With the tumultuous offseason that the Steelers have had, the only thing I am certain of is that the character of the potential draft picks will be scrutinized more than most other teams, this time around. The Steelers gave away their most recent Super Bowl MVP for off-field problems and Big Ben has been suspended for at least a quarter of the season – if not a third of it – for similar reasons. But the biggest problem for Pittsburgh last season was their inability to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball – or protect their QB for that matter – and that’s where they need to start infusing talent in my opinion, specifically with interior offensive linemen to attack and open up the running game between the tackles for Mendenhall. Honestly, if I’m Pittsburgh, I take two prospects here if two are available that make sense. Other than offensive linemen, I’d like to see Pittsburgh take a CB to help their pass defense, possibly a defensive lineman to infuse a little more youth and strength, there, and consider a WR to replace some of the quickness and catching ability that they lost in jettisoning Holmes. Running back is also still a bit of a question mark, especially in terms of depth with Willie Parker not yet signed.
Pittsburgh obtained a QB for a stop-gap in Byron Leftwich, from Tampa Bay, which likely buys them the time they needed for Ben to come back from suspension. They won’t be great at QB with Leftwich, but they probably will be good enough to win some games during a truly innocent looking start to the 2010 season schedule. In other words, they probably won’t be looking to draft Tim Tebow, just because he’s a huge character asset and because they need a QB that they can trust to be on the field. I doubt they will take a QB at all. Ben’s not likely going anywhere – unless he becomes a habitual problem or he burns the bridge himself.
The WR position is a different story – I think they need to address that. Ward is getting old, unfortunately, and that needs some attention. Holmes was the reliable down-field target and now that’s gone. Randel El was picked back up but he’s not going to provide too much more and for too much longer. Mike Wallace and Limas Sweed are now the big question marks. Sweed has not been an answer at WR so far but has some talent. Wallace was a pretty nice surprise last season but now he becomes a question of consistency – Can he be relied on while he is covered by the other teams’ #1 cover man? Last season he was often not covered by a great cover man.
Bottom line, first round pick must be an interior offensive lineman and there are only a couple of 1st round worthy names to consider at their slot at 18 – Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Iupati. So the question will be if they want a guy with the flexibility to play center, or just get a bull of a guard. I don’t really think they can go wrong, so it will be interesting to see if they do in fact go this way and, if so, who they go with. There hasn’t been any talk of either prospect having any character issues, which makes this even more of a certainty in my opinion.
Second round pick … I really think they could go for another offensive lineman for the interior if a good prospect is present that makes sense. Will they? Who knows. If they don’t, then I would hope they find a nice cornerback prospect left on the board or try to move up to get one if those prospects are running low. Depending on what they want to do at running back and with Willie Parker – and who is sitting there available with the #20 pick in the second round – it’s possible they also add a RB to the mix with Mendenhall, too. The second round pick is nowhere near as cut and dry in my mind as the first round pick is.
Third round again becomes a reaction to what Pittsburgh does in the second round. They either take an offensive lineman or a cornerback, I would say. Or, if the right prospect is available, a WR or RB. Defensive lineman becomes intriguing if a guy has slid or has become undervalued and sits available at the 18th pick in round three.
Fourth round pick likely becomes best available and for depth. They could continue working in the secondary because they need prospects there, or they could use the second or third round to address the secondary. To me, the same positions keep repeating themselves over and over again. The needs are pretty concentrated on this team, so offensive line, cornerback and wide receiver just keep popping up as the paths to take in this draft, with defensive tackle and running back as the darker horses.
The Steelers also have four fifth round picks, a sixth and a seventh, so there’s plenty of room for play if they need to maneuver a little bit in the later rounds to get guys that are rated higher than others on their draft board.