4 positions the Steelers could look at in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft

We’re thick into the draft prediction season, as the NFL Draft is merely weeks away, which is leaving Steelers fans wondering: what are the team’s needs?

We know what some of the needs are, such as replacing Ryan Shazier at inside linebacker, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean the team will use their first-round pick on one.

With some recent moves this offseason, there are some holes on both sides of the ball that could use fortifying. Here are four positions I believe the Steelers could use their top pick on in the upcoming draft.

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Inside Linebacker

This is the big one folks. Even though Ryan Shazier has stated he wants to return to football, those plans are on hold for 2018, which is also the final year on his current contract.

Players like Shazier don’t grow on trees, which means the Steelers will either have someone in mind that has a first-round grade when they’re on the clock with pick 28, or they’ll pass on the position because a player with a better grade and/or value drops to them instead.

If they don’t force a selection for need, they could go in another direction. The signing of Jon Bostic helps them avoid jumping the gun in the first round. Therefore, there are

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Mike Mitchell: gone.

Robert Golden: gone.

The aftermath of the Steelers offseason is their two most tenured safeties are no longer with the team. They did, however, sign former Packer Morgan Burnett, who should factor prominently into the defense’s plans.

Therefore, I believe safety is something on the table with the Steelers first-round pick. Yet, like the linebacker decision, and maybe to a lesser degree, the position can be passed on if a can’t miss prospect should drop to pick 28.

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Running Back

There isn’t anything on the offensive side of the ball that seems like a necessity, however, that’s where the Steelers could surprise us in this draft.

Le’Veon Bell has been difficult to negotiate with on a long-term deal. Currently, on his second franchise tag (which is already expensive) Pittsburgh could plan for life without Bell by taking a running back with their first pick in the draft.

There are a number of prospects who might fit that bill this year. With a third tag pricing Le’Veon out of Pittsburgh, the Steelers could add some insurance with a top-flight prospect at the position to replace him for 2019 and beyond.

Heck, let’s take that back a step further: Bell hasn’t been the healthiest or least trouble-prone player on the roster. Another slip up with off-field issues or a major injury might make a running back pick all the more important.

And yes, I’m aware of who James Conner is. I’m also aware that when the Steelers had a solid backup in DeAngelo Williams, it still wasn’t enough to get past injury bugs and depth.

This is a position I’d strongly consider come draft day.

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Ben will be back for a few more years, which usually makes me lean toward not taking a quarterback. On the other hand, he’s not getting any younger, and this year’s draft may be the deepest with high-grade passer prospects in recent years.

That means the Steelers could start planning for the future in 2018. If they were to select a quarterback, it would be for a few reasons.

First, any quarterback taken in the first round this year could viably be on the roster for the next five. I don’t see that player getting a shot at playing time until at least year three, but that also allows the young signal caller to learn from the franchise’s greatest of all time.

Second, NFL teams must (I repeat, must) have a backup plan. Quarterback is the most important position on the roster. For as much as fans loathe the current backup situation, the Steelers have been lucky to have mixed results with Landry Jones, who has shown to be capable of winning games. That’s more than what could be said of other teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys years ago when Tony Romo went down, or the Green Bay Packers, who lost Aaron Rodgers last season.

Jones enters the final year of his contract, while last year’s fourth-round pick Joshua Dobbs is a developmental player entering his second season. It may not be the worst idea to add depth, and another developmental player, behind Big Ben.

Whether or not the Steelers do that, however, is a mystery. I still feel taking a QB would be a luxury pick when there are other potential needs for the team to fill. (See the three positions above!) However, I have tempered my feelings on being 100% against the inevitable: that the team will eventually need someone to step in for Roethlisberger.

Whether that’s when Ben retires, or if he gets injured, I believe it must be on the mind of the Steelers decision makers.

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