Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Colbert and Tomlin will have to make their big offseason moves via the draft.
The one benefit of missing the playoffs is having a higher draft choice and the Steelers will need to make the most of this opportunity.
They need help at virtually every position and need to approach the top of the draft by taking the best available prospect.
But if they were to draft by need, the biggest needs are at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, running back, nose tackle and safety.
An elite pass rusher would go a long way at returning the defense to an elite level.
Right now the Steelers are getting nothing from their pass rushers and that is what makes LeBeau’s defense tick. If the Steelers are going to find one, it is going to have to be in the first round as pass rushers are a necessity to combat the elite passing attacks found around the league today.
The top pass rushers that could be available for the Steelers include Dion Jordan of Oregon and Ezekiel Ansah of B.Y.U.
While Spence is the future at inside linebacker, there are some questions on how well he can return from his knee injury. The only inside linebacker worth considering early is Manti Te'o
Te'o does everything well and would add a high character player who could develop into the leader of the defense for the next decade.
The Steelers need a back to replace Mendenhall, but there is no value in the first round. They could wait until the second and try to grab a player such as Wisconsin’s Montee Ball or wait even longer and go with a dynamic runner such as Ray Graham from Pitt.
John Jenkins of Georgia is a massive nose tackle that could be the next anchor for the Steelers defense for years to come and they could potentially trade down in the draft to get him while accumulating more picks, or more likely grab him in the second round.
One of the more popular picks for the Steelers will likely be one of the top safeties given the age of Polamalu and Ryan Clark. However, any safety that the Steelers would draft would be at least one year away from starting.
But getting away from specifics, what do the Steelers really need to take way from this draft?
The Steelers could find immediate starters at running back, inside linebacker or outside linebacker. All three areas are in the need of an upgrade and none of the positions have young players who are locks as future starters.
As far as future starters go, the Steelers have a few areas in which they need to find players which will need a year or two to develop before stepping in. These include safety and tight end, as age an injury are beginning to take their toll on the current starters.
Besides looking for starters, the Steelers depth was tested in 2012 and they need to upgrade several areas prior to the start of the 2013 season.
The biggest area that needs an upgrade is at backup quarterback where the Steelers could use a true developmental prospect.
Leftwich and Batch are no longer the answer, especially watching young quarterbacks coming in and performing at a high level on a weekly basis.
The Steelers will also need add physical wide receiver to add to the mix. Their current crop of receivers struggle against press coverage and a physical presence would help in the red zone.
Even though they drafted Alameda Ta'amu last season, another nose tackle prospect would be a nice addition as well.
Ta'amu may not stick around too long and the Steelers could use someone to develop besides McLendon. By keeping Hampton around for another season, the team does have time to develop young talent at the position.
If none of these prospects are available, the Steelers could look to add more talent at tackle, defensive end or cornerback
Even though there are three starting capable tackles on the roster right now with Starks, Gilbert and Adams, there is always room for an elite tackle. It is important that if the Steelers take a tackle early that it is a left tackle. There are already enough right tackles on the roster.
Pittsburgh has already spent two top draft picks on defensive ends, but if there is an elite prospect who could potentially dominate, they can't pass them up. Imagine having an end who could make the same type of impact for the Steelers that J.J. Watt does for the Houston Texans?
Then after years of being talent starved at cornerback, the Steelers are pretty deep at the position right now. However, teams can never have enough good cornerbacks and the Steelers could always use a playmaker at the position.