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The Pessimist’s Take: Top-Heavy Defensive Draft Class

The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.

Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the pessimist’s take on the following question.

Question: Can the Steelers afford to ignore the offense early during this year’s draft?

Perhaps more than just about any other team, the Steelers tend to prefer to build their rosters with relative balance, all things being equal. During any given year, they like to try to split their draft classes roughly evenly between the offensive and defensive sides of the ball with respect to numbers and values.

That is not always the case, of course, with the 2015 draft being a prime example, during which they added six defensive players and two offensive players, the latter being represented in the third and fifth rounds.

But you would have to go back a while to find the last time that the Steelers had focused so heavily on one side of the ball. The last time Pittsburgh had not found some balance by the end of the third round was in 2003, when their first three draft picks were defensive players (they had no third-round pick after trading up in the first round).

This year, in the first round, the Steelers managed to address what many viewed as their biggest need, and what should probably be safely regarded as the team’s biggest need, given that they seemed to have reached in order to draft a cornerback.

With their biggest need out of the way, however, that makes it easier to look for potential balance during the second day of the draft. Particularly if their preferred rush-capable defensive tackle bodies become unavailable to them, you have to figure that taking a wide receiver in the second or third round should be pretty tempting if the right player is there, and they did bring a couple of them in for visits.

While the offensive tackle position was wiped pretty bare in the first round, however, there are some interesting interior linemen that could be available today, and we know that the Steelers have previously shown interest. Obviously a player here would be groomed to start in the future, ideally.

Should tight end Hunter Henry fall to them in the second round, they may not pass him up, no matter how they addressed the position in free agency. There are also a couple of running backs that could be had in the third round that might be of interest based on pre-draft intelligence.

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