Can Steelers Continue Recent First Round Success?
Since 2001, the Steelers have done pretty well, putting their first pick to good use in the annual NFL Draft.
Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller, and Santonio Holmes have all played major roles in the Steelers' success.
Lawrence Timmons is ready to start, and Rashard Mendenhall is fully healed and should split some carries with Willie Parker this season. That's a pretty impressive group of pro-bowlers and future Hall of Famers.
This year, the Steelers will be looking to continue that trend by landing the next future star to contribute. They have no glaring weaknesses to speak of, but there are a few areas of concern they will need to address.
The offensive line appears to be the most obvious need.
They were criticized last year as having one of the worst lines in the league, but they did play better down the stretch and into the postseason. The Steelers are banking on the thought that, with another year to solidify, they should be even better.
That is why Pittsburgh went about signing so many of their own lineman back instead of searching for other teams' free agents.
I believe they will draft at least two or more lineman to inject some new blood into the situation. They seem to be particularly thin at tackle, where their projected starters are both signed to one year deals.
The Steelers have a very strong defensive line, but precious little depth. The average age of the starters is over 30, and they could use some youth to add to the line rotation and groom for the future.
I would like to see them add a few bodies here, even if it is on the second day.
With the departure of Bryant McFadden, the Steelers look to move promising young cornerback William Gay into the lineup. He played well in place of the injured McFadden last season and even split time after McFadden returned.
Still, their is little depth here. Besides, how long can the Steelers rely on the ageing Deshea Townsend?
"We think there are a lot of good corners in the first three rounds," said Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert.
That being said, I would think the Steelers might look that way early in the draft.
Another question on the mind of the Steelers is how well Limus Sweed improves in year two and whether or not can he step into the role of third receiver vacated by Nate Washington.
Washington was a good deep threat for the Steelers last season, and although Sweed seemed to drop two out of every three passes thrown his way, he did show an ability to get open deep.
Still, the Steelers could look early to add a receiver with speed who can also return kicks.
I am not going to pretend I know what the Steelers are going to do in this year's draft, but I do have a few players I hope they are considering.
The Steelers have made a pretty good living drafting the best available player, regardless of position or need, so I don't know if any of these players will end up in black and gold.
Here is my list anyway:
1. Alex Mack, C—Mack has a great work ethic and exceptional strength. He can also play guard and could push for a starting spot right away.
2. Darius Butler, CB—He can play in both a man or zone scheme and has very good ball skills.
3. Fili Moala, DT—Moala has good size and strength. He faced constant double teams in college and helped to open up things for teamates to make plays.
4. Eben Britton, OT—Britton has long arms, good strength, and flashed great pass-protection skills in college. He can also play both tackle positions.
5. Don Carey, CB—Carey impressed pro scouts at the East-West Shrine practices.
I also would not rule out the Steelers trading up to acquire someone that may have dropped unexpectedly.
That worked out pretty well with Troy Polamalu.
Regardless of the Steelers' plans, I am confident they will have a solid draft to go along with their free agent signings and get the 2009 season off to a good start.
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