As the Pittsburgh Steelers come into the fervent of draft season, they have made some notable free agent adds in Steven Nelson, Donte Moncrief, and Mark Barron, but that does not mean that their needs are completely filled, they are merely just patched. The Steelers have around three true needs after free agency with many ‘wants’ sprinkled within those needs.
With that in mind, as we look at every single position of the Steelers’ roster, it becomes apparent that this team has holes but that there is more than enough talent to make a run in the AFC.
Nothing to see here. The Steelers should not be looking to add a QB any time soon with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers ironing out a new deal in addition to the drafting of Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph in back-to-back years. At most, they should add a guy in the UDFA rounds after the draft, but there is no reason to put any stock or investment into any QB with any of the two picks the Steelers currently hold. Let the young guys develop and let Roethlisberger hold the reins.
There was a report not too long ago that the Steelers met with Gardner Minshew at Washington State’s Pro Day, and while I do quite like Minshew in a backup role, unless the Steelers plan on moving on from Dobbs, I don’t see the reason to bring him in for any reason.
This is more so a ‘want’ than a need, but it is becoming increasingly clear that running back is high upon the Steelers’ radar. They have met with numerous RBs at their facility, including Damien Harris, and have sent OC Randy Fichtner to Memphis to take a look at Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard.
Looking at the depth of the position, James Conner is great, but he has been injured both of his years in the NFL. Perhaps that means he needs a lower workload. Jaylen Samuels had a great end to the season, but at this point, is he really anything more than a rotational back? Samuels is far from a pure runner, that is for sure. Behind him, the cupboard is just bare, so addressing a RB3 and getting an upgrade from Stevan Ridley is a smart idea for the Steelers to do on Day 3, even if it is looking like they might just do it on Day 2.
The Steelers can look to a guy with a skillset that they don’t have. They seem to be targeting guys with some juice to their gears, that is for sure. From Henderson, Miles Sanders, Mike Weber, Travis Homer, and Justice Hill, all of those guys have some significant big play ability with the speed they have. They simply are not of the cookie cutter Steelers RB mold. Of course, Benny Snell was also on the team’s radar, and he has far more power than anything else. Damien Harris has all the spices in his basket too. So, what are they targeting? It would seem they are trying to get a guy with some edge to his game and for a guy to add something this team does not have already at RB. Everyone but Snell seemingly accomplishes that goal.
There is an absolute need here for an outside receiver. This team is really, really going to miss Antonio Brown no matter which way you slice it. I think it would be preferred that the Steelers would head out and get a guy who can play the X and still move around similar to JuJu Smith-Schuster. They have the slot locked down with Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers, both of whom I would wager will make the team. Moncrief and James Washington are vertical threats cut from different cloths. Moncrief is far more a speed guy than anything else, but can play the X and Z. Washington will look to make that jump this year as a contested catch specialist and hopefully expand his game to the intermediate and underneath game too.
Regardless, the Steelers have been very, very vocal in making it known that they will go and try to address WR. They met with just about every top WR they could at the combine from D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Riley Ridley, N’Keal Harry, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel. They then sent Randy Fichtner to Georgia Pro Day, likely to observe the trio of receivers in Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley, and Terry Godwin from Georgia. Andy Isabella, Miles Boykin, and Dillon Mitchell all came into Pittsburgh for pre-draft visits. Every single one of those names are likely to go on Day 2, and the Steelers are making it clear that they want a guy who can play outside and move around too. All these guys have the ability to play outside and still shift inside as well. The Steelers are making it known — receiver will be addressed early.
With Jesse James walking out the door to Detroit, the Steelers certainly will be looking to replace him if they can. Vance McDonald is, in my opinion, a Top 10 TE that has all the upside to him in the world this season. We have a complete TE and a great TE1 in McDonald, who can block as well as anyone and is a menace after the catch. Xavier Grimble is as questionable as anyone. His time in Pittsburgh is marked by his fumble at the goal line in the loss to Denver last season, and while he is a good TE3 due to his blocking skills and ability to move in space, but his rawness and inconsistency overlies his game.
The Steelers met with Kahale Warring at the combine, Kendall Blanton at the Shrine Game, and have brought in Alize Mack for a pre-draft visit. Colbert was at Texas A&M’s Pro Day in part to likely watch Jace Sternberger. They also sent TE coach James Daniel to Iowa’s Pro Day and apparently they are very interested in Noah Fant.
All of these guys are athletic and are not terrible blockers at all. They are actually quite decent in that area. Obviously, Blanton and Mack are Day 3 guys, Warring and Sternberger are Day 2 guys, and Fant would have to be had with the 20th overall pick, but it’s clear they want a TE2, and one that is athletic enough to do things in the receiving game. That is another way they can fill the void of Antonio Brown.
The Steelers’ real need at OL is just developmental guys for the future. BJ Finney seems destined to get a starting job either in Ramon Foster’s place or somewhere else. Tackle depth could be something to look at if they do not trust Jerald Hawkins at all. The Steelers did meet with Oli Udoh at the Shrine Game, so it is certainly a consideration. The starting OL should be fine with DeCastro, Villanueva, Pouncey, Foster, and either Feiler or Chuks. Right Tackle could be a bit rougher if for some reason Feiler falls off a cliff or Chukwuma Okorafor is simply not ready to take over the starting role. However, it would seem that interior depth would be the focus. Outside of Finney, there is not that many great options on the inside.
A late round option could be Georgia’s Lamont Gaillard, who can play all three interior spots and is naturally a center, unlike Finney. RJ Prince could still be in the consideration for that roster spot. There are simply a myriad of options for that spot inside in the late rounds this year, so I would not consider a huge priority, but I do expect a pick there.
