Steelers are 30 days behind in draft preparation....

That was what Mike Tomlin said so famously after beating the Cardinals in the Super Bowl, and that's the same situation now. But the past thirty days have help put the team's strengths and weaknesses in sharper focus. Let's all take a look at what we've seen, and how it might impact at the Player Selection Meeting or whatever they call it......


1) We've been pleasantly surprised by the offensive line. Troy Aikman - during the Super Bowl broadcast - called Maurkice Pouncey "the best rookie lineman I've ever seen." (Homer called Pouncey exactly that a month ago.) Pouncey went down against the Jets, and Legursky filled in brilliantly. We have seen that Legursky certainly can be counted on as a fill-in, and may be good enough to start at guard. We've also seen that the Hotel was operating well at the end of the year. He's a road grader, and has gas left in the tank. With Starks and Colon hopefully coming back, the OL should be better and surely much deeper than this year. As much as we would all love to see the Pouncey twins playing alongside each other, the chances of taking Mike with pick #31 seem diminished because of more pressing needs in the DB. That doesn't mean the FO shouldn't try to trade up in round two or package some draft picks (and/or players) to get MikeP after they address the DB needs. 


2) Our fears and concerns about the defensive backfield have been confirmed. The hard truth is that Ike Taylor is your only worry-free starter. He has the speed and cover skills to be a shut-down corner. And while Troy Polamalu is deservedly DPOY, he has a history of injury, did not play the last quarter of the season at 100%, and his physical style makes his susceptible to even more injuries in the future. Speed is his currency, and Troy at 85% is a huge dropoff from a healthy Troy. He needs a quality back-up, and Ryan Mundy has shown he can do the job. 

Ryan Clark is a great hitter, and he's an explosive tackler and great against the run. But he's been around for a while, and has left a lot of himself on the field - including his spleen. He lacks great closing speed. BMAC was falling apart physically during the last part of the season, with all kinds of hip and leg ailments. His heart was stout, but the wheels were falling off. Gay was coached up into a solid nickel back in the regular season, but his cover skills were sorely tested by Rogers. At times in the early season, it looked like Anthony Madison would have a hard time covering a corpse with a white bedsheet, but he played better in the playoffs. Lewis is said to have a lot of raw skill, and there's been a lot of buzz about Butler, but we saw little of either during the season.

2a) What the playoffs confirmed is that the Steelers have two great defensive backs, and a big drop-off after that. LeBeau has been able to neutralize that weakness by throwing different looks at the quarterback, dropping linebackers into coverage, and employing the zone blitz. But elite quarterbacks like Rodgers and Brady - when they get enough time - can pick it all apart.  The Steelers number one need seems to be a shutdown cornerback. They also need another safety, although Coach Dad could probably tell us if Butler or Lewis can fill that bill.

3) The Steelers are well-stocked at linebacker. Their backups could start on many teams. The only glaring need is the need to resign Woodley and make sure PotDog sticks around for another year.

4) The Steelers are well-stocked at wide receiver. Their backups could start on many teams. The only glaring need is to make sure Ward plays another year. 

5) The Steelers are well-stocked at running back. Their backup has superhuman powers. The major need to is to continue the development of Redman and Dwyer and to determine if MeMo is still the best choice for the remaining running back spot. Based on what he did in the playoffs and SB, he is until someone beats him out for the job.

6) The Steelers are well-stocked at starting quarterback. Their backups had a 3-1 record to start the season, and that included 2-1 by the fourth stringer. There is actually the need to upgrade behind Ben, but that might be best addressed by a free agent signing. It's often better to have a veteran back-up to throw in there when your starter goes down. Dixon's history of leg injuries means you should have somebody else ready, just in case. Lefty and Batch are high quality guys with obvious strengths (and weaknesses). You always look to upgrade, but the key to that is never underestimate what you already have.

7) The Steelers are woefully short in Tight Ends, but only in the mind of Bruce Arians. Miller is all-world. Johnson has been an excellent blocker and role player. Spaeth's blocking his actually improved, especially downfield (I just threw up in my mouth as I wrote that), and he is tall enough to catch Ben's red zone alley-oopers, but we remember that Spaeth failed twice in the final seconds against the Jets in the regular season.

8) The Steelers are well-stocked in the defensive line, with the emergence of Ziggy Hood in the late season and the playoffs. The rest of the DL is on the wrong side of 30, so this is another one of those wonderful situations where they can draft someone and give him at least a year to develop. That's what they did with Timmons and with Ziggy. Smith will probably be back next year, and the other guys will be pushed by Steve McLendon. And when Smitty or Snack or Hokey retire, this year's draft choice will be groomed and ready. 

9) Agree to and sign the damned CBA! Otherwise, this is just a frivolous exercise. 


So, what have we learned in the past 30 days about draft needs?  First, that the OL may be better next year than we thought because of the play of the Big Legursky and Flo. Second, that the DL may be better next year than we thought because of the emergence of Hood. And third, that the DB is the one area that needs the most upgrading. 

We have confirmed that the team is as deep as any in the NFL, and - while every draft choice is valuable - the Steelers are in the envious position of being able to package a couple of picks to draft up. Many teams need quantity to fill out their rosters. The Steelers just had (arguably) their best draft in 35 years, and their needs are more limited. 

Your thoughts? What have we learned (or confirmed)? Have the Steelers'  needs changed or become more clearly in focus?

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