Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert doesn't like to use the word "need" when discussing specific positions on his football team that he's looking to address in a draft. I understand that sentiment. After all, when a team drafts for need, there is a very real danger it will reach for a player--"With the 13th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Troy Edwards, wide receiver, Louisiana Tech."
However, after an 8-8 campaign, followed by several key personnel departures in March, there was no sugar coating things as Steeler Nation looked to Thursday evening's proceedings: The Pittsburgh Steelers needs were many as they prepared for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Most drafts are unknowns, but this year's was one I didn't really have a feel for. And, unlike previous years, I wasn't married to a specific position or player I wanted to see the team nab in the first round.
As most experts had pointed out leading up to the first round, it wasn't real top-heavy in-terms of (perceived) can't miss top 10 talent. But the general thought-process was there was a lot of depth at specific positions, such as at wide receiver, for example.
With so many key departures, and so many needs to address, what direction would Pittsburgh go?
Would the team address the very big question mark that is outside linebacker as well as a need for a dynamic play maker on defense ("splash plays" were few and far between over the last two seasons) and select Georgia's Jarvis Jones? If ever there was a perfect fit between a player and a specific team need, it was Jones to the Steelers. However, with more teams switching to a 3/4 defense--including the Saints under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan--would Jones even make it to the Steelers at 17?
And outside linebacker wasn't the only position on the defense that needed to be addressed.
With Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark both on the wrong side of 30, would Pittsburgh select its safety of the future in Texas' Kenny Vaccaro? Not only would Vaccaro be a safety "apprentice" under Polamalu and Clark, with the departures of both Will Allen and Ryan Mundy via free agency, Vaccaro would add some much needed young talent and depth to the position.
With the uncertainty surrounding Sean Spence, last year's third round pick, due to the devastating knee injury he suffered in the final preseason game, would the Steelers go after inside linebacker Arthur Brown of Kansas St. to finally address finding a younger replacement for James Farrior?
Moving on to the other side of the ball.
On offense, there were several needs following the departures of Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall via free agency, combined with the knee injury suffered by Heath Miller in the penultimate game of the 2012 season.
Even with those above-mentioned players on the roster and contributing for the better part of the past two seasons, the offense still struggled to score points--including last season under new OC Todd Haley, where the unit finished 22nd in scoring after finishing 21st in 2011.
And while two-thirds of "Young Money"were still on board thanks to Emmanuel Sanders' one year deal, there was still a possible need for a true No. 1 caliber receiver. At 6'2, 216 lbs, would Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson be a possibility? Or as some publications suggested, would his skills be a little too raw and unpolished?
Would Pittsburgh follow the recent trend toward the big, athletic tight ends and select Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert as both a complement to Heath Miller as well as a possible early season replacement until Miller is 100 percent recovered from his serious knee injury?
Or would the departure of Mendenhall along with less than stellar 2012 campaigns by both Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer force the Steelers' into possibly reaching for a featured back, like Alabama's Eddie Lacy?
As it turned out, when it came time for the 17th selection, several players projected to land in Pittsburgh were still on the board.
With the rather quick selection of Jones, the Steelers perhaps made it clear what position they needed to address the most. And like they've done so many times in the recent past, they did so with a productive player from a big-time school.
Will Jones be the latest in a long history of productive Steelers outside linebackers?
It's too early to answer that question, obviously, but as I illustrated above, Pittsburgh addressed just one need by drafting Jarvis Jones in the first round. There are still several more for Colbert, Mike Tomlin and the rest of the front office to work through as the draft heads into the weekend.