I love our starting three defensive lineman. Cam Heyward is the best 5-tech that no one talks about in the NFL, and he is easily in the Top 10 DL in the NFL. Stephon Tuitt is a game wrecker when he is on, even if he is often injured. His inconsistency is maddening, but he has an undeniable impact when he is on the field. Javon Hargrave is a living, walking wrecking ball in sub-packages who can shift out to the 5-tech, play 3-tech in sub-packages, or even shift all the way to true nose if needed. Tyson Alualu is a very good depth piece to have on board as well. Dan McCullers is…well Dan McCullers.
The Steelers might be looking at this a bit earlier than we thought initially. Charles Omenihu is a similar player to that of Hargrave, although he can probably even play off the edge at times, albeit not much. He is a versatile sub-package DL who won’t come off the field ever. Jerry Tillery is in play after the Steelers sent a squadron to Notre Dame Pro Day. He has some serious talent no matter where you are on the guy, in fact, he is very comparable to Tuitt. Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke at Texas A&M have to be put on the list as Day 3 depth additions with Colbert at their pro day.
Similar to tight end, OLB can be addressed either extremely early or – underwhemingly – with a late round selection. Outside of T.J. Watt, who looks like he is going to an absolute stud, the Steelers are thin at the position. Bud Dupree is likely in his last year as a Steeler, and should be nothing more than a rotational pass rusher at best. Anthony Chickillo is a special teamer and quite honestly should not be seeing the field very often. And while I like Ola Adeniyi, is he really the answer? He played less than ten snaps all of last season.
Chase Winovich is the big name here .The Steelers met with him at the combine and followed that up by dining with him before Michigan Pro Day. Even more so? The Steelers had a whole team of coaches who were on set to watch both Winovich and Devin Bush.
Colbert and Tomlin were both at Alabama Pro Day along with DL Coach Karl Dunbar and DC Keith Butler. They had to be looking at Christian Miller a little bit. That is a Day 2 option there. Ben Banogu is another possible option as he comes in for a pre-draft visit. He has explosion but is raw, still, Banogu can start next year. Jordan Brailford is the type of Day 3 pick you dream of having. He has starter upside, even if he does not reach that, and can step in and become a contributor on special teams right away. The Steelers seem to be looking at some athletic tools, although Winovich is as polished as they will come.
The granddaddy of them all. This is the consensus number one need for the Steelers. Mark Barron was brought in, and let me make it clear that he is strictly a LB, but he does not move the needle all that much. He is great insurance as depth but I highly doubt that he ever starts barring injury. Vince Williams is not an ideal number one LB, but he is essentially playing the responsibilities of the Mack linebacker right now when he is clearly a Buck. Jon Bostic is great depth at Buck as well, but not as a starter or in the Mack role. Tyler Matakevich is really only good for special teams as he just does not have the athleticism to play well at the NFL level.
The Steelers have given their attention to just about every athletic ILB they could have this year. Devin White, Devin Bush, and Mack Wilson are the three that they all were in attendance at for their pro days and they were there is a horde. I could see any of those three be picked Round 1, and they would all instantly start for the Steelers. Tyrel Dodson, Gary Johnson, David Long, Ben Burr-Kirven, Ulysees Gilbert III, and Otaro Alaka all on their radars from pro days and visits, the Steelers seem bent on making the necessary pick to fix their Mack ILB spot and give this team some athleticism in the middle, but it seems they simply will not reach if the value isn’t there.
Steven Nelson being signed decrease the need to one that is mainly positioned in depth more so than it is in a drastic needed CB2 from day one. Joe Haden is in the last year of his contract but has been fantastic since coming over from the Cleveland Browns. It is without question that he is the best player in the secondary by a long shot. Mike Hilton is a dang good slot CB, even if the Steelers are showing some apprehensiveness in committing to him, Hilton has performed extremely well during his tenure with the Steelers and should be in their plans for the next few years. Cam Sutton and Brian Allen will provide the depth, with Sutton being the backup at seemingly every spot. That is not great, and depth will need to be addressed no doubt.
With combine meetings with Byron Murphy (who now has a pre-draft visit) and Greedy Williams, plus the Steelers popping up at LSU Pro Day, it would seem that they truly do like Williams a lot. He is a possibility at 20 no questions asked. Murphy is a possibility as well, even if his scheme fit is far more questionable than that of Williams’. The Steelers have also brought in Sean Bunting, Justin Layne, and Rock Ya-Sin for pre-draft visits, which likely signals that they are still heavily in the market for a CB early in the draft, likely within the first three picks. It should also be noted that they met with Mike Edwards and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who can project into a slot CB role.
There are layers to this one folks. Terrell Edmunds has a promising rookie year. It started out about as rough as it could have, but he found his footing and kept getting better as the season wore on. That is a promising sign. Sean Davis finally found his home at single-high safety and looks to be finally gaining his ground. He needs far more splash plays, but he was solid. Morgan Burnett is obviously gone, and all that there is to replace him is Marcus Allen and Jordan Dangerfield, both of whom are probably best kept as backups and not the starting dimebacker at the current time.
So, they have met with Gardner-Johnson, Edwards, and have brought in Darnell Savage for a Top 30 Visit. Tom Bradley was present at Nasir Adderley’s pro day, too. The Steelers are absolutely going to draft a safety, it is just when. By all indications, it seems Day 2 is where they are aiming for at this point. That Round 2 pick is the watch point for a safety, it is a big need to play sub-package football, so this should get addressed early.
The Steelers have a myriad of depth issues this year, but they have the draft capital to fill those voids at the very least. So, with about six true positions that must be addressed, look out for the Steelers to go BPA at their wants and needs and try not to force anything this year.