Normally, by the end of April the NFL draft has taken place and we are discussing the additions the Steelers have made and how they’ll fit in. Not this year. Starting this year, the NFL has elected to place the NFL draft in early May, leaving all draft experts and football pundits the opportunity to pontificate for another few weeks on what they expect will happen, who will get drafted early, late and who won’t get drafted at all.
This year the Steelers have nine draft picks across the seven rounds and they have plenty of holes to fill. They’ll need to make the right picks if they want to continue to form a foundation of success that will lead to their 7th Lombardi trophy anytime soon. The draft clock is starting to tick, it’s time for the team to ramp up and get moving.
Taking a look at what the team needs, it seems that they will fill the roster somewhat like what I have broken down below.
Round 1, pick 15: The Steelers are in desperate need of a young, playmaking cornerback. They would be crazy not to go and grab this position here. With the 15th pick overall there should still be three or four of these playmakers available for the team to choose from. There is an outside chance they could go wide receiver or defensive line here but that would mean that all the top corners were drafted earlier than expected.
Round 2, pick 46: In the 2nd round the Steelers will still most likely address the defensive side of the ball as they have a lot of rebuilding to do there. My expectation is for them to draft another linebacker somewhere during this draft and I believe it will happen in round two. They can find a hard hitting, tough as nails guy here who can be an impact playmaker to go along with Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones. Once again, they could go wide receiver or defensive line but I don’t expect it.
Round 3, pick 92: The team is in dire need of a big wide receiver. This is the round to do it. While they could take a guy earlier, a wide receiver that can make plays can be found in this round or later and I fully expect the black and gold to take advantage of this pick by picking up a guy they think can make big catches in the red zone and on third down. The point of this pick would be for this receiver to ultimately be their number two guy. Outside chance they draft a defensive lineman.
Round 4, pick 118: This team no doubt will draft a defensive lineman here, assuming they haven’t done that already. They clearly need to beef up in the nose tackle spot and a 4th round pick is a prime area to do so. There is a chance they could draft a second linebacker in this spot as well.
Round 5, pick 157 and pick 173: There are any number of directions the team could go in the fifth round with these two picks. I anticipate they will be drafting a running back somewhere in the late rounds and having two picks in the fifth, it makes sense to use one of them on a backup running back who can be a third down guy and a guy who can play special teams as well. Additionally, they may elect to use the other pick on another cornerback as the team needs more than just one and you can still find decent nickel backs later in the draft.
Round 6, pick 192 and pick 215: The two picks in the sixth round will go to whomever the team feels is the best left on their draft board. However, I would expect a second linebacker to be taken somewhere in here as the team will want to bolster the depth they have at that position if they haven’t addressed this already. I won’t be shocked if the team also selects another young quarterback in this round. This may be a guy who won’t make the team but he could be a good guy during pre-season, a practice squad guy or he may have the potential to be the third string quarterback of this storied franchise.
Round 7, pick 230: This will truly be the best player left on the teams’ board. Whoever is picked here will be a long shot to make the squad in 2014 but could again be a practice squad player. I look for this final pick to be an offensive lineman to add depth at the position during the pre-season to ensure their main guys are uninjured heading into regular play.
This draft will be heavily centered around the defensive side of the ball. It’s time to re build and re shuffle that unit and there is no better way and no faster way to do so than in the draft. The key now is for the Steelers grades on these players to be accurate, their projections to hold true and the character of all of these guys to be what it needs to in order to make a successful NFL player both on and off the field.
The clock is ticking…
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association www.steelnationassociation.com- Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.