No matter how good your team may be doing, there will always be a vocal cross-section of the fan base that, at any given point during the season, is already looking at who their favorite team should be drafting the following spring.
The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is certainly no exception, and, though they finally went 11-5 and won their division, even the most diehard fan could not deny that the organization has some holes to fill.
While the offense improved, and is on an upward trajectory, there are still tweaks to be made, and successors to be found. The defense has struggled, and is switching coordinators, which may call for a slightly different type of player.
So we’ll take a look at the Steelers roster position by position in the early offseason to determine how each group stacks up in terms of draft need. The next position to go under the microscope will be the cornerbacks.
Ike Taylor: The closest thing the Steelers had to a shutdown corner in recent years. Taylor has nearly completely fallen off a cliff over the past two seasons, and has battled injuries in recent years as well, which is new for him. He takes great care of himself, but he has lost a step on the field, and can’t be counted on anymore. It’s universally believed that he will not be asked back.
Cortez Allen: The Steelers really can’t afford to turn Allen away, however, after investing so much in him. So far, in two tries, Allen has failed as a starting cornerback, but the team needs the third time to be the charm. He has the size and physical tools to succeed, because he has shown it in intervals in the past. He must get his head right.
William Gay: A case could be made that Gay has been the most important player on defense, considering the state the secondary would have been in without him over the past two seasons. Four pick sixes over that span doesn’t hurt either. You don’t want him to be your number one, but he can be. He can be just about anything, really, and it’s not his fault the Steelers require more of him than is best.
Brice McCain: A surprising free agent success, a slot corner who found himself starting outside for much of the year, though he would slide inside in sub-packages. He had some ups and downs, but tied Gay with three interceptions, including one returned for a score. He should be a priority depth signing.
Antwon Blake: Somewhat of an enigma. What exactly is ceiling for this 5’9” corner with an ego for days? Blake believes he can be an All-Pro, and that’s what you want him to think. He certainly had plenty of bright spots as his playing time increased during the year, but one wonders if he is capable of more than is already asked of him. A restricted free agent that should definitely be retained.
B.W. Webb: Webb is in a similar scenario as Blake was a year ago. He was added to the team via waivers just prior to the season, hardly playing at all on defense—though Blake contributed much more on special teams. If Webb could contribute at all on defense, or special teams, for that matter, it would be a bonus.
Draft Strategy: Even if everybody but Taylor returns from this group, you would be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t wish the Steelers would finally draft a top corner in the draft, or sign one in free agency. The Steelers have double-dipped on cornerbacks in the draft twice since 2009, and they could do it again in 2015, with even more valuable picks.