The 2016 NFL Draft is just weeks away, and as the Pittsburgh Steelers continue their interviews with prospects in the form of pre-draft visits, the team is certainly adjusting their Big Board accordingly to mirror their draft needs. In our first Draft Needs article, we had the following draft order:
Draft Needs 1.0:
2. Defensive Line
3. Outside Linebacker
5. Offensive Guard
However, in this edition of the team's draft needs, there is a mix up in the rankings. A lot can change these rankings. Pre-Draft visits, free agency and comments made by the front office brass who make the decisions on draft day. Nonetheless, to the 2.0 rankings:
Although there is a severe shake up in the draft needs, the top spot still remains the cornerback position. The Steelers need to draft a top tier defensive back who can help alter the chemistry on the current depth chart. With Ross Cockrell, William Gay and Doran Grant the only returning defensive backs with experience, adding Senquez Golson into the mix will help the position, but how much can be expected from a player who missed his entire rookie campaign? If the team is capable of getting a cornerback like Eli Apple, Mackensie Alexander or William Jackson III, it could completely alter the team's defensive backfield, and their overall defense. The Steelers didn't have an issue stopping the run in 2015, but their 30th ranked defense left the team hanging on more than one occasion. Time to address the need.
If pre-draft visits are any indication on the importance of a position, it is safety. To date, the team has brought in more safeties than any other position -- even cornerback. This is a clear sign the team is looking hard at the safety position in the upcoming draft. They have met with players projected to be selected in the first and second rounds, as well as prospects who are considered to be mid-to-late round draft choices. Either way, the Steelers certainly are evaluating the safety position in greater detail than any other to this point, and, to me, that means something.
3. Defensive Line
Everyone who considers themselves a NFL Draft "expert", or who simply has an opinion on the overall draft, considers this draft class to be one of the deepest ever at the defensive line position. With that being said, the Steelers have the option to take a 'wait and see' approach to the position. If there is a high profile lineman like Andrew Billings available when they draft at No. 25, this could mean the team takes him with their first round pick, but if Billings isn't available you could probably consider the team willing to draft a lineman later in the draft process. Nonetheless, the defensive line moving down a spot doesn't mean the team doesn't need to address the position, just that depth at the position might be out muscled by a potential starter at cornerback and safety.
4. Outside Linebacker
The Steelers still need to address the outside linebacker/edge rusher position. James Harrison isn't a lock to play in 2016, although many feel he will, Jarvis Jones is anything but a sure thing, Arthur Moats is a glorified back up and Bud Dupree potentially a budding playmaker. The Steelers defensive thrives on the outside pass rush, and adding a future pass rusher would make the defense truly dynamic with Tuitt and Heyward applying pressure up the middle. This linebacker position has dropped in the rankings as the team hasn't met with many pass rushers to date in their pre-draft visits.
5. Offensive Guard
Ramon Foster isn't getting any younger, and David DeCastro is entering the 5th year of his rookie contract. The issue with the Steelers isn't their starting guards, but the depth behind them. Chris Hubbard and Cody Wallace make up the team's guard depth, and those players don't necessarily induce confidence in keeping Ben Roethlisberger healthy and upright if something happened to the starters. Addressing the offensive line is part of the process, and something which needs to happen for the unit to thrive in 2016 and beyond.
Other Draft Needs (In no particular order):