Take a quick look at the players that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had in for pre-draft visits over the course of the past couple of weeks. Do you happen to notice a pattern?
You simply can’t help but look down the list and make the determination that it says an awful lot about what the Steelers are thinking as we head into the draft and where they would most like to improve their team, based on need and on what is likely to be available when.
With only an exception here and there, the list of pre-draft visits is absolutely dominated by four positions: outside linebacker, cornerback, tight end, and wide receiver.
Of course, it’s likely that things begin to even out at least slightly as the Steelers continue to use up their allotted 30 pre-draft visits from among non-local college football players, but I think that the general theme of the draft, or at least what the front office seems to hope will be the theme, follows the narrative that these are the positions that they would like to target.
And each of them holds an internal logic if you look at their current roster relative to what will be available in the draft.
The needs at outside linebacker are obvious. For the past three or four seasons, the Steelers have been hovering at or below the mid-30s in terms of sacks during the regular season. that is simply not conducive to effective defense, at least not the way that Pittsburgh plays defense when they are actually effective.
With Jason Worilds retiring (and not likely to have been re-signed anyway), James Harrison far from a long-term solution, and Jarvis Jones still a question mark, outside linebacker is a prime target for their first-round selection, or at least for one of their first two picks, and they have brought in a few pass rushers projected to go in that range, including Randy Gregory and Eli Harold.
If it isn’t the pass rush, then, many figure that the Steelers will have to address the cornerback position with their first-round pick, and they don’t seem opposed to the idea after bringing in Marcus Peters. Other high-round possibilities that were brought in include Alex Carter and Senquez Golson.
While the Steelers’ need at tight end might not be immediate, their top two at the position are both over 30 years old and have two years left under their contracts. It seems pretty obvious that the team would like to get some quality youth in that room to learn from Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth now.
Many of the tight ends they have brought in are mostly late-round possibilities and far from name players, but Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman is reportedly scheduled for a visit, and he could certainly be an interesting prospect.
The Steelers lost two wide receivers from last year—though both of them were cut by the team—and the fourth on the depth chart isn’t exactly a sure thing, or an obvious contributor on offense. Based on their visits, it would seem that they would like to find some competition for the slot position.