After selecting Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round, the Pittsburgh Steelers have addressed one major need and filled in one blank in the most important draft class of the Mike Tomlin era.
The second and third rounds of the draft will be essential to continuing the retooling of Pittsburgh’s roster and to creating a solid draft class that, in some cases, can contribute right away.
Here’s a look at five potential picks in the second round.
Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is the top running back on the board, but it is possible that he will not be available when Pittsburgh makes the 18th pick in the round. The New York Jets may be in the market for a running back several picks earlier.
If he is available, the Steelers must make him the pick. He’s a big, bruising back that can do everything that is asked of an NFL runner. The team needs a back like that after allowing Rashard Mendenhall to depart in free agency and passing on Beanie Wells and Ahmad Bradshaw after free-agent visits.
There was some sentiment that Pittsburgh should take Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert with the 17th pick in the draft, but Pittsburgh couldn’t afford to pass on a talent like Jarvis Jones there for a player at a position that already has a starter in Heath Miller.
But Miller’s injury combined with the NFL’s gravitation toward two-tight end passing sets could put Zach Ertz on the minds of the Steelers when the second round begins. He’s a good receiving and blocking tight end that would give Pittsburgh a great red-zone target and make defensive mismatches a regular thing.
There’s no guarantee that Keenan Allen, the top remaining wide receiver, will be available when the Steelers make their pick, but receivers fell a bit more than expected in the first round.
The need is there for the Steelers. Allen would represent a good future starter that can slide outside and keep Emmanuel Sanders in the slot, where he is very dangerous and shifty. The Steelers also need to guard against Sanders’ potential departure next season by getting someone in the fold now.
If Allen falls again on day two, the Steelers will think long and hard about him before making their selection.
After going with defense on day one, Pittsburgh will need to look to the offense on day two. There are two clear needs there: running back and wide receiver.
Johnathan Franklin represents a departure from Pittsburgh’s usual running backs. He’s more Willie Parker than Jerome Bettis with his blazing speed and ability to leave defenders in his wake. He’s physical enough, however, to be successful at the next level at running up the middle.
Pittsburgh has a bit of a pounder in Jonathan Dwyer and seems content to run a two-back system if they can get the right players. Franklin would give them the opportunity to do that while also giving them a guy who can shoulder the whole load if needed.
The Tennessee product is a big receiver with good hands and speed. He would be a great complement to Antonio Brown on the outside and would also move Emmanuel Sanders back to the slot where he can be an impact player.
It will be between Hunter and Keenan Allen as far as which receiver goes first in the round. Either is a good fit for Pittsburgh, but Hunter may be a better fit since he adds a dimension that Pittsburgh currently lacks beyond the aging Burress.