The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of wants when it comes to the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft and free agency, but when you look closer, the only real need they have is at the outside linebacker position. To find a player who can be opposite Bud Dupree and help relieve James Harrison, assuming he returns in 2017, will be absolutely key to the success of the team’s defense.
Yes, there is need for depth along the offensive and defensive lines, along with inside linebacker and wide receiver, but when you look close the main need is an EDGE pass rusher.
All of the experts are putting out their two cents for teams’ draft needs, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. might be one of the most talked about, and hated, draft experts out there today. In his first mock draft, he has the Steelers addressing that glaring need at outside linebacker by selecting Missouri outside linebacker Charles Harris with the 30th pick in the draft process.
See what Kiper had to say about the selection:
*Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri
Harris had an up-and-down 2016 with nine sacks and two forced fumbles, but his ceiling his high. In this scenario, Harris (6-3, 255) would be an outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4, but he could play end in a 4-3 or even move inside to rush the passer from a tackle spot. Pass-rushers Jarvis Jones (a 2013 first-round pick) and James Harrison (who turns 39 this summer) will be free agents.
One of the main facets of a prospect the Steelers must recognize is if they are NFL ready coming out of college. In the 2016 Draft, the team was able to do just that when they drafted a trio of defenders who were able to eventually start by the end of the season in Artie Burns, Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave.
The team must be careful with this pick, especially if they choose to go with another linebacker, because what you are seeing now with relying on Harrison is due to the swing-and-miss first round pick of Jarvis Jones.
Bud Dupree seems to be turning the corner as he enters his third season, but the team has to be able to find a player who is capable of at least being a part-time player in Year 1 if they are serious about taking the final step in their journey and making the Super Bowl in 2017.