The Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff fate will be decided next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, but their terrible performance down the stretch has revealed some serious cracks in the roster that must be repaired before this team is ready to contend again.
The myth in Pittsburgh is that this team is loaded with talent. In reality, they are loaded at only a few positions. Others are either manned by guys in over their head or by players too old to be expected to contribute for many more years.
Here's an early mock of what the draft might look like for Pittsburgh in April.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have learned one thing in the last two games: Their defensive backfield is fragile without starting cornerback Ike Taylor.
Keenan Lewis has emerged as a good starter on the opposite side, but Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown are not meeting expectations. There isn't anything of value behind them. This position has been a mess for years.
The problem is that Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert ignores the corners until he can't do it anymore. The Steelers have reached that point. It's time to address this position with a big first-round choice.
Banks isn't physical like Taylor or Lewis, but he is a much better big-play threat. The Steelers sorely need that with the lack of turnovers they've created the previous two seasons.
Banks isn't fast, but he doesn't need to be because he can find other ways to get in the way of the football. That intelligence and savvy can be nurtured in the NFL, and he will become an excellent big-play corner.
Rashard Mendenhall has played, talked and acted his way out of Pittsburgh. There's simply no reason to expect or want him back as the team's running back in 2013.
Mendenhall will be looking for a bigger contract than the team should offer him. With Jonathan Dwyer likely the immediate future at the position, Pittsburgh can afford to let their old starter walk away.
Isaac Redman is also a free agent and hasn't really earned a new deal here. The Steelers would be better off letting him go and keeping Dwyer, Chris Rainey and perhaps Baron Batch for 2013.
Ball is a shifty, powerful running back that fits the historic style of the Pittsburgh Steelers better than most in the draft.
One of the best things about Ball is that he really doesn't need a great offensive line. He has a nose for the open lane and hits it ferociously and with accuracy.
Another reason to add Ball is that he can plunge in at the goal line. That kind of thing has been missing in Pittsburgh since Jerome Bettis rode off into the sunset.
Troy Polamalu cannot play forever. Given the recent injury issues and the deterioration of his skills, he may not be able to play effectively anymore.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have created a defense predicated on Polamalu's disruptive and elusive ability. When he's on the bench hurt, the defense struggles to be anything like the best unit in the NFL.
Polamalu's age also brings to question what the Steelers will do once he retires. Now might be a good time to replace him or to at least bring in a young player who can sit and learn next season.
Williams has good size and can hit hard. He's probably more Ryan Clark than Polamalu, but he is better in coverage than the Pittsburgh strong safety.
To think that the Steelers will find another Polamalu is ridiculous. They need to find a good safety regardless of what it means for altering the system.
Williams is a bit raw for the NFL, but anyone who comes out of the SEC can play football. He's been big in big games, and he certainly projects well as a tough coverage guy who can take on NFL tight ends.
The offensive line has long been a problem for the Steelers. Last season they drafted Mike Adams to develop into the next left tackle. His development was slowed, however, by injuries, and he's been only marginally effective.
Max Starks was called in again to save the day at left tackle, but he can only have so much left in the tank after so many punishing years keeping Ben Roethlisberger's blind side clear.
The Steelers could use another young tackle prospect to push Adams and eventually start.
A big problem with the line is that they cannot block for the running game. Wagner is a good run-blocker and brings an aggressiveness that the line seems to really lack right now.
He's raw and his technique needs a lot of work, but he doesn't have any issues that can't be corrected by a good coach and some time in the NFL system.
Wagner is a decent pass-blocker and he can hold his blocks. That's important for a team that has a quarterback that loves to hold the ball longer than normal.
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't missed James Farrior much this year because of excellent work by veteran linebacker Larry Foote. Foote returned to the starting role after several years as a backup.
He's played big and helped the Steelers a lot, but he isn't the player he was and he isn't more than a stopgap player for Pittsburgh.
Sean Spence's preseason knee injury calls into question whether the team has an actual answer at the position for beyond this season.
Reddick is a blitzer who can attack with force and accuracy. He generates excellent results too. The Steelers love blitzing and bringing pressure, but they haven't been as good up the middle as they need to be.
The effort and work ethic are questionable, which is something the Steelers may not want to take on. If they feel they can get him on track and contributing, however, he could be a great steal.
The Steelers need to clean out the backup quarterbacks this year and start fresh. Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are not solutions and neither showed an ability to take over this team effectively when Ben Roethlisberger was injured.
The Steelers would be smart to get a veteran signal-caller who can be the top backup and run the offense with decent effectiveness.
But Pittsburgh would also be wise to get a young passer whom they can develop.
Florence is a very raw prospect that needs a lot of work, but he has a nice arm and he can make every throw in the book.
The big thing Pittsburgh has done this year is work the ball short. Florence is adept at those passes and can operate that kind of offense without a problem.
The Steelers would lose nothing by taking a quarterback late. Florence should be available and his skills roughly match what the Steelers need.
With Alameda Ta'amu failing to live up to expectations of being a good football player or even a good human being, the Steelers will have to head back to the drawing board for Casey Hampton's longterm replacement.
They could elect to go with Steve McLendon, who's been impressive on the field this year. If they do, they'd still need an effective backup to develop.
Pittsburgh has been inconsistent in the middle of the defense this season. That's unusual for the Steelers, but it is something that they can correct with a good bit of effort.
McGee has been good at taking up space and occupying blockers in the middle for Oklahoma this year. He can get through to the backfield at times too, but there isn't a premium on that in Pittsburgh.
He needs a lot of development time and work, but he could become a solid nose tackle in the NFL. The Steelers will lose nothing by taking him this late, so they might as well get a player they can use.