As the draft at long last approaches, many websites are still striving to fill the last week of dead space with draft coverage. We ourselves are no different in that regard, though we like to think that we keep things informative and useful.
Pro Football Focus is one of these many sites, and they are currently running a series that looks at draft needs on a division basis. The stats site took a stab at the Pittsburgh Steelers and the AFC North as a whole yesterday.
They graded players and positions on a five-tiered level of urgency, from “no immediate need”, to “may want to consider the future”, to “require a player to build into this role”, to “a need to improve at this position”, to, finally, “upgrade a high priority”.
The site’s evaluations here are not based merely on their grade of specific players, but also considers a player’s age, the depth at the position, and other matters typically relevant to determining draft needs.
On the offensive side of the ball, PFF naturally takes no issue with the quarterback position, listing it as “no immediate need”. Likewise with the starting running back position, though they list the secondary running back position as “require a player to grow into this role”. While LeGarrette Blount is in that place, it is true that they currently have nobody else behind him, so perhaps that’s fair.
Given Heath Miller’s age, the starting tight end position gets a “may want to consider the future” distinction. They are less charitable to the second tight end position, however, even though Matt Spaeth is just a year removed from being graded as their best run-blocking tight end. Maybe the fact that he missed most of last season and that there’s not much significant depth behind him come into play. Not to mention he’s already crossed the age threshold of 30.
Markus Wheaton gets a “no immediate need” pass due to his youth and inexperience, but for Lance Moore, or the slot receiver role more specifically, PFF believes the Steelers need to draft a player to build into that role. Given Moore’s age, that’s reasonable.
They are not charitable to the tackle positions at all. Marcus Gilbert is in the yellow, while they believe Kelvin Beachum’s spot is one with “a need to improve”. They believe tackle is the team’s third-biggest need, overall.
On defense, the only spot given “upgrade is a high priority” is Ike Taylor’s top cornerback role. This is common knowledge, considering that Taylor is in his last year and there’s nobody in line to replace him. They list cornerback as the team’s top priority.
Second on the priority list is defensive line, where Cam Thomas is currently in line to start at defensive end. Steve McLendon at nose tackle gets a “may want to consider the future” designation.
At linebacker, there is no need at either outside linebacker spot, nor at Lawrence Timmons’ inside linebacker spot. Where Vince Williams is concerned, however, the site believes that the position has “a need to improve”. Might Sean Spence possibly be the improvement from within?
When factoring in age and depth, PFF’s take on the Steelers’ roster seems pretty fair. There’s not much behind Spaeth, for example, who is already aging. William Gay, likewise, is getting up there at nickel, and there’s not much depth behind him. Williams still has a lot to prove; but then again, so does Wheaton. And the Steelers certainly appear more confident in their tackles than most outside parties do.