The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that has a rich history. With six Super Bowl trophies, including 4 in six years, and legendary units like the Steel Curtain they have a right to be proud. Unfortunately, the Steelers of today aren't quite as successful. The team finished 8 - 8 the last two years and also missed the playoffs for the second straight season. But even in the face of an unimpressive record there is hope. They finished the year 6 - 2 which showed great improvement from opening the season at 2 - 6. Team President Art Rooney II said "I certainly like the way we finished. We, as far as I'm concerned, should have made the playoffs. The other side of it is we made our bed, unfortunately we got off to a slow start." It's hard not to be excited about the way they finished though.
One area that really tightened up was pass blocking. They only gave up 7 sacks over the last 7 games, which was a great improvement from the 36 they gave up during the first nine. You can't have a productive offense when your quarterback is running for his life. Big Ben is one of the best out there at extending the play, but he's more productive when he feels comfortable in the pocket. The offensive line isn't a strong point, but it also isn't the biggest need in the draft. Keeping Roethlisberger upright allowed him to develop even more chemistry with Brown, which led to the best season of his career. They showed what they're capable of with Brown totaling 110 catches and 1,499 yards, both some of the best numbers in team history. Le'Veon Bell seemed to hit his stride by the end of the season after missing the first 3 games and he should be able to provide a formidable ground attack.
With the 15th overall pick the Steelers will address what they have come to be known for over the years; defense. Today's NFL is known for being a pass heavy league and the Steelers need a new corner to remain competitive. Their best corner, Ike Taylor, turns 34 this year and the young guys on the roster didn't step up last year. They need someone who can develop into a star corner as soon as possible because their starting safeties, 11-year veteran Troy Polamalu and 35 year old Ryan Clark, aren't spring chickens themselves.
With the 15th overall pick the Steelers should be able to get Kyle Fuller, a strong athletic CB from Virginia Tech. At 6-0 190 lbs Fuller plays the position with more versatility than anyone else in the draft. He earned significant time lining up in the "Hokie" (Rover) position for the team. He's shown great ability blitzing off the edge and getting to the quarterback which should play right into the aggressive defensive style of the Steelers. He also has really good instincts and knows how to tackle in space. The Steelers have always had defenses with no free riders, every man was willing to stick his head in there and make a tackle, and Fuller will continue to bring that tough attitude. However, there's a reason he's not the No. 1 CB in the draft and it's because he has some technique issues. He doesn't know how to use the sideline to his advantage and quicker receivers have been able to give him trouble in the past. But those are things he can definitely fix as he develops as a player.
It feels odd to not see the Steelers competing with the top teams in the AFC the last couple years, but the right moves could have them back there sooner than later. General Manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlinson have questions on their roster that need to be answered. But they have enough time to address them, and enough momentum over the course of the 2nd half of last year to not fall off at all. The veteran guys in that locker room all have championship experience and that will help the young guys when things get rough. The future is bright for the Steelers and watching new players carry on the proud Steeler tradition will be fun to watch.