The picture I chose for this article was chosen on purpose. The picture of Mike Mitchell and Artie Burns, both wondering who was supposed to cover Chris Hogan in the AFC Championship game, resonates to this day. The Steelers’ secondary improved in 2016, but is far from a strength of the franchise moving into the 2017 NFL Draft.
With the draft process now just days away, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay released his latest positional needs for all 32 NFL teams, and was on point with the Pittsburgh Steelers needs, all but one.
See what McShay said in his latest article:
Top needs: OLB, TE, ILB, CB, WR
James Harrison, amazingly, led the Steelers with five sacks last season at age 38. He's back for another season, but it's clear that Pittsburgh needs to get younger and more explosive off the edge after 2013 first-rounder Jarvis Jones failed to live up to expectations. It's scary to think of how dynamic Pittsburgh could be on offense if the team had a tight end to stretch the field down the seam. The Steelers won't necessarily need to spend a first-round pick to find a guy who fits that in this deep TE draft. Ryan Shazier is a playmaker at inside linebacker, but after Lawrence Timmons' departure, the next player in line appears to be 2013 sixth-rounder Vince Williams.
There is no doubt outside linebacker should be atop the team needs list, but after that is where it gets a bit dicey for me. McShay lists many reasons why a tight end, and even inside linebacker should be on the list, and his reasoning is more than justified. However, him underplaying the need for a cornerback is a major issue I have with his list.
Let’s first look at the Steelers depth chart at CB:
Senquez Golson *
There you have it folks, does that look like a Super Bowl championship secondary? If Golson had played even a single preseason snap, there might be more hope surrounding his ability to man the slot, and potentially the outside in certain situations, but back-to-back ended seasons due to injury is tough to recover from.
This is why the Steelers should be adding to their secondary as early as the first round. If there isn’t a pass rusher there at the 30th pick, the next spot could, and I would say should, be to add a cornerback. Gay is no spring chicken, Cockrell will be an unrestricted free agent next season and Golson’s health issues have been well documented.
So, while McShay might try to sweep the cornerback position under the rug, likely due to spending a first round pick on Burns in 2016, the team will need to be thinking secondary on either Day 1 or 2 of the draft process to help solidify the back end of the defense as the team hopes to win their 7th Lombardi trophy in 2017.