The NFL draft is all about making your future team better, and maybe helping this year's team a bit, and occasional some poorly run franchises target a player to sell a few tickets. Sucks to be them. Guessing who will be available and who the team will pick is tough, but, determining who the Steelers plan to replace is a little simpler. Basically the team expects everyone from R1-R4 to stick and maybe a palyer or two from R5+. So, who's out?
QB: starter, vet backup, young potential starter: no picks here, of course they need another arm for august but they won't waste a pick.
Center: Both the starter and the backup are potential targets. Hartwig is easily replaceable and the Steelers could get a starter in R1. It's also a good year to ditch the contract Hartwig signed last year without a cap hit. Everyone loves Legursky and wants him to be the man, but, he hasn't wrestled the position away from a marginal starter. Strong chance of R1 pick or even R2 pick expected to start sooner than later. Legursky has to show he's nearly as good as Hartwig for the back-up role. No chance the Steelers draft a center late again, it's just wasteful unless the dude can long snap.
Guard: Kemo's young, under contract, adequate, and hopefully getting better. Kudos to Essex for developing into a marginal starter at Guard and Tackle. He's easily replaceable with a R1 starter, which would send tony Hills to the unemployment line. Interesting position as R2-R3 talent should be better than Urbik. It's very soon to give up on a young player like that, but if Kemo, Essex, Foster, Legursky, and draft pick are all better than him then....Day 1 pick guaranteed unless Steelers are confident Urbik can play.
Tackle: Rather strong position with starters Starks entrenched by mass and contract and Colon going nowhere this year but is not under contract for next. Hills goes first , but Essex and Foster are the backups likely battling for spots with any picks. Steelers kept just 9 OL last year, mostly because they only had 7 who could play. Maybe one new Guard and one new Tackle and the Steelers keep 10, sending just Hills away. 1 Middle to late rounder +UDFA attempting to earn 1 roster spot is likely.
WR: No room for any bodies here. Ward/Holmes/Wallace and now Randle El are gonna have to fight for balls. A middle round backup who can play ST- oh wait, already signed that guy (Battle). No R1-R5 picks wasted here, maybe R6-R7 for the practice squad. Tonio doesn't get fat payday, why do that now if there is no football next year?
RB: Mendenhall and Moore are solid. Team employed FWP(98/389) and needs to replace him. No power back or FB was utilized last year. Summers, Redman, and R3, R4 picks will battle for the part time roles available. no way the Steelers draft a RB in R1.
TE: This is tricky. Will Arians keep 5, 6? Hopefully he learned that Spaeth is not suited to start and anchor the end of the offensive line. McHugh is replaceable by middle/late/UDFA blocking TE, Johnson also. Spaeth is only valuable if Miller is out but should never dress if Miller is healthy. Might be easy to cut him but keep his stuff in the locker, who else wants a guy that can't block and has rarely been used in the passing game?
DL: Hampton/Smith/Kiesel/Hood are staying. Steelers used a #1 last year and never played him, even though the starter at his spot was out?? Not likely to happen again. Hoke is marginally replaceable by R1 talent, but why would you use that pick for a guy who will back up fat Casey for 2 years and then only play one or two downs in the future? Stopping the run has not been a problem nor will it be for the next couple of years. Expect a PS NT and another middle/late pick to battle Harris for the last active DE spot.
LB: Fox and Woodley are up after this season, Farrior is probably done already; plus he's another guy to cut now and avoid the cap hit. Frazier and Bailey are replaceable. That leaves Timmons and Harrison. Woodley is a very high priority to resign, ILB is a must for the draft. It appears that Timmons will replace Farrior full-time while Foote plays on running downs, not sure who will play on passing downs but I'm hoping for DB. Expect Steelers to get an OLB in R4-R5 and more late. McClain in R1 is strong possibility. Expect Farrior, Frazier, and Bailey to battle for the last LB spot.
S: Pola and Clark, Allen and Mundy. Seems like high draft pick not very likely. Middle to late likely to battle for Mundy's and/or Allen's role.
CB: Ike is still the #1. Burnett/Lewis/Gay appear as talented as any DB available in draft. One more can be added to send Madison or Gay home.
Best Guess: Steelers should be and probably are willing to move up whenever they get a shot. R5+ picks are likely no better than young players the Steelers already have. Redman makes team but dresses only if Mendenhall, Moore or draft pick can't go, Summers becomes fullback, new Guard starts week 1, new CB rarely plays or dresses as Pola, Lewis/Burnett (and the lack of Farrior) make huge difference in secondary. Steelers employ P.Czeck or someone like him to KO.
That's a lot of blabbering. In a nut shell, which players are likely not Steelers on opening day? Mine are Hartwig, Hills, Johnson, McHugh, Farrior, Bailey, Frazier and Madison.