During the lead-up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we’ve had you covered breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster by position and looking to how that corresponds to what they might do during the draft later this week.
But the Steelers aren’t the only team in the league, nor are they the only team in their division. And they lost three games to division opponents last season, including in the first round of the playoffs, which prematurely ended their most promising season since 2011, at least.
With that in mind, it will be valuable to break down each division opponent’s roster and take a look at where they are in need in terms of rebuilding through the draft. Up next is the Cincinnati Bengals, whom the Steelers beat in Week 17 to secure their first division title since 2010. The Bengals are the only division team to lose twice to the Steelers last year, even though they still made the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Like the Ravens, the Bengals too will have a glut of mid-round draft picks, with nine draft picks in total. Unlike the Ravens, however, their path to that bounty did not come from a convoluted journey of trades. The Bengals retained all of their natural draft picks, but were also awarded compensatory picks in the third and fourth rounds, giving them a total of four draft picks between the third and fourth rounds.
The Bengals did not lose any meaningful pieces that they were unwilling to lose during free agency, and they also cut off some of the fat. Instead, they added six free agent players from outside of the organization, also a few of them had prior history with the team.
Two of them are perhaps their two most significant signings, as they were able to reacquire defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Pat Sims, both of whom have been quality players along the defensive line for the Bengals in the past.
Johnson in particular should be an upgrade in the starting lineup, although the line as a whole could stand to be improved upon, as the Bengals ranked last in terms of pressure efficiency, and Johnson is more of a run defender than a pass rusher to begin with.
While the Bengals would appear to be content with their group of linebackers, much of that hinges on the recovery of Vontaze Burfict, and Cincinnati has expressed interest in the top inside linebacker of the draft already, so that is also a distinct draft possibility. At the back end of the defense, however, they are likely set.
When it comes to the offensive side of the ball, the most obvious need is probably tight end, where they are still waiting on Tyler Eifert to emerge and the future of Jermaine Gresham, a free agent, is uncertain. They could certainly add somebody here, and they have attempted to target free agent tight ends.
With Andrew Whitworth very near retirement, however, it’s possible that the Bengals elect to grab a tackle in the first round. Otherwise, they appear very sound along the offensive line. Wide receiver is also a need, where they have only added Denarius Moore. They could use a slot type of player here.