It is not a big secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers need to have a successful draft class in 2013 to get the team back on its feet. The team’s depth has eroded as players have aged or left for bigger money in other cities.
After dabbling little in free agency, all of the focus is on whether general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin can put together a good draft class. If they do, the Steelers will be just fine. If not, the slope only can get more slippery.
Here’s a look at five mistakes that Pittsburgh cannot make in this draft.
Every team has reached for a guy before. Pittsburgh has not made that mistake recently, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen this season.
With eight picks in the draft, Pittsburgh is in a good spot to accumulate talent. This draft is evenly spread when it comes to talent. There is not much difference between guys who will get picked in the middle of the first round from those who will be taken at the same spot in the second round.
Trades should be at a minimum and Pittsburgh should stay out of any talk of moving up to get an earlier choice. There are enough holes on the roster to make trading down a better option than staying at 17th overall.
Moving up would be a big mistake.
There are many options for the 17th overall pick and plenty of teams that will call about that pick if someone they covet drops that far. Pittsburgh should be wise and take those calls and evaluate what that pick is worth before doing anything else.
Even with the injury to standout tight end Heath Miller, there is no need to draft a player at that position.
Tyler Eifert is an enticing prospect and would be a good value late in the first round if Pittsburgh moves back, but it makes no sense to add another weapon to a position that seems stocked.
David Paulson showed plenty of promise in 2012 as a blocker and his receiving ability will be highlighted while Miller is out. Until his status is certain, there’s no need to replace him or push him down the depth chart.
Miller will return sometime during the season.
There’s no guarantee he’ll be the same player or even close, but it is much too early to write him off or think his skills will be markedly diminished. Paulson and Matt Spaeth, who fills the depth chart out and provides excellent blocking, are more than capable in his absence.
As nice as it would be to field an offense with Eifert and Miller lining up in the same way as Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski do for the New England Patriots, it is a luxury Pittsburgh cannot afford this year.
Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers discovered just how bad circumstances can be without a solid quarterback depth chart. When Ben Roethlisberger missed three games and then rushed back to help cover the team’s lack of depth, Pittsburgh went from sure contender to finishing out of the playoffs.
Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich are not expected to return, and Pittsburgh added veteran Bruce Gradkowski in free agency to be the new backup. That still leaves one slot on the depth chart unaccounted for at this time.
That spot must be filled by a draft pick. Zac Dysert is a great fit and should be around in the later rounds. Pittsburgh needs to develop a long-term backup who can eventually step in and replace Roethlisberger if the need arises.
There are no guarantees in the NFL. Roethlisberger could play 10 more years or two. With his style of play, the only guarantee is that he will get banged up and will miss time every year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need help at outside linebacker and inside linebacker. On the outside, they are looking to replace James Harrison. On the inside, they are looking for a long-term answer to the spot where Larry Foote is playing.
Outside is the bigger need, but there is sentiment that the team should at least give Jason Worilds a chance to prove he can’t be the guy. He notched five sacks last season in limited action, so he certainly has potential.
Linebacker is one of the deeper positions in this draft, so there’s no need to rush into a choice for someone. While Damontre Moore is an interesting option outside, he isn’t worth the 17th overall pick and will be available later.
Jarvis Jones is the lone linebacker worth that pick, but there are no guarantees he’ll be there. He does come with questions around his health, but he’s the perfect rush linebacker for this system.
If Jones is not available at 17, Pittsburgh should look at another position or move down from that pick.
After spending a ton of high-round picks at various spots on the offensive line for the last several seasons, it's time to allow the line to develop as a unit under new coach Jack Bicknell Jr. and focus on other positions in the draft.
There are many enticing offensive line prospects available, and it would be easy to select one because they’re the best available player at a certain point, but the team has too many other needs to make that a viable option.
Pittsburgh could use offensive line depth from the later rounds and in undrafted free agency, but other than that, it is time to focus on the defense and the offensive skill positions, which have eroded while the line has been rebuilt draft after draft.
Much focus on the offensive line is about run blocking. To do that, Pittsburgh also needs to procure a starting running back that can generate yardage and touchdowns necessary to help the unit.
That is where the focus should be early.