Last week, we had a look at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 draft needs as it relates to the offensive side of the football so this week, we will shift our focus to the defensive side, where I fully expect most of the picks to be used on in May.
Cornerback – Regardless of what ultimately happens with veteran Ike Taylor during the offseason, the Steelers will presumably need to select a cornerback in the first three rounds of the draft and quite possibly a second one later on in the draft. Cortez Allen will start next season and I believe that he will be opposite Taylor with William Gay again serving as the next man up. Curtis Brown, who will be coming off of an ACL injury, hasn’t showed anything when given the opportunity and for now, Isaiah Green should be considered as only a fringe roster player. The Steelers must hit with this selection.
Outside Linebacker – There’s an outside chance that the Steelers will be able to retain soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Jason Worilds during the offseason. If unable to, it will put an even further strain on the outside linebacker position. Keeping LaMarr Woodley might wind up being a must, because outside of him, Worilds and Jarvis Jones, the Steelers have nothing in the pipeline. Chris Carter is still under contract for 2014, but unfortunately his days appear to be numbered as the light just never has come on with him. Like the cornerback position, this position could certainly use two draft picks dedicated to it along with a handful of undrafted tweener-types to sort through.
Defensive End – Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel and Al Woods will all become unrestricted free agents in March. Hood may or may not be back and the same goes for Woods, who the team used mostly as a backup nose tackle in 2013. Outside of starter Cameron Heyward, the Steelers only have Nick Williams and Brian Arnfelt waiting in the wings and both should be considered projects for now. As far as prioritizing the selection of a defensive end in the draft goes, it will all depend on whether or not Hood is re-signed.
Free Safety – Odds are good that veteran Ryan Clark won’t be back in 2014 and the same goes for Will Allen, who was brought back in the middle of the season following him being let go by the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, Shamarko Thomas will be the next man up, but he is better suited to play more of a strong role than he is a free role when you are talking long term. As for Robert Golden, the jury remains out on him and it didn’t help that the team considered Will Allen an immediate need once he was back on the streets.
Inside Linebacker – Whether or not the Steelers draft an inside linebacker likely depends on if they think Sean Spence can fully recover from his knee injury and become the player that they envisioned he would be when they drafted him in 2012. While Vince Williams played a lot more than anyone thought he would as a rookie, he has yet to show that he become a three-down player. Undrafted free agent Terence Garvin can play in space, however, so between he and Williams they might have one inside linebacker that is dependent on down and distance.