I was so bummed out to read all these articles over the past few days that Ryan Clark was going down to Miami and didn’t want to leave there without a contract. I was under the impression that he would just sign with the Steelers like it was a foregone conclusion. Instead I was forced to imagine scenarios that didn’t include Clark.
Without him, all we have at safety is Troy and Ryan Mundy. So instead of going into the draft without having any pressing needs, all of a sudden we need to focus on getting a safety in the first two rounds. It’s not like the Steelers to go into the draft NEEDING immediate help. They’re known around the league for being able to just choose the best available player every year, so it was a little jarring to hear that Clark was leaving and that it was just the Steeler way to not overpay for a player, which I understand completely but just thought we’d get this done.
Then this morning I woke up and put on some ESPN and see that Ryan Clark signed a 4 year deal with the Steelers. I thought I was seeing things because I was just led to believe that he was gone and not coming back. This combined with their other free agent moves is why I believe the Steelers are set up for this year’s draft.
Besides Clark, the Steelers also signed safety Will Allen to a 3 year deal so now the Steelers have Clark and Troy starting and Allen as the primary backup. I am so happy that they finally got rid of Tyrone Carter and his huge liability in the secondary. Allen will be a serviceable backup and a great special team player for the Steelers. And I’m not forgetting about Ryan Mundy. I feel he made a few steps this year for being just thrown out there but now he gets to continue to learn behind 3 veterans along with contributing on special teams also.
The Steelers also this week signed wide receivers Antwan Randle El and Arnez Battle. This means that we have Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes as our starters, Mike Wallace as our starter/third receiver, Randle El as the fourth receiver and special team contributor and battle as fifth receiver, but mainly just on special teams. This makes Linas Sweed expendable unless he all of a sudden shows the Steelers something special. I haven’t forgotten about that Tyler Gristhem kid(sorry about the spelling) but he will probably be relegated to the practice squad.
With Matt Speath tendered we are set up at tight end also, Heath Miller is our unquestioned starter, there will be a battle for second tight end with Derek Johnson and Seth McHugh coming off injury, unless the steelers decide to use McHugh as a fullback, which is probable, Speath will have to earn a spot on special teams or he will be gone.
Running back is a little less set up but still we are not in dire need, Reshard Mendenhall will have his first full season being the starter, Moore is a good third down back and could step in, in spots to spell Reshard, and Logan who isn’t really used as anything other than a returner is still there as a receiving threat as well.
With Cary Davis gone it’s either Frank Summers or McHugh at fullback and McHugh will probably win that battle, personally I'd like to see Isaic Redman more than Summers anyway so we’ll see who wins that battle.
Now keeping in mind about Big Ben’s legal problems, I still think we are set up at quarterback. Ben will be back and God forbid he isn’t, I think Dennis Dixon has learned enough to step in for a short time period. Now if Ben loses the season or something major like that we could be in trouble, but for now we are in wait and see. And don’t forget about Batch who can be a good third QB as a mentor to Ben and Dixon.
Linebacker I think we are pretty set up but we could improve a bit. Harrison and Woodley are the starters on the outside and Timmons and Farrior are the inside. However Farrior is getting old and even Harrison is older, despite his long term deal. I love both of them but we can still get a bit younger. Fox is a good backup but that is pretty much all we have, Bailey is special teams and so is Boiman, and I do not think that bringing back Larry Foote is the answer even though I hated that we let him go in the first place.
Going down to the defensive line is where things start to get tricky because we still have a great defensive line. With Keisel, Hampton and Smith we are set up for the season, but as everyone knows they are all over 30 and we don’t have much after them, Hoke and Kirschke are old, Eason is just as old and Hood and Harris are young and need to learn, although Hood seemed to take some major steps last year as a rookie, and don’t get me wrong just because the others are old doesn’t make them bad, I just think we could get younger.
Cornerback was probably the worst position on the team last year but I don’t think we are as bad as everyone thinks. Ike Taylor is still a good starter even though he has brick hands, and I haven’t fully given up on Gay even though he was pretty bad last year, he is still young and has potential. And if he doesn’t pan out, Burnett and Lewis are waiting in the wings to try and set up as they learn the system. And if we resign Townsend he will just add to the veteran leadership as his athleticism has dipped in years.
Now on to the offensive line, where, again, I am not as critical as most people. They can be bad at times but I think what we have is serviceable although it can get a lot better. Starks has his deal and is our left tackle, Kemauato is our best lineman at left guard, Hartwig is a good center and I’m not as down on Colon at right tackle, right guard is up in the air as injuries and bad play made it a revolving door last season. With this I was impressed with Essex and Foster alike, and Legursky is a decent backup center/guard. I don’t have much faith in Tony Hills and I’m not entirely sure if I’m forgetting any other lineman on the roster at the moment, I’m sorry if I am.
Special teams-wise we need to resign Reed to a long term deal and Sepulvada is a good punter, with all the free agent moves we made our special teams increasingly better also.
In the first round I believe we will take one of three things, either Kyle Wilson DB, Iupata G, or a linebacker. I think Wilson and Iupata are Steelers guys both physical and will fill needs and I just have a feeling that the Steelers will surprise people and go linebacker like they did with Timmons and have him sit for a couple years.
In the second round I believe or hope that we will be able to take DT Cam Thomas, he is perfect for our system but I am not sure he will be there in the second round for the Steelers.
Now the later rounds get a little trickier as I don’t know how the draft will unfold, I believe somewhere the Steelers will draft a center, running back, quarterback, safety/corner and a wide receiver
Either way the Steelers are in position to allow their picks to sit and learn behind veterans and there is no pressing need. Obviously this is just my opinion and I’m sorry for misspelling a bunch of people’s names. The Steelers keep everything so tight to the chest no one knows what they will do, I just can’t wait for the draft and for the season to start.