The 2016 NFL Draft is just weeks away, and it is time to analyze the Pittsburgh Steelers needs entering the annual selection process. A lot can alter these rankings. Free Agency, pre-draft visits and comments made by the team's front office brass are just a few things which could make these weekly rankings change.
It is clear the team's ultimate needs in this upcoming draft are on the defensive side of the football. However, there are still areas of concern on the offensive side of the ball. Time to look at this week's Top 5 Steelers Draft Needs, or the 1.0 version:
The reason this position tops the list is simple, 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.
2. Defensive Line
Some might view labeling the team's 2nd draft need as "Defensive Line" as a cop-out. Not specifying the difference between a 3-4 defensive end or a nose tackle might seem like semantics, but the current Pittsburgh defensive philosophy thrives on versatility and sub packages. There are several players who could not only help fill out the depth chart behind Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, but have the versatility to play both the end and nose tackle positions if needed. With that said, the Steelers need to help fill out the depth chart along the defensive line.
3. Outside Linebacker
Placing the Outside Linebacker position ahead of Safety will probably be met with some resistance, but 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.
I was very tempted to have the safety position higher on the board, but on a defense with so many glaring needs, you have to prioritize. With Donte Whitner recently released, the Steelers could still try to bring in a free agent safety to help secure the position, and help them finalize their draft boards without having to play a young safety early in his career. If the team does look to address Safety in this year's draft, there are several players who could help fill the void, but would have to beat out Robert Golden and Shamarko Thomas to play alongside Mike Mitchell in 2016.
5. Offensive Guard
An offensive position in the Top 5? Yeah, and I would even consider putting guard higher on the list. 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):