The Steelers have many needs. Yes, it's true, they have signed an awful lot of free agents this offseason (from other teams and everything), but the needs are still aplenty for a team that broke even in the win/loss column over the past 32 regular season games.
The NFL Draft is still approximately a month away, and with so much speculation on who Pittsburgh will select with the 15th pick of the first round, it tells me, again, the needs are aplenty.
So, while rebuilding (yes, I said it) a team back into a playoff and championship contender, what position would be the absolute best to focus on?
Basically, I could blindly throw a dart and probably hit a major need, but if I had my druthers, I might just roll the dice and go cornerback (in a non-reaching kind of way, of course), because it's been an awfully long time since that position was addressed with the high profile first round selection. In fact, not since Chad Scott was selected in Round 1 of the 1997 draft, have the Steelers gone in such a direction so high.
During the years that Ben Roethlisberger suffered physically and the fans suffered emotionally from an offensive line that was lacking in high-end talent thanks to draft additions no higher than the third round from 2003-2009, I was of the opinion that every unit on a football team needed a stud, and if the team wanted to improve the offensive line, the best way to go would be by infusing it with at least one player of high-pedigree.
In stepped center Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh's first round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft (18th, overall), and as soon as he strapped on a helmet and participated in his first practice, it was quite apparent he was the most talented offensive lineman on the roster--and it wasn't even close.
The Steelers spent another first round pick and two second round picks on the offensive line in subsequent drafts, and while these infusions of talent didn't necessarily improve the overall performance of the unit, Pouncey has already been named to three Pro Bowls and is regarded as maybe the best at his position. And my money is on David DeCastro, Pittsburgh's first round pick in 2012, soon achieving that same elite status at the right guard position.
Two Pro Bowl caliber offensive linemen might not equal five, but they provide a talented core to build around. And it proves the point that if you want a stud at a certain position, you can't always hope that a late round pick or undrafted free agent will develop into one (James Harrison, Brett Keisel and Antonio Brown are the exceptions and not the rule), you usually have to target one in the first round.
You want a stud safety, you draft Troy Polamalu; you want a franchise quarterback, you draft a Ben Roethlisberger; you want a stud wide receiver, you draft a Santonio Holmes (crazy, but a stud).
There's no question the Steelers defense can use an infusion of talent (even if it isn't as old as it used to be), and cornerback, a position that's been a sore subject more often than not in recent years, is as good a place to start as any I can think of at the moment.
The Steelers might be thinking along those same lines; according to BTSC's informative prospects visits list, corner is tied with wide receiver for most pre-draft visits to the South Side by players who hope to make their living at those positions; and if most mock drafts are any indication, Pittsburgh could have a shot at one or two highly thought-of corners when its time on the clock commences on May 8.
With this possibly being Ike Taylor's last year with the Steelers, and with Cortez Allen's inability to play both sides of the field at once, corner might be a position that's hard to ignore if a suitable player is available in the first round.
This might be one of the deepest drafts of all time in terms of overall talent, but the possibility of it turning into one on par with the historic 1974 class for the Steelers is highly-unlikely.
Let's face it, as the Emperor would perhaps phrase it, "The Steelers have holes, and they are many," and it's doubtful that all those holes will be filled in the upcoming draft.
This might be the year to take a shot at finding at Pro Bowl-caliber corner in the first round--much like the offensive line, pre-Maurkice, it's been a position that has been bereft of first round talent for far too long.
My money is on Darqueze Dennard of Michigan St. becoming a Pittsburgh Steeler on May 8.