With the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine approaching, and the NFL Draft not too far away, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the process of reviewing prospects, analyzing their current depth chart and putting positional needs on their big board. Common sense would tell us the positions that would be at the top of the list would be the following (in no particular order):
- Edge Rusher
- Offensive Guard
As Mike Mayock of NFL.com does every year, he just released his first edition of his positional rankings. He ranks his Top 5 prospects from each position, and in doing so shows there is plenty of talent at the positions of need for the Steelers.
At safety, the Steelers are in dire straits. Mike Mitchell and Shamarko Thomas are the only returning players with experience, while Will Allen and Robert Golden are set to hit the free agent market at the beginning of March when the new NFL year begins. It seems logical the team will look at free agency, and the upcoming Draft, to address this position.
Mayock's Top 5 Safeties:
1. Karl Joseph, West Virginia
2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State
3. Darien Thompson, Boise State
4. Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
5. Jeremy Cash, Duke
The cornerback position isn't much better, in terms of the Steelers' depth chart. William Gay, Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin are all set to become free agents, leaving only Ross Cockrell, Doran Grant and Senquez Golson as returning cornerbacks with a familiarity with the Steelers' system. A fan favorite for the position the team should target in the first round of the Draft, there is plenty of talent to be had at cornerback in this year's crop of prospects.
Mayock's Top 5 Cornerbacks:
1. Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
2. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
3. Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
4. Eli Apple, Ohio State
5. Cyrus Jones, Alabama
Despite the team investing several first round draft picks in their linebacking corps, the team still needs a difference making edge rusher. Although this might not be the position they target in the first round, there are some talented players who could possibly make an immediate impact on the team's defense in 2016.
Mayock's Top 5 Edge Rushers:
1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State
2. Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
3. Shaq Lawson, Clemson
4. Leonard Floyd, Georgia
5. Kevin Dodd, Clemson
With Ramon Foster set to also become a free agent this year, the team's depth at guard is extremely weak and inexperienced. Many fans want to point to Cody Wallace as the versatile player who can play both center and guard as all the interior depth the team needs, but the fact is if Foster departs the team will need to address the guard position in a big way to help solidify the team's offensive line.
Mayock's Top 5 Guards:
1. Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
2. Vadal Alexander, LSU
3. Joshua Garnett, Stanford
4. Christian Westerman, Arizona State
5. Graham Glasgow, Michigan
The Steelers will have some difficult decisions to make as the Draft approaches, and the players they retain, lose and possibly sign in free agency will certainly impact their big board and who they are targeting in the early rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.