Well, after a nail-biter of a game on monday, we're sitting pretty at 6-2 midway through the season. As the season kicked off, I wrote an article examining our roster and its implications for the 2011 Draft. You can look at my findings here if you want to compare them to this post. I'll keep the same format as the previous post, going through position by position, taking into consideration future retirements, contract situations, and potential (hopeful) development of young players. I'll finish each position with a potential candidate that the Steelers might consider drafting in April. This is meant to open discussion, so many of the picks will be 1st round considerations for the Steelers, unless otherwise stated based on need. More after the jump.
QB: Still no way we spend a 1st round pick on a QB with Ben staying out of trouble; and since Dixon got injured, we can probably resign him to a restricted free agent tender. I'd say a 2nd rounder and see if a QB desperate team bites. Leftwich will be back too, and they can compete for the #2 spot. Pick: Nathan Enderle, Idaho. Late round pick with flashes of potential and good size.
RB: Obviously we're set with Mendenhall, but I dont see Mewelde Moore being resigned after this year. Could use a nice speed/pass catching complement to Mendenhall, and it'll be interesting to see the battle between Redman and Dwyer, because they are very similar in skill set. Pick: Brandon Saine, Ohio State. Pretty bad injury history has limited his production and scares most teams off, but with a late round pick its worth the risk. 4.4 speed and good quickness could be the speed guy in our backfield if he stays healthy.
WR: Winning the Superbowl could actually hurt the team in a way because Hines Ward will retire, which could make this a priority come draft day. Wallace has already exceeded my expectations for the year, as have Sanders and Brown. That gives me a shimmer of hope, leading me to think we wouldn't spend a high pick here. However if we did... Pick: Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh. Local 1st round prospect with near Calvin Johnson size and speed. Finally getting consistent this year.
TE: Miller is one of the best Tight Ends in the league when considering how good a blocker he is. Knowing how much Bruce Arians loves them though, they could grab another late round guy. Pick: Charlie Gantt, Michigan State. Great blocker with average receiving skills. Potentially better than David Johnson as a TE/FB.
OT: After adamant ranting that this was our biggest position of need at the start of the season, I was nearly convinced that I was wrong, and planned to write Cornerback as our biggest need. However, news of Max Starks's injury just hit as I write this, so alas, I have to go back to Tackle. Flozell has really impressed me, which gave me hope to move it down the list, but having both Starting Tackles coming off season ending injury is too risky. Pick: Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State. Good size and really improving this year. Versatility at either Left or Right Tackle, which is important because we wont know about the health of Starks and Colon.
OG/C: If the past two weeks have shown me anything, its that the O-Line is holding this offense back once again. So we could use a top pick on either a Guard or Tackle. Pick: Mike Pouncey, Florida. Did you expect anyone else? Maurkice has exceeded everyones expectations, so if Mike is half as good he'll still be an upgrade over Essex or Legursky.
DE: Aaron Smith's
season ending injury is heartbreaking, and puts more emphasis on the need to replace him and Brett Keisel. Ziggy Hood looks like he'll develop into a good starter, but we'll have to monitor how guys like McLendon, Harris, and Worthington develop. Pick: Nick Fairley, Auburn. We might have to trade up for him if he keeps rising up the boards. He has perfect size for a 3-4 DE and is having a really great year.
NT: Smith's injury makes me more fearful about Hampton as well, so it would be a good idea to get his replacement sooner rather than later. Pick: Jerrell Powe, Mississippi. Not convinced he's a first round talent, but is the consensus top NT in the class.
ILB: Probably not much of a need, even if Farrior does retire. Timmons is lights out this season and Foote, Fox or even Sylvester could probably be good enough next to LT. Then again, you can never underestimate how many Linebackers the Steelers draft on a given year. Pick: Greg Jones, Michigan State. Mid-range pick who is better against the run than the pass. Could develop into a nice complement to the more athletic Timmons.
OLB: Could be a major concern if LaMarr Woodley walks in free agency, as we would have to account for the loss of him and worry about eventually replacing James Harrison. And like I said, you can never have too many Linebackers in Pittsburgh. Pick: Von Miller, Texas A&M. Excellent pass rusher with experience in coverage as well. Ankle injury concerns could drop him into the late first round.
CB: As I said earlier, I was convinced Cornerback was our biggest need until the Starks injury. The Steelers traditionally dont resign veterans past their prime, so Ike Taylor might not be back next year. Add that to the fact that none of our other corners have proven to be close to a #1 corner, we could be in trouble. Pick: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia. He's a great prospect who's skills match what our defense does, but I have a feeling we might be able to get him in the second round. Other Corners around the country have stepped up, and Dowling could get forgotten, especially because he isn't expected to run a great 40 time. Could also possibly switch to Safety if we feel he would be better there.
S: A quality backup for Troy and an heir-apparent for Ryan Clark would be great. If we use a high pick on a Safety, he will likely fill both roles. Pick: Mark Barron, Alabama. Another mid-range pick who has some potential. Extremely smart and instinctive, and has shown the ability to roam the field a bit like Troy.
ST: Sepulveda is great, so no way we draft a punter. But, I said it to start the season and I'll say it again, we need a replacement for Jeff Reed. His kickoffs seem to have gotten worse after they had improved early this season, and he already cost us the Baltimore game and almost cost us Atlanta and Cincinnati too. Plus the chances of him going the whole offseason without getting arrested again are pretty low... Pick: Kai Forbath, UCLA. He's really the only kicker worth drafting this year. He hasn't had a great year, but he's 10 for 13 career from 50+, so he's got a boot.
So, again this is meant to open discussion. I'd love to hear your feedback and ideas and I'll leave you with another poll.