When all was quiet during free agency for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers Nation did not fear, because that is exactly what we are all used to. The one thing that was most impressive is that Mike Wallace was not signed by any other team, and unless he signs an offer sheet with another team before next Friday, he will return to the Pittsburgh Steelers for 2012.
That being said, the most exciting part of the off season for Steelers fans is only two weeks away, and Steelers Nation is getting excited about the new additions to the roster that will join the team via the draft.
Now, it is obvious that mock drafts are a shot in the dark, simply because there is no way to tell who will be picked prior to the Steelers 24th selection.
However, one of three situations will occur during the first day of the NFL draft:
1. Pittsburgh will trade up. Not likely because they have only done that twice in the last 40 years.
2. They will trade down. Again, not likely, even though there is a better possibility than trading up.
3 - They will take the "Best Available Player" on their board when they are on the clock. Most likely situation.
The reality is that there are not many teams in the NFL that do a better job at using their first-round selection. The last time the Steelers busted with their first-round pick would be in 1999, with the selection of Troy Edwards.
The Steelers had lost Charles Johnson and Yancee Thigpen in the previous two off seasons and were slated to have Courtney Hawkins and Will Blackwell as their starters. (Hines hadn't shown Steelers Nation who he was at that point)
So, instead of drafting the best available player, the Steelers selected for need and ended up drafting one of the biggest busts for the Steelers in the last four decades.
When you look at the link above where it says "Best Available Player," you will see the formula the Steelers use to determine that (at least in my opinion), and you will see why I may not have on there the player you think the Steelers should have, at least not in the first two rounds. (If it is not linked yet, check back later today.)
What? I'm crazy? Hear me out.
The Steelers are going to draft the best available player at one of their biggest positions of need. Translation: They are NOT going to be drafting either the offensive or defensive line in the first round of the draft.
Don'ta Hightower? Sure, a lot of Steelers fans would like to think this is the route the Steelers are going to go, but that simply isn't a need at a position where the player (Hightower) is at the top of the Steelers draft board.
Hightower may become an amazing player, but that would mean that either the Steelers wasted a pick on Stevenson Sylvester, or either Hightower or Sylvester are going to be on the bench for a few years, simply because we know that Lawrence Timmons is a lock as one of the starting positions.
That leaves the Steelers secondary.
Troy Polamalu is an all-world player. He is a first ballot Hall of Fame lock, and he has changed the way that the safety position is played. Problem is, he is on the wrong side of 30, and even though he has not slowed down, the risk of injury is certainly there.
Then you have Ryan Clark, who also is on the wrong side of 30, and hits players with the reckless abandon of a missile . The problem with that is, one serious injury, and his playing days could be over.
The Steelers have shown time and time again that they take players BEFORE the position needs to be filled, so that they can learn the Dick LeBeau system before being forced to play before they are ready.
Barron is the top rated safety in the draft, and if the Steelers were to take an offensive lineman, the best they would do is the fifth-best. Defensive tackle, the best the Steelers would be able to draft would be the third or fourth-best in the draft.
Do you take a player that would give you a future starter, where the current starters are both over 30? Or do you draft a player (Hightower) that is going to have to compete for playing time for the next five years?
The Steelers know better, and if Barron is available when Pittsburgh drafts, don't be shocked to hear his name called.
Though the Steelers have a need at NT, it is not as necessary as many people (me included) have made it out to be.
Yes, Casey Hampton is recovering form an ACL injury and Chris Hoke has retired. Steve McLendon was decent as a backup in 2011, but is not the long-term answer.
The Steelers will likely have the benefit of having both Hampton and McLendon available for 2012, which means that the replacement for Hampton will have a year to learn the system and begin to contribute before having to take over as the full-time starter in 2013.
Though it would be nice for the Steelers to be able to trade up and grab Dontari Poe, they would have to move as high as the Top 10 to get him, and Pittsburgh is not going to pay that much of a price for a player that had an amazing combine, but an average career in college.
The selection of Ta'amu would not only fill a need with one of the best available players, but also would solidify the Steelers defensive line for years to come.
Yes, the Steelers are finally going to address their offensive line, and they are going to do so in the third round.
I know it is popular to think the Steelers are going to draft a tackle, but the need for an interior offensive lineman is WAY greater than that of a tackle.
For starters, the Steelers already have Marcus Gilbert, who is going to move to the left tackle position, leaving Willie Colon his right tackle position to return to.
I know this is going to happen because the Steelers renegotiated the contract of Colon this offseason, and that means they are committed to him for at least the next two years. If they did not believe that Colon was healthy again and able to stay that way, his deal would not have been redone, and he would have been released.
On the inside of the Steelers line, the Steelers have released Chris Kemoeatu, which is addition by subtraction because it will save the Steelers 40 yards per game in penalties.
Yes, they have Ramon Foster resigned to a one-year deal, but he is more for depth than anything else. Washington will be able to earn playing time on the interior line this year.
The Steelers have struck gold in the third round with receivers (Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders).
I am predicting that the Steelers will trade back into the third round, trading their fourth and sixth-round picks to grab Streeter.
Tommy Streeter of the Miami Hurricanes is exactly what the Steelers offense is going to need. He is big with decent speed and will become the favorite red-zone target for Ben Roethlisberger.
Todd Haley has had big receivers in Arizona and Kansas City, and with Big Ben begging for one for years and the odds of losing Mike Wallace to free agency in 2013, this will be an addition that will make that loss easy to deal with.
The Steelers will again go after a player to help the interior of their offensive line. As the Steelers love versatile players, Blackwell is able to play both guard and center.
Though Blackwell will not become a starter in 2012, he will probably still have the chance to earn playing time on an interior line that is the weakest link of the Steelers.
This could help him to become a solid contributor for years to come. The last LSU guard the Steelers drafted was Alan Faneca, and he worked out pretty well for the Steelers!
Oglesby was a stud at Wisconsin and is the prototypical tackle for the Steelers.
At 6'7", 338 lbs. and almost a three-foot reach, Oglesby could be the future at right tackle for the Steelers. After a fantastic senior season, Oglesby had a below-average combine, knocking his draft stock all the way to the seventh round.
This could be a blessing for both Oglesby and the Steelers.
Though this is not a position of need, there is little doubt that the Steelers are seeking depth at all of the line positions, and this will help the offensive line build for the future.
Yes, I understand that the Steelers did not bring in a lot of players for depth on the defensive side of the ball, but honestly, I don't think that is needed at this point.
The Steelers defense kept every player from 2011 that they wanted to keep, and the players that left were probably not going to be key contributors anymore.
No, I did not have the Steelers drafting another linebacker. Currently on the roster, behind the key players, the Steelers already have the depth they need.
After James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons, Jason Worlids, Larry Foote and Stevenson Sylvester, the Steelers still have depth.
Chris Carter (1), Brandon Hicks (2), Mortty Ivy (2) and Marshall McFadden (2)—who would the Steelers take late to replace?
As for the kicker positions, the Steelers need to address the punter situation, but Jeremy Kampos has done an above-average job in replacing Daniel Sepulveda when injured, and now that Sepulveda won't be back, the Steelers will probably bring in an undrafted player to compete.
Same goes for Shaun Suisham. You can count on someone being brought in to compete for the kicking duties, but not someone that the Steelers are going to use a draft pick on.
The Steelers are going to bring in some undrafted players, and as they have proven before, they can make stars out of unknowns.
If I did not address any of the positions you believe I missed, don't be shocked if the Steelers don't bring in a free agent and that player is a star in a few years.
Don't believe me? Ask James Harrison or Willie Parker.