These are the Steelers off-season and draft priorities as I understand them. Explanations follow, with occasional names for likely draft targets.
WR/TE – A major weapon in Round 1-2. May be the only offensive pick!
RB – A pick in Round 5-7, especially if Jonathan Dwyer departs.
OL – Round 6-FA for depth and prospects.
DL – A major weapon in Round 1-2, or Round 6-FA depth.
OLB – A major weapon in Round 1, or Round 3-6 option(s) to convert from College DE’s.
ILB – A major weapon in Round 1, or nothing.
SAFETY – A pick in Round 1-4, probably in 3-4 because of the player distribution.
CB – A veteran in free agency + a pick in Round 1-4, probably in Round 2.
STEELERS NEEDS/DESIRES ON OFFENSE
There are very few "needs" on Offense but there are a few "desires" at WR, TE, and RB. The Offensive Line won’t be addressed until the late rounds, and more likely by picking up some depth prospect as rookie free agents.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Losses to Expect. Sanders will be gone in Free Agency, and Burress will retire.
Needs/Desires. We could use a genuine weapon at either WR or TE. The WR would complement Antonio Brown and make our receiving corps a unit for others to serious fear. An elite TE would give us a tremendous attack from the two-TE set and would be the eventual heir for Heath Miller, who will turn 32 in October, 2014.
Draft Outlook. This is a very strong class for receivers and it would not be surprising to see the Steelers spend their 1st or 2nd round pick on a special talent. This would give Ben a shiny new toy and allow the rest of the class to focus heavily on defense. WR’s to watch in the 1st include Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, and Marqise Lee, and in the 2nd Odell Beckham, Jr., Davante Adams, Brandon Coleman, Allen Robinson, and Jordan Matthews. There are a few more who would be good values for a 3rd-round compensation pick. At TE, the names to watch are Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins.
Losses to Expect. Jonathan Dwyer is a free agent this year, and played well in his back-up role. The Steelers will offer him a moderate contract like the 1.3 Million deal they made with Isaac Redman before 2013. Another team may well outbid them, however.
Needs/Desires. Bell is the future as our #1 back. If Dwyer leaves the Steelers could use a #2, and it wouldn’t hurt to get a shifty scatback who will stay healthier than Jones and Stephens-Howling.
Draft Outlook. It would be shocking to see a pick before the late 4th, and then only if the Steelers sense a real bargain.
2013 Roster: Marquise Pouncey (IR), Fernando Velasco (IR), Cody Wallace, Ramon Foster, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, Mike Adams, Eric Olsen, Abdullah the Butcher a/k/a Guy Whimper, Levi Brown (IR), and Chris Hubbard. Add Nick Embernate who was essentially on IR from the 2013 Practice Squad.
Losses to Expect. None that require serious worry. At Center we should be able to sign Velasco and/or Wallace as a quality backup to Pouncey. At Guard we are loaded, especially if Embernate lives up to his pre-injury promise. And we have three young, starter-quality Tackles plus our choice of either Abdulla or Levi Brown for veteran depth.
Needs/Desires. Only the eternal search for the next Kelvin Beachum.
Draft Outlook. The Steelers won’t pick for the OL before the late 5th, and then only if the Steelers sense a superb bargain. It is much more likely that they won’t take anyone at all.
STEELERS NEEDS/DESIRES ON DEFENSE
There will be a lot of picks devoted to the Defense because we are going to lose a lot of veterans going into 2014. Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, and Brett Keisel are almost certainly gone. Either LaMarr Woodley or Jason Worilds will go. Troy may go if they can’t totally reshape his current deal. And Larry Foote may go because of age and injury alone. On top of that, Ziggy Hood’s rookie deal is up and there are questions about whether the Steelers can/will pay what he could get on the free market.
Losses to Expect. Brett Keisel will retire and Ziggy Hood is a Free Agent.
