Much has been made about what the Steelers biggest need is on defense. A defense that generated just 10 interceptions (29th) and 34 sacks (25th) last year. It seems that most are in agreement that the Steelers 1st round pick seems destined to bring help on defense. But which "need" on defense is the most critical to address? The most common answers to this question include cornerback and defensive line. Maybe a safety? A linebacker? Truth is, this team needs at least help in the form of depth all over. But what is it that the Steelers really NEED on defense?
Beyond any one position, I would argue that this team needs a playmaker. At whichever position that is, I think that's what this defense is really lacking. In years past, it was Harrison, Woodley (when healthy), and Troy that could be counted on for that interception, sack, or "splash play". Harrison and Woodley have since moved on, and Troy at 32 isn't quite the same dynamic player that he once was. The lack of interceptions is not simply explained by Ike's bad hands and the lack of sacks not explained by a bum-Woodley and rookie Jarvis. This team needs a new dynamic playmaker on defense (not named Timmons). Badly. One that QB's have to account for pre-snap. One that offensive coordinators have to gameplan around. They don't need another solid player in the 1st round. They desperately need a playmaker.
So, what defensive players are likely to be available at 15? Any # of corners including Roby and Dennard could be available. Safeties Clinton-Dix or Pryor. D-line guys such as Hageman or Nix. Linebackers Mosely and Shazier.
Who's the biggest playmaker of the bunch? While I'm sure this will be debated, my vote is Shazier. Sub 4.40 speed and a 42 inch vertical makes for a very explosive playmaker in the middle of this defense. Some will knock his size at 6'1" and 237 (Farrior was 6'2" 240 for much of his career and played even lighter at the end), and some will say he over pursues. But this kind of explosiveness in a linebacker is very unique. Teams will have to account for where he is on the field, which leads to the best part. Versatility. He can rush from the outside, blitz, cover and tackle (144 of them, to be exact for "The OSU" last year). Truly a three-down player. Given that 65% of last season was spent in sub-packages, there's a lot LeBeau can do with this type of player. Combine all of that with the intangibles (smart, instinctive, character guy, and team captain) and this seems like just the guy needed next to Timmons.
I wouldn't blink taking him at 15, but he can probably be had at 19 or 20 before Green Bay is on the clock, allowing a trade down with Miami or Arizona. Yes, there are positional needs at corner, d-line, and WR. You can find solid players and contributors later. You cannot find this kind of playmaker later.