While everyone, yours truly included, prepares for the 2012 NFL season, it has become obvious the direction that the Pittsburgh Steelers are going forward.
They have managed in one offseason to address almost all of the pressing needs that they had entering 2012. Two positions on the offensive line have been filled, with David DeCastro and Mike Adams, two of the best potential offensive linemen in the draft in the first two rounds.
The Steelers followed those two picks up in the third and fourth round, potentially replacing James Farrior with Sean Spence and Alameda Ta'amu to eventually replace Casey Hampton.
Though there will always be areas that need to be addressed, and Pittsburgh still have a few, that those areas will not be addressed until the 2013 NFL Draft.
Here is how I predict how the Steelers will address their needs heading into the 2013 NFL season.
Before we can look at the Steelers' needs for the 2013 NFL Draft, we have to look into the crystal ball to see what is going to happen during the 2013 free-agency period.
Kevin Colbert of the Steelers has said over and over that he wants to get Mike Wallace under a long-term contract. Believe it or not, by NOT rescinding the $2.7 million tender to only $755,000, Colbert proved that his intentions are to keep Wallace.
If the Steelers believed that they were going to lose him anyway, they would have reduced his offer, and probably started working on Antonio Brown's offer. But, they did not, so I am confident that the Steelers and Mike Wallace will in fact come to a contract agreement before the start of the 2012 NFL Season.
Speaking of Antonio Brown, he and Emmanuel Sanders will both be receiving restricted free-agent tenders next year, and as teams have shown, they are not interested in giving up a first-round pick for anyone.
Rashard Mendenhall is slated to start the 2012 season on the PUP list (Physically Unable to Perform), meaning he will not be eligible to play until Week 8 (6 games and a bye week).
Depending on how the other Steelers running backs play during Mendenhall's absence, and if he is able to return to form, the Steelers may have a pressing need for a running back in the 2013 NFL Draft.
They do however have used late round draft picks on the running back position with Baron Batch in 2011 and Chris Rainey in 2012.
Other than those players, the Steelers have Stevenson Sylvester to consider, but like Brown and Sanders, he will likely receive a restricted tender and be back with the team.
Also, to try and guess that actual position the Steelers will be selecting in is nearly impossible. Though I would love to say that Pittsburgh will have the 32nd pick, that is just not possible to predict. I will say that Pittsburgh will most likely be picking in the later part of the round, so the picks will come from that train of thought.
Because the safety position is not normally one that many teams look at in the first round, and this may be one of the Steelers biggest needs going forward, there is a good chance they will have the chance to not only address the position, but get one of the best prospects available.
And again, no one knows how any of the players that will be available next year will play this year, I can only look at the players and pick who fits the best into the Steelers system.
With Troy Polamalu now on the wrong side of 30, the Steelers are going to have to address this situation and draft his eventual replacement.
I can think of no one better than Eric Reid from LSU.
Reid seems to have the qualifications that the Steelers look for at the safety position. Standing 6'2'', and weighing 205 pounds, Reid brings a physical presence to the Steelers secondary.
While compiling 76 tackles in 2011, Reid tied for the team lead on LSU. He also had two interceptions and two forced-fumbles for the Tigers, which is an area the Steelers need to improve on.
Over the last three years, the Steelers have almost totally overhauled their offensive line. Using two first-round picks, and two second-round picks, the Steelers have begun building an offensive line that could become one of the best in the NFL in the next few years.
Their biggest issues at this point is their lack of depth, and Willie Colon, who has moved to guard but has an injury history that has had him miss the last two seasons.
Colon is also due near $8 million in 2013.
I believe the Steelers will finish their overhaul in the second round of 2013, by selecting Jonathan Cooper, guard, North Carolina.
Even if the Steelers find a way to reduce the cap number for Colon, and even if he can find a way to stay healthy, the Steelers are VERY thin on depth at this point with their offensive line, and Cooper will be able to push Colon to start, or at least provide quality depth.
Even if the Steelers find the eventual replacement for Troy Polamalu in the first round, Ryan Clark is even older than Polamalu, and his replacement needs to be found as well.
Though I do not believe the Steelers will address those two positions with their first two picks, I do believe they will with their first third-round pick.
In the third round, Pittsburgh will select Hakeem Smith, safety, Louisville.
Smith will play his junior season at Louisville in 2012, so he will have to leave early if he is going to be picked, but he has the talent to do so.
Like Clark, Smith is as good at supporting the run as he is the pass. His junior season had him record 84 tackles, while also recording nine passes defended, three forced-fumbles and an interception.
Another play making safety of the Steelers defense will allow them to have potential replacements for all of the "old" players on their defense.
The Steelers' linebacking corps is always one of the best in the NFL. In 2012, they feature two players that are both getting older, and their final days in Pittsburgh could be drawing near.
Larry Foote already has both Stevenson Sylvester and Sean Spence that are going to be pushing him for playing time, and possibly pushing him off the roster.
James Harrison on the other hand, only has Jason Worilds pushing him, and Worilds has not yet become that elite OLB that the Steelers hoped he was when they selected him in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
The Steelers may decide to add depth at this point of the round, like they did with Spence in 2012. If they do, I believe they will go with Ron Powell, OLB, Florida.
Powell tore knee ligaments during spring practice for the Gators, but is believed that he will be able to return at some point in 2012 to action.
With his great size (6'4'', 248 lbs) and great speed (4.59 second 40-yard dash), Powell could become a solid contributor for the Steelers.
Even with spending two first-round picks on Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward over the last few years, and a fourth-round pick this year on Alameda Ta'amu, the Steelers still need to address depth for their defensive line.
Baker Steinkuhler is a big DE/NT prospect from Nebraska. At 6'6'', 300 lbs, Steinkuhler could stand to add some weight to his frame, which should not be too much of a problem for a man that size.
With the 6'6'' height, it will also help to bat balls at the line of scrimmage and block field goals, if he were to play on special teams.
Though Steinkuhler would come in as a project, he has the size and strength to become a force in the Steel City.
The Steelers are always looking for secondary help, and the corner position, though only for depth, should be addressed in the later part of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Out of Ohio State, the Steelers could select Travis Howard.
Howard will match the look of Steelers corners selected over the last few years. He is 6'1'', and has decent speed, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds.
The Steelers have Ike Taylor, who will likely be pushed for playing time in 2013 by the 2011 rookies Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. The Steelers also have Keenan Lewis, who may return or not, depending on his performance as a starter in 2012.
One of the hardest places in the NFL to kick a football is Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh needs a kicker that has a very strong leg, and will be able to not only kick for distance on kick offs, but be able to put the ball through the uprights.
Though Shaun Suisham is a decent kicker, he is no where near a Sebastian Janikowski. The Steelers could look at Janikowski's old school to find their next kicker.
Dustin Hopkins, Florida State.
Hopkins hit on field goals last year of 55 and 52 yards (he also hit from 60 yards in a spring game), and that is something the Steelers have not had since, well, Gary Anderson.
Hopkins converted on field goals 22 of 27 attempts in 2011. Having missed four extra points in two years is his only downfall, but with the strength of his leg, he would be able to force touch backs on a regular basis, which would help the Steelers win the field position battle.