Needs/Desires. With Keisel gone, the only real playmaker on the line is Cam Heyward. So the Steelers have a "desire" for an athlete who they think could be special. As for "needs," Will the Steelers sign Hood? If they do, the DL has plenty of depth. If not, the question is whether the coaches think Arnfelt and/or Nick Williams are ready to start.
Draft Outlook. This class has several players who might offer a special talent on which the Steelers could spend their 1st or 2nd round pick. These include Jadeveon Clowney, Louis Nix, Ra'Shede Hageman, Stephon Tuitt, and Kony Ealy. If we don’t hear one of those names in the first two rounds, don’t expect to hear any DL pick until well into Day Three.
Losses to Expect. Either Woodley or Worilds. Jason Worilds is a free agent and in a position to demand some serious money on the market. Woodley got his argument a few years ago and has completely underperformed because of repeated injuries. The Steelers will not be able to afford both men and there is even an outside chance that they will end up with neither.
Needs/Desires. OLB is looking surprisingly thin despite using their 2013 1st-round pick on Jarvis Jones. This is doubly true because it takes at least a year or two before any college DE can be expected to contribute as a 3-4 OLB. If the Steelers keep only one of the two "W’s", expect them to pick at least one conversion option in the 2nd-4th, and maybe even a second one later in the draft. The draft could also affect things.
Draft Outlook. This class has a three superstars who will likely go in the to 10 but may be snapped up by the Steelers if they fall to #15. The 1st-Round names to watch are Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Barr, and Khalil Mack. The 2nd-Round name to watch is Trent Murphy. After that comes a slew of conversion options. One of those would be a strong favorite for a pick in Round 3-5.
Losses to Expect. Larry Foote may retire but his contract does not make him a target to get pushed out. The ability of Sean Spence to return to his pre-injury form is the biggest question by far.
Needs/Desires. ILB is looking surprisingly deep, so there are no real "needs". The questions arise because Spence, Williams, and Garvin are all young players who still have question marks about their long-term prospects.
Draft Outlook. The Steelers could use a genuine playmaker, but that’s about it. The only prospect who would fill that bill is C.J. Mosley, and he may well be available at #15. If they don’t get Mosley it would be surprising to see any pick at all.
2013 Roster: Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, Shamarko Thomas, Will Allen, and Robert Golden. [NOTE: The team lists Curtis Brown (on IR) as a "DB" rather than a "CB". Might that indicate an ability to play Safety?]
Losses to Expect. Ryan Clark will retire, and Troy will have to seriously rework his contract. I expect that to get done, but also assume that he will not play past 2015 and maybe not even 2014.
Needs/Desires. "Headache" looks like a great pick from last year, but the Steelers still need depth at Safety and especially for the long term.
Draft Outlook. It is a very weak class at Safety. The only one who might be worth a 1st round pick is HaHa Clinton-Dix. After him, there is a cluster of about seven or eight Safeties with 2nd-3rd round grades. These include Tre Boston, Dion Bailey, Deone Bucannon, Ahmad Dixon, Calvin Pryor, Ed Reynolds, Terrence Brooks, and Quandre Diggs. If one of those names is available in the 4th, expect to hear it called.
Losses to Expect. Ike Taylor is finally losing a step and his contract is prohibitively large. In the ideal world he would sign a much smaller one-year deal but that will be hard to get done. Probably impossible.
Needs/Desires. Cornerback is probably the team’s biggest need, which hurts even more because they take some time to develop. Don’t be surprised if this position is addressed in Free Agency. The Steelers could really use another veteran to hold down this position until the rookie class can be ready to play.
Draft Outlook. It is a moderately weak class at Corner with most of the top prospects clustered toward late-1st to early-2nd value. The top two are Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert, but even they would be reaches at #15. If we don’t hear one of those names in the 1st, it would almost be a surprise if we didn’t hear one of these in the 2nd or 3rd: Aaron Colvin, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Loucheiz Purifoy, Bradley Roby, Jason Verrett, Kyle Fuller, Tre Boston, Lamarcus Joyner, or Marcus Roberson. There are a few more 3rd-round grades too.