This is a draft piece focusing on key players of the Pittsburgh Steelers that will likely be retiring soon (within the next two years). I will first talk about the player who is retiring soon, then mention a possible 2012 replacement and a possible 2013 draft replacement. Or I will mention if the replacement is already possibly on the team.
Note: Make sure you have time to read all of it as it is a little over 2000 words.QB: Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch
Both Leftwich and Batch have been very valuable backups for the Steelers over the past couple years. Both have won key games in their careers as Steelers, filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger. However, both of these players will likely never suit up again for the Steelers. If this is true, the Steelers would have to spend a late round (or mid round) pick to get a 3rd QB on the roster.
Possible 2012 Option #1: Case Keenum, QB, Houston (Round 5) - Keenum should win the Heisman trophy this year but he has a lot of flaws in his game. He has great accuracy but lacks the size and arm strength of an ideal NFL QB. However, I like his potential as a backup QB.
Possible 2012 Option #2: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (Round 4) - Moore can make all the throws and is very smart but he is undersized and that will cause him to slip. However, I love him as a backup QB but having to spend a 4th round pick on him might be a waste. If he was available in the 5th round I would love him.
Possible 2013 Option #1: E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State (Round 3) - I don't think we can wait until 2013 but if we did, Manuel would be an awesome option. He can make all the throws, is mobile, and has good arm strength. However, he is not a very intelligent QB and tends to force throws.
RB: Mewelde Moore
Moore has been a valuable member to multiple Super Bowl teams. He is one of the best 3rd down backs in the NFL but is getting up there in age and has seen a reduced role. Some think Baron Batch is his replacement but if Batch cant heal from his ACL injury, a replacement must be found.
Possible 2012 Option #1: Lamichael James, RB, Oregon (Round 3): James appears to be a Darren Sproles. He is lightning fast, has good hands, and is very elusive. However, the Round 3 price-tag might be too high for the Steelers to spend on a 3rd down RB.
Possible 2012 Option #2: Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson (Round 6): Ellington appears to be Lamichael James lite. He is very, very fast and has great hands. He has good vision and can make people list. I really like him as a 3rd down back to compete with Baron Batch.
WR: Hines Ward
Ward has had an incredible career with the Steelers and is likely a first-ballot hall of famer. However, when we win our 7th Super Bowl, I think he will retire. Many think the core of Wallace, Sanders, Brown, and Cotchery is good enough but IMO, you need 5WRs to run our offense.
Possible 2012 Option #1: Mohammed Sanu, WR, Rutgers (Round 1): Sanu will almost definitely not be a Steeler because I can't see us spending a 1st round pick on him. However, he is a perfect replacement for Hines. He strives with short and mid range routes, has awesome hands, and is a good blocker. He reminds me of Wes Welker with better speed.
Possible 2012 Option #2: Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M (Round 3): Fuller came into the year as a 1st round prospect but has had a very disappointing year. However, with his size (6'3" 214) he is a very good prospect with the chance of becoming a #1 WR. He needs to work on route running (can be taught) and just needs to become a smarter player.
Possible 2012 Option #3: Derek Moye, WR, Penn State (Round 6): Moye is a huge WR (6'5") with good speed and good hands. He is a good route runner as well. However, terrible QB play has caused his stock to plummet and he would be a huge steal in Round 6. He has the potential to be a dangerous Red Zone WR and pairing him with our group of WRs would be unfair.
LG: Chris Kemoatu
Kemoatu is not old but he is just not very good. Finding a replacement for him would improve the Steelers dramatically.
Possible 2012 Option #1: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (Round 1): DeCastro will command a mid to late first round draft pick but is worth every dime. He is an extraordinary run blocker and a good pass blocker. He reminds me of Steelers great Alan Faneca and pairing him with Pouncey would be awesome.
Possible 2012 Option #2: Kelechi Osemele, OG, Iowa State (Round 2): Osemele is a mauler who is only an average pass blocker. However, he has great upside and with a 2nd round pick, he presents himself as an immediate upgrade. He is basically Kemoatu minus the stupid penalties and plus a little pass blocking skills and a huge upside.
Possible 2012 Option #3: Lucas Nix, OG, Pittsburgh (Round 5): Nix is having a very good year and excels as a pass blocker. He is an average run blocker which will cause him to fall, along with injury concerns. However, I see him as a long term starter and with our pass happy offense, a pass blocker is better than a run blocker.
Possible 2013 Option #1: Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas (Round 1): By the time the 2013 NFL Draft comes around, Bailey will likely be a 1st round pick. He has all the tools to be a dominant Guard in the NFL and could shore up our LG spot, if we choose to leave the keys to the spot to Kemoatu for the 2012 season.
