The 2015 NFL Draft is less than a month away (April 30th) and the Pittsburgh Steelers are narrowing their search of potential prospects who might be available with their No. 22 selection. NFL teams have draft need lists in terms of importance. These lists can change with free agent signings, as well as player availability. Here is BTSC's Steelers' Draft Needs 1.0.
1. Cornerback: Some might argue the Steelers needs to have outside linebacker at their top position, but in today's NFL it is becoming more and more important to have a solid secondary. The importance of a solid coverage defensive back can aid the pass rush, just as the pass rush can aid a poor secondary. However, looking at the draft, the Steelers have a better chance of getting an NFL ready defensive back in the first round at CB compared to OLB, barring them trading up in the draft. Therefore, CB takes precedence as the team's top need.
2. Outside Linebacker: One of the main reasons outside linebacker is listed second is James Harrison's return to the team. Had the Steelers not brought Harrison back for the 2015 season OLB would certainly be at the top of this list. Harrison is expected to be brought in under the label of a 'support' player, playing only in specific situations and not an every down starter. Harrison joins Arthur Moats and Jarvis Jones at the OLB position heading into 2015, and although the group doesn't scream confidence, there are reasons to believe the team will be able to pressure the quarterback with members on the current roster.
3. Defensive Line: The Steelers recently re-signed Clifton Geathers to a one-year contract, but he and Cam Thomas could both be expendable if the team is able to draft a defensive end/tackle who shows the same capabilities Stephon Tuitt showed in 2014. Tuitt was in a reserve role, spelling players like Cameron Heyward and Brett Keisel, and by the year's end was a regular in the lineup. The Steelers have players along the defensive line, but their depth is certainly an issue moving forward.
4. Tight End: Yes, the Steelers re-signed Matt Spaeth to a new two-year contract, but the team desperately needs to look for Heath Miller's eventual replacement. Miller might be entering his final year in a Steelers uniform, and the team is desperate for a pass catching tight end who can also block. The team drafted Rob Blanchflower in the 2014 draft, but Blanchflower spent the season on the practice squad. Give Ben Roethlisberger an athletic tight end who can not only catch short passes down the seam, but also stretch the field and it would add yet another weapon to an already stellar offensive unit.
5. Offensive Guard: The Steelers have one of the best young guards in the game with David DeCastro, but the team hasn't been as pleased with the guard opposite DeCastro, Ramon Foster. Foster lacks the speed and athleticism required to run many of the pulling plays the Steelers deploy, and drafting a young athletic guard who can develop into a starter should certainly be on the team's draft list. Versatility will be key with this player as he could fill in as a backup for multiple positions across the offensive line.
6. Safety: Many would want this to be listed much higher considering the unknown situation with veteran Troy Polamalu and the inconsistencies of Mike Mitchell. Mitchell played 2014 injured, and when fully healed, and playing alongside a more conventional safety, 2015 will be a better gauge for Mitchell's success within the Steelers' system. Some don't believe in Shamarko Thomas, but the Steelers drafted him for this reason. He has spent two years learning the team's 3-4 scheme, and should be ready to earn a starting role in training camp this year. The team doesn't need a high profile safety, but addressing the position very well could be on the team's list heading into the draft.
7. Offensive Tackle: Marcus Gilbert signed a nifty new contract before the 2014 season, and Kelvin Beachum is hoping for a pay day before the 2015 season, but the team's only depth at tackle is in the form of Mike Adams. Adams was forced into starting duty on several occasions in 2014, and played a respectable game on occasion, but the Adams which resembles a turnstile still popped up more often than not. As Adams enters the final year of his rookie contract, the team might want to try and find another Beachum-type player who is versatile along the offensive line, including the tackle position.
8. Wide Receiver: The Steelers have a lot of receivers on their roster, but competition only breads success. Drafting a hungry wide out in the later rounds has proven beneficial to the program before (i.e. - Antonio Brown), and doing so again would only add to the depth at a position which currently has Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward Bey as the primary receivers.