In a Wednesday afternoon question-and-answer session with fans, Pittsburgh Steelers team president Art Rooney II made it clear that this year’s draft is likely to be defensive-minded one once again.
“I would say just in the early going here, we’re probably gonna have to pick some guys on the defensive side of the ball,” Rooney told a caller. “Obviously, we need to be strong on the defense as well as the offense, so, you know, I’m sure we’ll pick players on both sides of the ball. But I would guess at this point that we’ll probably be a little heavier on the defensive side.”
None of that is a surprise, right? After all, most of you who visit this site on a regular basis already know that the Steelers are expected to address both the inside linebacker and safety positions early in this year’s draft and likely add another outside linebacker and defensive tackle as well. Over the course of the last three drafts, at least two defensive players have been selected within the teams first three selections and in 2016 all three of the first three players selected were defensive players.
With inside linebacker Ryan Shazier currently injured and unlikely to be able to contribute in 2018, his position will likely be addressed with either the team’s first or second-round draft pick. And even if the Steelers dont part ways with veteran safety Mike Mitchell during the offseason, you can probably count on a free safety type to be drafted early just the same. A backup defensive tackle is also needed this year with Daniel McCullers not expected to return as is another outside linebacker being as Arthur Moats is unlikely to be back in 2018 and James Harrison is already gone.
While Rooney didn’t reveal too terribly much during his Wednesday conference call with fans, he did make it point to say that for the team to get to the next level that the defense has to start playing better and more consistent against the run.
“As our fans know, last year there were some games where we were kind of soft against the run and that’s not Steeler football or Steeler defense,” Rooney told a caller. “And so, I think we got to start with making sure that we’re strong against the run and try and put the other team in a passing situation where we can get after the quarterback, which, you know, this year, we we’re pretty close to leading the league in sacks. And so that’s one of the strengths of our defense that we need to continue to capitalize on.”
So once again, playing better against the run moving forward will require better play at inside linebacker and thus there’s no reason to think that position won’t be addressed early in this year’s draft and potentially even during free agency as well.
You can hear the entire Rooney conference call with fans below: