Apparently the bye week is the hot time for draft talk, so here’s my bit. I feel that the Steelers 2012 draft strategy should change to incorporate more upward movement. By that I mean I want to sacrifice late/future picks to gain higher picks. If any team can afford to use that approach, it’s a deep, championship caliber team like ours.
Let me start with a quick breakdown of each unit for the near future.
QB- Ben is an elite QB for 5-8 more years and we have good backups for now.
RB- Deep group with Mendy, Redman, Dwyer, and Moore/Batch.
WR- Young Money + Ward/“Crotchety” = maybe the best corps of four league-wide.
TE- We have a Now & Later with Heath and Saunders then DJ in reserve.
OL- Pouncey and Gilbert should be solid for a long time. I want Colon at guard and Starks back on whichever side Gilbert is not. The rest are good/decent backups, but not more than that.
DL- Keisel, Hampton, Hood, Heyward, Hoke, McLendon can still excel as a group next year. Big Snack needs a salary reduction, but hasn’t lost as much as some think. Hoke has still played well this year.
LB- Timmons and Woodley long-term with Harrison, Worilds, Carter, and Sly all in the mix for a few years.
DB- Surprisingly better, at least so far this year. Polamalu and Ike are locks for a few years. We have a promising future in Lewis, Allen, Brown, Mundy, and if he remains productive, Gay. This could be the first offseason in years that CB is not a big issue.
We are solid at almost every unit. Our current and impending needs are OL, NT, FS, and ILB if Sylvester doesn’t pan out. I would also include a reliable kicker. Personally, I am one who believes we need a FB and no more Arians, but I suppose that’s another story for another time.
Now why would this strategy make sense for 2012? Several reasons. The highly (but not too highly) projected players match our needs well. We have added deep drafts/undrafted players in recent years. While we will lose some veterans, it will only be a handful of declining guys. That all adds up to mean we only need a couple starters/contributors and a little depth. With two picks in the range of mid-first round to early second round, we could gain the two BPAs from among:
OL - Glenn, DeCastro, Reiff, B. Jones, Osemele
NT - Ta’amu, Chapman
ILB - Te’o, Keuchly, Hightower
FS - Barron, McDonald, not really sure who all is FS but there are lots of safeties
There are others in this range, but I’m not looking too far into individuals right now.
Adding two instant impact rookies to a great, deep team would be a real boost. Imagine our offense, with all its strengths at the skill positions, operating with a line of Gilbert, Pouncey, Colon(at G), Starks(who’s still only 30) plus a bona fide first rounder. That’s an entire offense with no real weakness (other than the OC). Then imagine our defense with a fast playmaking FS next to Troy or a young star at ILB/NT.
Considering our recent history, we can almost count on one or two late round/undrafted training camp competitors to add depth. Especially if we bring back any former prospects; Thaddeus Gibson, Mario Harvey, Keith Willliams, Anthony Gray, Crezdon Butler, Donovan Warren to name some.
The debate here is whether you would rather have another seven picks to work with or four/five picks with a couple immediate contributors. I say it’s not worth cutting a bunch of guys several months after selecting them when we only need upgrades or contingencies at a few spots. Of course, the risk of fewer picks is that a couple of them don’t meet expectations, but we always succeed in the first round. There are always cheap FA’s to shore up depth in an area.
This is not a sustainable long term strategy, but when feasible it’s well worth the sacrifice. We could add two high impact players to an already great team. That’s not something I see happening with picks 32, 64, 96, etc.