Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers defense against the Cleveland Browns
steelers.com

Can you remember the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers brought their first round pick card to the podium at the NFL Draft and it wasn’t a defensive player?

Okay, I know it wasn’t that long ago, but 2012 is an eternity in pro football!

In fact, since 2007 (Mike Tomlin’s first year as head coach with the Steelers) the Steelers have used all but three of their first round selections (out of ten total) on defensive players. The last offensive player chosen by Pittsburgh was David DeCastro in 2012. (The other two? Maurkice Pouncey in 2010 and Rashard Mendenhall in 2008.)

The Steelers have also gone heavy on defense through the second round as well, taking a player on that side of the ball in the last three drafts: Sean Davis (2016), Senquez Golson (2015) and Stephon Tuitt (2014).

There’s little doubt that the Steelers still have a greater need on defense, as opposed to offense, heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. Despite speculation that Ben Roethlisberger is “looking to add more weapons”, the need to improve the defensive side of the ball, is apparent. Following a crushing defeat in the AFC Championship game last season, the team could still use pass rushers and secondary help. They should be able to get both in a draft considered deep at both positions.

The team has specific needs at outside linebacker, with James Harrison unlikely to play into his forties, and the cupboard is bare with expiring contracts next season.

The cornerback position could still use an upgrade as well, with Ross Cockrell operating under a restricted free agent tender (which he signed on Monday) and the futures of Golson, and veteran William Gay uncertain. Golson has yet to play a down in the NFL, while Gay could be nearing the end of his career.

Pittsburgh will be poised to prep for the future starting now. The offense has plenty of “weapons” at their disposal, with arguably the best receiver and running back in the league on their roster. The offensive and defensive lines also appear set. The additions WR Justin Hunter, the pending reinstatement of WR Martavis Bryant and the return to full healthy of TE Ladarius Green add to those pieces at their disposal.

The defense, on the other hand, added DL Tyson Alualu and CB Coty Sensabaugh but will have to prepare for the departure of Harrison and the hole left by Lawrence Timmons. With Cockrell, plus linebackers Arthur Moats and Anthony Chickillo currently signed through only 2017, I’d be very surprised if the Steelers didn’t stick to defense exclusively in the first few rounds once again.

Pittsburgh has four draft picks in the first three rounds: one each in the first and second rounds, and two in the third round. (They added an additional third round pick via the league’s compensatory system.)

With a slew of talented wide receivers and offensive linemen, look for the Steelers to possibly add a running back to back up Le’Veon Bell, with a possible tight end taken as insurance behind Green as well. However, those two positions hardly trump the need for a “now player” on the edge or in the secondary; someone who can step in this season and immediately impact the defensive side of the ball.

Additions on defense also default to additions on special teams, a unit which could also use a boost in production. Therefore, expect the Steelers to stick to primarily to defenders in this draft.





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