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 defensive ends.
Cameron Heyward: Has quickly ascended as leader of the defensive line. Heyward became the first defensive lineman to lead the team in sacks in about a decade or so last season when he posted a career-high 7.5, adding a handful of pass deflections along the way and providing consistent pressure more often than not.
Stephon Tuitt: A rare rookie starter on defense, at least by the end of the year. Tuitt still has plenty of room to go, of course—he is still quite a young man—but he showed promise and potential. He wouldn’t have been in the lineup otherwise. A significant leap from him from year one to year two could have a huge impact on this defense.
Brett Keisel: Will the Steelers shear da beard? He was re-signed late in the proceedings in 2014, but when he was signed, he did so with a two-year contract. His season was ended by injury, so he will have to show that he is healthy, but the Steelers could still use the depth along the line.
Cam Thomas: Especially if Thomas is released, as many expect will happen. He has position versatility, but has not performed particularly well in the grand scheme of things at any position along the line.
Clifton Geathers: Was signed just to be a body when Keisel was injured. It’s unlikely he’ll be re-signed when free agency hits. Was never active for a game.
Ethan Hemer: The Steelers’ third choice for a defensive end prospect on the practice squad. That’s not very encouraging, but he did do some nice things during the preseason.
Joe Kruger: And option number four. A camp body, or the potential for more?
Draft Strategy: The Steelers have the starters they want. But they’re spending $3.5 million combined on the two reserves currently on the roster, which is a bit rich. One or both of those players could be gone, which would mean that the Steelers would once again be looking to replenish their defensive line depth, though that is something they might want to address in free agency.