The Biggest Questions for the Pittsburgh Steelers Heading into the NFL Draft
Now that free agency is in full force and most of the big-name players have signed with teams, we can get a clearer picture of draft strategies for each club.
With all the veteran departures of the last few seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have clearly defined holes that need to be addressed.
Here are seven of the biggest questions looming over the Steelers entering this month's draft.
Who's Returning Kicks
Although Chris Rainey didn’t have the impact on offense that many thought he could in his rookie season, the speed back out of Florida was a major contributor in the return game.
With Rainey cut and the Steelers wanting Antonio Brown to focus more on the receiver position, they might look at taking a return specialist in the draft.
West Virginia’s Tavon Austin could be the Steelers’ first-round selection and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner would be a nice late-round pick.
Future at Wide Receiver
Whether the Steelers end up losing Emmanuel Sanders in restricted free agency should not sway how they view the position in the draft.
Even if Sanders is on this season's roster, the team would have to make a decision on whether to sign him to a long-term deal.
Behind Antonio Brown and Sanders are veterans Plaxico Burress and Jerricho Cotchery with no real contenders to stick for the future on the roster.
Future at Inside Linebacker
Before last season, we all thought Sean Spence or Stevenson Sylvester would be the future starter at inside linebacker.
Now Sylvester is gone, and there doesn’t seem to be much optimism that Spence will contribute anything due to his knee injury suffered last preseason.
Whether the Steelers select a linebacker such as Georgia's Alec Ogletree early or a late-round prospect, it will show the kind of faith the team has in Marshall McFadden and Brian Rolle who are already on the roster.
Heir Apparent at Both Safety Positions
The only unfortunate thing about having one of the best safety tandems in the league in Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu is the fact that neither is getting younger.
There is much talent at the safety position in this draft, and I would not be surprised to see the team draft two players at that position.
I like Robert Golden and DaMon Cromartie-Smith, but we’ll see what the team thinks about them if it decides to draft multiple players at the position.
Future at Running Back
There has been much buzz surrounding the Steelers' interest in former New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, and according to this Dave Bryan article, the team will bring in the free agent for another visit to inquire about his rehab from foot surgery.
If the Steelers don't sign Bradshaw, they could select a running back as early as the second round to go with Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and Baron Batch.
Where the Steelers take a running back should provide a clear picture as to how much of a shot Dwyer has to be the team's starting back for the future.
Depth on the Offensive Line
The re-signing of Ramon Foster during the offseason will allow second-year player Kelvin Beachum to become a backup at almost every offensive line spot.
The problem is that Beachum is the only backup the Steelers have on a roster that is routinely hit hard by injury every single year.
The Steelers normally carry eight or nine offensive linemen during the season, and although I hope everyone stays healthy, they need more than just one backup.
How Much Faith in Jason Worilds?
With James Harrison not returning, Jason Worilds will be the starter opposite LaMarr Woodley.
There have been several mock drafts with the Steelers selecting Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones in the first round, and most don’t have them selecting a OLB lower than the third round.
If the team doesn’t take an OLB until late in the draft, that would signal that it truly believes Worilds is the future at the position.
If the team does take an OLB early, then it might be preparing to lose Worilds after 2013 as it did with Keenan Lewis.
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