With the Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 season now firmly behind us, we can now take a good look at the teams 2016 draft needs. In this post, we will look at every offensive position from a needs standpoint as the team enters the offseason.
Quarterback – (Low Need) – With starter Ben Roethlisberger now under contract through the 2019 season, the Steelers need to draft another quarterback is low. However, Landry Jones is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract and while he had a few positive moments in 2015 while filling in for an injured Roethlisberger, he had a few dubious ones as well. Jones will more than likely be on the 2016 53-man roster, however, there’s still some uncertainly as to who the third quarterback will be on the depth chart. The Steelers could decide to re-sign veteran Bruce Gradkowski after the draft to a one-year veteran deal for the minimum or sign another veteran instead. Should the Steelers ultimately wind up drafting another quarterback in 2016, one would think such a selection would come in the later rounds.
Running Back – (Low Need) – Starter Le’Veon Bell should be fully recovered from his knee injury come the start of training camp and while we’ll have to wait and see whether or not he receives a contract extension during the summer, he’ll be their bell cow in 2016 regardless. Veteran backup DeAngelo Williams will also be back in 2016 and the same probably goes for playoff starter Fitzgerald Toussaint. In other words, it will be very surprising if the Steelers spend a draft pick this year on a running back.
Fullback – (Low Need) – The Steelers found themselves a gem in 2015 in former undrafted free agent Roosevelt Nix and thus he should be the team’s starter in 2016. Soon-to-be free agent Will Johnson might also be brought back on a one-year veteran deal for the minimum to compete in training camp. Other bodies will likely be brought in via future contracts and undrafted free agents to help fill out the 90-man offseason roster.
Wide Receiver – (Low Need) – The top of Steelers depth chart at the wide receiver position is already set for 2016 as Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates will make up the top-four spots. The team could also decide to bring back veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey for one more season as well. Additionally, all eyes will be on young undrafted wide receiver Eli Rogers this offseason, as he should be fully recovered from the foot injury he suffered during training camp that wiped out his rookie season. While Wheaton is likely to be gone via free agency after the 2016 ends, there’s no reason for the team to select a wide receiver in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Tight End – (High Need) – In all likelihood, veteran tight end Heath Miller will back in 2016 to play out the final year of his contract and the same goes for backup Jesse James, who was drafted last year in the fifth round. Beyond those two players, it’s uncertain as to what the rest of the 2016 depth chart at the tight end position will look like. While veteran Matt Spaeth and former seventh-round draft pick Rob Blanchflower are both currently under contract for the 2016 season, neither are locks to make next season’s final 53-man roster as we sit here in January. In other words, it shouldn’t be a shock if the Steelers draft another tight end in the coming months.
Tackle – (Moderate Need) – Whether or not the Steelers draft a tackle in 2016 will likely depend on whether or not they can re-sign veteran Kelvin Beachum, who had his 2015 season cut short by a knee injury. Additionally, Mike Adams will be back in training camp this year competing for a roster spot after having his contract tolled because of a back problem that kept him on PUP all season. Should Beachum not be re-signed, the Steelers appear to be comfortable having Alejandro Villanueva starting opposite Marcus Gilbert in 2016. While Villanueva’s current contract ends after the 2016 season, he will be easily retained for the 2017 season being as he’ll be a restricted free agent.
Guard – (Moderate To High Need) – Should the Steelers ultimately re-sign Ramon Foster during the offseason, they might decide to push guard down their list of draft needs. It also should be pointed out that they appear to still be high on B.J. Finney and Chris Hubbard as possibly being swing players in 2016. Neither, however, are likely viewed as being long-term starters and so it wouldn’t be a shock to see them address the guard position in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft.
Center – (Low Need) – Assuming starter Maurkice Pouncey is able to return in 2016 from the ankle injury that wiped out his entire 2015 season, the Steelers won’t be expected to draft another true center in the coming months. While Cody Wallace certainly didn’t deserve to make the Pro Bowl in 2015, he did an admirable job filling in for Pouncey the entire season and so he’s almost certain to be back in 2016. Additionally, Hubbard and Finney have some center experience when it comes to position flexibility.
Conclusion – If you had to rank the Steelers draft needs on the offensive side of the football, they would probably be tight end, guard and then tackle with the first two positions probably being 1A and 1B. Assuming they enter the 2016 NFL Draft with 7 total selections, I fully expect at least two of them to be used on offensive players with a possibility of three.