As some of you may know, I’m the Steelers Analyst for Drafttek.com. Drafttek is a website that uses a matrix of team needs along with an extensive ranked player list to generate NFL draft simulations. It’s a great resource to produce a realistic draft without knowing all the college players. In my role as analyst I assign priority codes to positions according to need. Thought I’d share my evaluation of our needs at present.
Please note that the needs here in most cases do not assume the return of a UFA unless they’re an older vet unlikely to shop around as much.
OC: Pouncey is under contract and expect Legursky to be back as a RFA. No needs
OG: Colon is a potential cap casualty and is perennially injured. DeCastro locks down the right side. Foster is an UFA. Beachum is under contract and may be considered here although it would be falsely optimistic to think he should be anything other than “in the mix” at Latrobe next summer. Gilbert may be an option at guard (although for player safety I advocate moving him to wide out). Malecki is on the outside of the bubble. In summary, there is one good starter under contract, and another decent starter testing FA. I categorized this as a position where we’d like to draft a starting caliber player. If Foster signs or they bring in a different FA, then This would be scaled back to late round depth.
OT: Adams, Foster, and Gilbert are under contract and I think it’s reasonable to assume that Starks can be brought back for Vet minimum again. There’s room for another guy here, particularly one with LT skills. I would suppose that the pecking order at LT would be Starks / Gilbert / Adams. I categorized the need here as a depth need for LT guys only. Considering the #17 pick though, the team will get an uncommon shot at some top tier LT prospects.
TE: Heath will be rehabbing this offseason. Paulson is under contract and hopefully hitting the weights. David Johnson was waived injured in the preseason -- maybe in the mix in camp. Pope will be a FA who should not be pursued. I categorized this as a position where we’d like to draft a starting caliber player with the size to play on the line. This draft is thin at the top for TE so even a top need is likely a round 3 or 4 pick. This might be a position where some FA depth may make sense to give some more veteran presence while Heath gets back to 100%.
WR: Under contract you have Antonio Brown and Cotchery. Sanders is a RFA and will be tendered. Wallace and Burress are UFA. Wallace should be let go unless he can be had on the cheap, honestly he makes more sense on a team with a more vertical passing philosophy. Burress may be worth a Vet minimum offer. WR is categorized as a depth need.
FB: I expect Will Johnson to keep the job, fending off some UDFA type in camp.
RB: RFA Dwyer and Redman will be back. Rainey and Batch will be under contract and in camp as well. Mendenhall is gone as an UFA. This is a bit of an odd position. The team could be improved by a top tier back but if they don’t pick one in the first two rounds, may as well wait until the later rounds and get some additional depth.
QB: Same situation as in past years. Late round pick if anything. Really should bring back Jerrod Johnson or another journeyman FA type who’s bones are not made of dust.
NT: The team carried 3 guys this year with Ta’Amu redshirting and demolishing the south side. Hampton is a FA who may be brought back as depth. RFA McLendon by rights should have been the starter this year anyway. Fanguopo was picked off the waiver wire late in the season. Between the 4 of these guys we should be able to find 2 keepers.
DE: Keisel at 34 is entering the last year of his contract without slowing down at all, Heyward looks good but needs work versus the run. Hood is underwhelming but is hardly a disaster. Al Woods is filling in the 4th spot. A mid round depth pick here would be appropriate to give some competition in camp. Preferably a more stout LDE type
OLB: Harrison and Woodley are under contract although production has been down. Worilds has had a couple good games. Rookie Adrian Robinson looked good last pre-season rushing the passer. This is kind of similar to RB where we could use a top talent or some mid round depth. Considering the percentages in producing a 3-4 OLB, Colbert may not go for this in the first round.
ILB: Timmons and Spence are under contract, Foote will come back for Vet minimum or close to it. Sylvester is a RFA and may not be tendered but might sign and compete in camp. This is a Depth need although an elite player in the first is not out of the question.
S: Clark and Polamalu are well over 30 nearing the end of their contracts. UFA Will Allen has been a capable backup. UFA Mundy, much less so. Golden and DCS are also under contract. I’d expect the team to try to re-sign Allen and pick a starting caliber safety in the draft.
CB: The team could only find 4 guys worth of a roster spot last summer. That being said, Lewis and Allen are looking like future stars. Lewis is going to be the top FA to retain. Ike will be back next year and Curtis Brown remains in the mix as well. This is a depth need where talent can always be added.
Summary of Needs:
Starter Needs: OG, TE, S
Depth Needs: LT, WR, DE, ILB, CB, OLB
Late Round Needs: RB, QB
FA needs: QB, TE
It’s my opinion that in the first round the Steelers are generally willing to cast a fairly wide net to give themselves some latitude towards picking a position that isn’t the most pressing need. I think that any of the starter or depth needs are fair game in the first round if a special player is on the board. So I could see that for example you’d be willing to take Manti Teo in the first but you wouldn’t necessarily be looking at the best available ILB in round 2 or 3.
Comments most welcome