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.