brandt on the league’s website, which looks at five teams for whom there’s “tons at stake” in this draft.

The Steeler are the first on his list, which also includes the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys, the St. Louis Rams, and the New York Jets. Really, you could name just about any team in the league and they, too, would have “tons at stake”. A bad draft lingers for several years, no matter how good your roster looks coming into that bad draft.

So why is this year so critical for the Steelers, according to Brandt? To start, of course, their “core players are clearly getting up there in age”. We’ve been hearing that for the better part of a decade by now.

But the flipside of that is that “they don’t have a ton of young talent waiting in the wings”. Apparently Le’Veon Bell is the only up-and-comer on the roster in Brandt’s mind, listing Jarvis Jones—a rookie last year—and Cameron Heyward as “top picks” that are “failing to provide needed production”. There’s no mention of the nearly Pro Bowl-worthy season of David DeCastro, the team’s 2012 top pick, or the fact that their 2010 top pick is a three-time Pro Bowler in three healthy seasons.

Yes, this is a critical draft. And there are reasons that make it critical. But almost every draft is critical. They all have repercussions that last for years.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • steeltown

    Ha! I said the same thing after reading that article. Even Teams like San Fran and Seattle who are seemingly pretty stacked with talent still have a lot at stake because even though it may not be critical at this moment, a bad draft can come back to haunt you 2-3yrs down the road.

  • 804Stiller

    I agree that this is an important draft and season for us but more importantly might be the development and health of last year’s rookie class (Shark, JJ, Wheaton, Nick and Vince Williams, Arnfelt, Bell.) If all these players show considerable improvement from their rookie season, we’re in good shape.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Matt, I do agree that this draft is critical. I think the reason is that they have a team that is getting younger and they know they still have a few holes if they want to compete for a super bowl. They have been gradually replacing their players that have gotten older and are no longer with the team. I think when you look at their team, the troubling part is that they are replacing them with lesser players. Casey Hampton, James Farrior, and those players at the end of their career like Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu were very good players, even pro bowl players, but the guys coming behind them don’t seem to have the same pedigree. I like Steve McClendon, but he is not Casey Hampton. The same can be said for other players, especially on the defensive side of the football. I don’t think the problem is that Brett Kiesel is leaving, it is that he will be replaced by a lesser player and they have too many lesser players taking over for very good players. Vince Williams will never be James Farrior. Can they win with him? Yes, if they have other good players around him. I think this draft is very critical because I believe the Steelers feel if they can get several starting players from this draft to fill those holes, then they will be ready to challenge for a Super Bowl. A combination of a very good draft this year as well as extending some of the their good players they have (and deciding if guys like Marcus Gilbert or Cortez Allen or going to be some of those “good” players) will be critical to getting back to the Super Bowl. A poor draft this year will set them back again so that they have to start over again. They do have good players on their team, but do they have enough good players to contend for a Super Bowl? As of today, I’m not sure they do. After the 2014 NFL draft, we all hope that they will. We’ll see.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Cameron Heyward? Brandt is either getting senile or he just phoned his opinions in without looking closely. That’s last year’s news.

  • Jacque Strappe

    It’s a shame the lack of research that can be done, yet put something out there for everyone to read and some will never question it. Gil Brandt’s best days are behind him. When you build thru the draft, they’re all crucial. It gets people fired if you miss enough.

  • Doug Sawyer

    same guy who said Benjamin did not show up for an Eagles workout…and insisted his “source” is what he is sticking to…this guy is a glaring lack of information

  • chris ward

    Agree, every draft is critical. It can either make or break a teams future success. Did Brandt not see Heyward play last year? I don’t think 59 tackles, 5 sacks, and 7 pass deflections is failing to provide production.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I think what most pundits never seem to understand is the Pittsburgh philosophy when it comes to the draft. Here is the reality, we were an 8-8 team which was making the transition from old to young. We actually got more contribution last year from our rookies than we typically do.

    Last year….j. Jones, Bell, Wheaton, Thomas, L. Jones, and V. Williams all made the roster from the draft class. In addition, N. Williams, Arnfelt, J. Brown, N. Embernate, and Chris Hubbard all had roles. That would be 11 players in 1 draft class. Now some of these guys won’t ever really play large roles on this team, but it isn’t like we just stumbled and didn’t have an effective year last year. This also does not include ANY contribution Spence could eventually make.

    Now, while this draft is important, to argue this team is old any more is just crazy. 2 starters on each side of the ball are over 30. Heath and Ben, Troy and Ike. All the other guys are backups, specialists, or role players.

    Do I want to have a good class? Yes. Do I expect us to have a good class? Yes. We know our needs, they are pretty clear. I expect that we fill as many as we possibly can via the draft and then fill in the rest with vets who are on the street and are willing to extend their careers for low contracts.

    WR – Need a #2 WR
    RB – Need 3rd string/change of pace back
    TE – Need a 3rd TE/potential Heath replacement
    OL- dependent on our young guys, some contracts and development under Munchack.

    CB: Need an Ike replacement/#1 corner
    DE: Need starter at LE/Depth needs are dependent upon youth (Arnfelt, Williams)
    OLB: Need depth/maybe starter if Worilds contract isn’t worked out
    ILB: Dependent on youth…Williams/Spence
    NT: Need depth/developmental guy…maybe starter next year should McLendon not work out, but I think he can be an end if he isn’t a NT.

  • Johnny Loose

    still stuck on Benjamin I see, lol jk

  • God can you imagine if Bal/CLE draft him. This dude will have a stroke

  • Doug Sawyer

    damn straight LOL

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Because of the lack of depth it is more critical then most. We do not have solid starters like normal and no one in the wings as was mentioned. We shall see what this off season brings at we brought in a lot of new guys and maybe things will turn around but I do not see it as of yet

  • steelster

    I think this is a critical draft year for the steelers because of big ben and his age. It takes rookies about 3 years to develop and become good players. That puts big ben at 35 and gives a chance for the steelers being superbowl contenders again.