The Steelers, Eagles, Colts, Patriots and a few other teams are on a different level when it comes to drafting. Year in and year out, they put themselves in position to win by addressing the current with solidifying the future. This year, the Steelers entered the draft with the 31st selection.
Cornerback and offensive line were the two biggest needs for the current AFC Champions. Once the Ravens selected Jimmy Smith, the Steelers did not reach on Aaron Williams or any other middle of the pack corner. At first glance, this might look like a bad decision, but honestly, Smith and Peterson are head and shoulders above the rest of the cornerback class, so it was the right decision to not stretch for one of the others.
Enter Cameron Heyward, the defensive end of the Ohio State University. This was an excellent value pick at the end of the round, but Steelers fans should not be overjoyed by this selection. He is not Aaron Smith and never will be. The good news is that he is probably NFL ready and fits the 3-4 scheme perfectly.
Ziggy Hood still has a bigger upside than Heyward, but both should anchor the defensive line for the next decade as the veterans move on in the near future. Heyward has excellent football smarts and pedigree, but he is not the most athletic player in the world. Fortunately for the Steelers, they do not need him to be extremely athletic, just an effective end with great technique.
Marcus Gilbert fills an obvious need, but might not be the right fit. He is a mammoth of a man with shorter arms that will make it difficult for him to be an effective tackle in the league. The Steelers insist he can play tackle or guard, but his only great technique is his ability to pull. The Florida Gators had serious line issues outside of Mike Pouncey, including Gilbert having his problems. The Steelers reached on him in round 2, but maybe his familiarity with Mike’s twin brother Maurkice will bring the best out of him.
Curtis Brown, the cornerback out of Texas, was an excellent selection in terms of value and need. As mentioned earlier, the Steelers did not reach on Brown’s teammate Aaron Williams or any of the middle of the pack corners. Brown is just as talented as Williams with better man coverage skills. The Steelers still must re-sign Ike Taylor, but even on a team that blitzes a lot out of zone coverage, they needed a guy who can flat out cover one on one.
Fresno State outside linebacker Chris Carter was simply too talented to pass up on in the fourth round. The Steelers probably needed an inside linebacker more and can manufacture double digit sacks out of anybody from the outside linebacker position, but Carter provides incredible depth at that position. Carter is a second round talent that the Steelers simply could not pass up on.