Everyone knows how good Hampton has been since being drafted in the 1st round by Kevin Colbert. However, he is nearing the end of his career and a replacement must be found. Same can be said for Chris Hoke. Steve McLendon seems to have a good set of pass rush moves and therefore, we only need a two down NT. There are some good options for us in this years draft (but they will all cost a high draft pick)
Possible 2012 Option #1: Alameda Ta'Amu, NT, Washington (Round 1): Ta"Amu is a beast of a human and has great power and strength. He consistently eats up double teams and makes it easy for the LBs to rack up tackles. He is not a pass rusher and is a 2 down player but he reminds me of the Big Snack himself.
Possible 2012 Option #2: Josh Chapman, NT, Alabama (Round 2): Chapman is almost as good as Ta'Amu and would serve the same purpose. He might need a year of grooming though and that is why he should be available at the bottom of the 2nd round.
Possible 2012 Option #3: Dontari Poe, NT, Memphis (Round 3): Poe has had an awesome year, consistently dominating the running game. Like the previous two, he is very limited as a pass rusher but his ability to stuff the run will make him a great fit for the Steelers defense. He presents the most value of any of these 3 as his price tag would be much lower.
Both Farrior and Foote have played instrumental roles in both of the Steelers recent Super Bowls. However, the Steelers do not have a long term answer at the 2nd ILB spot (next to Timmons). Stevenson Sylvester looks like a situational player, but luckily for the Steelers, there are tons of options in 2012.
Possible 2012 Option #1: Manti Teo, ILB, Notre Dame (Round 1): Teo is a beast and if not for an incredible ILB class above him (Burfict and Keuchly - however they don't fit our scheme) he would be a top 20 pick. However, I could easily see him falling to the end of the 1st round and pairing him with Timmons would just be unfair.
Possible 2012 Option #2: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama (Round 1 to Round 2): Getting Hightower at his peak value would require trading up in the 2nd round. However, his run stuffing ability paired with Timmons athleticism would be a great duo for the future.
Possible 2012 Option #3: Tank Carder, ILB, TCU (Round 3): Carder has good upside and is very versatile. I really like him as a 3rd round pick if we elect to pick in other spots in the 1st two rounds. His stock is dropping and he might be able to be drafted in the fourth to fifth round by the time April roles around.
Possible 2012 Option #4: Chris Gallipo, ILB, USC (Round 5 to Round 6): Gallipo is great in pass coverage and can make a lot of plays, however it just has not translated into tackles. However, a strong combine could shoot him up into round 3 or round 4, where he would not present good value.
Possible 2013 Option #1: Tom Wart, ILB, Oklahoma (Round 1): Wart will see his stock rise tramatically if he follows up his strong Freshman and now Sophomore seasons with a good Junior season. He is athletically gifted and is one of the best pass rushing ILBs I have ever seen at the college level. Him and Timmons would be the most athletic pair of ILBs in the history of the NFL. However, by April 2013 he will likely be a top 5 to top 10 pick and way out of our range.
FS: Ryan Clark
Clark is nearing the end of his career and has not played very well this season. A high round pick could be spent on finding a FS of the future.
Possible 2012 Option #1: Robert Lester, FS, Alabama (Round 2): Lester is an absolute ball hawk that plays center field and just intercepts tons of passes. He reminds me of a less talented Ed Reed. He is over-shadowed by Mark Barron but at the end of round 2 he presents great upside and pairing him with Troy Polamalu would scare the hell out of opposing offenses.
Possible 2012 Option #2: Ray Ray Armstrong, FS, Miami (Round 3): Armstrong came into the year as a Round 1 prospect but suspension has caused his stock to fall. However, he is a huge hitter with good athleticism and he would be a great center fielder for the Steelers. Both he and Lester could likely replace Clark by 2013.
Possible 2012 Option #3: Brandon Taylor, FS, LSU (Round 5): Taylor has seen a rise to his stock, that could go even higher. He can make all the plays at FS, is always in the right spot (good coaching), and is a great tackler. He is also more than capable of covering Slot WRs if necessary. I love him as Clark's future replacement after a year or two of grooming.
Possible 2013 Option #1: Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma (Round 1): Jefferson will likely end up being a top 15 pick in the 2013 draft (if he declares, he will only have played two seasons in college). He is an absolute ball hawk that can deliver massive hits as well. He had 65 tackles in 9 starts in his Freshman year and was Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Kicker: Shaun Suisham
Suisham needs to go.
Possible 2012 Option #1: Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida (Round 7): Sturgis has been awesome this year. He has hit 16 out of 17 FGs and has a big leg. The only concern is injuries (he missed all of 2010). However, I love him as our future kicker due to his big leg and his accuracy.
Hope you enjoyed this 2000 word piece.