Moving on with our lives... [Sigh]
Our Steelers lost a tough, tough game last weekend. It’s a game they probably should have won, and one they would win four times out of five. But they didn’t, and now the season is done.
Ow, ow, ow.
Time to put that behind us and look toward the future. It’s a lot more fun than looking back, and the signs could not be better. This remains a team that is primed for Super Bowl runs over the several years. So let’s turn our eyes to the draft and ask the question:
How Can The Offense Get Better?
[Crickets]. We all went into last week with real respect for the Jacksonville defense, and not a little bit of caution. That was a unit that earned its’ swagger! But now look at the numbers: facing a three-touchdown deficit that made the offense close to one dimensional, the Pittsburgh Steelers put up 42 points. How do you improve on that?
THE OFFENSIVE LINE. The loss to Jacksonville showed that the Steelers could use some old fashioned physicality on the offensive line. The only thing that really upset me in that game (well, the biggest thing) was the way Pittsburgh got cute on 4th-and-inches. Twice! But was that a matter of philosophy or personnel? Probably more of the first from the way things smell. Regardless, this line is pretty well set. Colbert & Co. may look for a road grading Guard to push Ramon Foster, but it’s way down the list of priorities.
TIGHT END. This is probably the biggest target, but not because the current roster is “weak.” Far from it. Vance McDonald looks like a real weapon when he’s healthy, and Jesse James looks like a solid #2 - especially if he can improve his blocking. Still, neither of those guys is going to dim anyone’s memory of Heeeeath. The Tight End group isn’t bad, but a prospect with real, star potential could definitely make it better. Anyone lesser, not so much. I’d call it an option in Rounds 1 and 2 (maybe 3) but a longshot for any pick on Day 3. Maybe someone who blocks as well as McDonald runs?
RUNNING BACK. I love Leveon Bell and agree that he’s the best all purpose back in the league. That said, someone seems to have gotten in his head and made him believe that every RB until the end of time will suffer unless he breaks the Steeler bank. His demands seem to start from “outrageous and unheard of,” and only grudgingly keep “full retail and special perks” as a last ditch fallback. It worries me because the Steelers’ history could not be more clear. This team will pay full retail price to its stars, but will never kick in with the special perks. It ain’t gonna happen, especially when the defense is where the team fell down last week.
Running Back is off the table if Bell and the Steelers can reach a meeting of the minds. If they can’t, then Running Back will vault to a major offensive priority. I think the world of James Conner but he’s been hurt too often and remains too unproven to load all our eggs in that basket.
QUARTERBACK. Value, value, it’s all about value. Big Ben is coming back so there’s no pending emergency. That said, we can all see that Father Time is the elephant in this particular room. The Steelers don’t have the luxury of ignoring the future at QB. So what do they have?
Landry Jones has matured into a solid NFL backup. That’ll stick one in the eye of the haters! I won’t argue that he’s the long term answer but he’s not the problem either. Pittsburgh has no need for simple QB depth with LJ on the roster. What’s wanted are prospects with a chance of pushing an aging #1, not surpassing an okay #2. Last year’s 4th-round pick, Josh Dobbs, is a perfect example. The BTSC scouting intelligentsia more or less agreed on his grade as a raw, boom-or-bust talent with great above-the-neck assets that were held back by accuracy issues and a tendency to approach the game like a college QB. He survived Hurdle “A” by successfully fitting in to the locker- and meeting rooms. Many young men lack the football IQ and off-field maturity to do even that. He’s got both. Great news! But can he make the next step too? Can he truly master an NFL playbook? Can he solve the footwork and fundamentals problems that hurt his accuracy in college? And can he take the leap after those two challenges, the one that would let him live up to his gifts? We have no way to know. That’s the bottom line. If Dobbs has shown the “it” factor to his coaches, QB will drop down the list of priorities. If he hasn’t shown it, the Steelers will once again draft for potential sometime in Rounds 1-4. Time will tell.
WIDE RECEIVER. Never say never. But... really?
SCAT BACK/SLOT RECEIVER. I like Eli Rogers, and Ben loves him, but this is sort of like the debate at TE. There’s no “hole” but it might be possible to upgrade.
Those are my takes. I look forward to reading yours in the Comments.