This is the first of what will be a few blogs on the 2011 NFL Draft. Some blogs will focus specifically on the Steelers, while some will focus on the entire NFL or the AFC North. In this installment, the focus will be on the Pittsburgh Steelers biggest needs and who might be available to fill those needs.© 2011 Steelers Universe
Now, the two biggest needs for the Steelers are Cornerback and Offensive Line. In my opinion, Cornerback is the biggest need. We didn't lose the Super Bowl because our offensive line couldn't block (they weren't outstanding in the Super Bowl, but they weren't awful either). I feel the biggest reason we lost was because our corners couldn't cover the Green Bay Packers' wide receivers.
Our biggest need in free agency, whenever it begins, is to resign Ike Taylor. He may have stone hands, but if he could catch he would be playing wide receiver. When he is covering the other team's top wideout, that player normally doesn't have a big impact on the game.
However, the falloff between Ike Taylor and the other Corners on the Steelers roster is large. Neither Bryant McFadden or William Gay are #1 Corners, and honestly both are barely #2 Corners.
Now the Steelers currently hold the 31st pick in the Draft. I really don't think there will be a Corner at #31 that would be worth our first round pick. Maybe we'll get lucky and Jimmy Smith of Colorado falls to that spot.
If the Steelers do decide that they want or need to grab a Cornerback in the first round of the Draft, I think they would trade up to do so. And the only option I see is us trading up for Smith. Otherwise, we would have to trade up into the top ten to get Prince Amukamara of Nebraska or Patrick Peterson of LSU....but I don't think we have the ammunition to do that, nor would we want to give up that much in draft picks and/or players to snag one of the top two.
This is why I think in the first round we will grab an Offensive Lineman, and try to get a Cornerback in the second round. So we could see the Steelers take Brandon Harris (Miami, Fla), Aaron Williams (Texas), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia), or Curtis Brown (Texas). Trading up in the second round is a possibility to get one of them.
Now I am going to look at the offensive line prospects the Steelers might take with their first round pick.
Mike Pouncey, Gaurd, Florida (Yes, Maurkice's twin brother)
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Now to take just about any of these players would require a trade up in the Draft. It's unlikely that any fall to us at pick #31. However, if there were ever a year that the Steelers trade up to get a guy who can be a key piece of the future of their offensive line, I think this would be the year.
The Steelers have weapons on offense like they never really have before. Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Rashard Mendenhall, Antonio Brown, and Antwaan Randle El.
However, those players can't make plays if the offensive line cannot block. Mendy can't run through holes that aren't there. While Ben Roethlisberger is great at making plays after shoving off a defender, he would be even more effective if he actually had time to throw down field without having linebackers and linemen hanging all over him.
So many Steelers fans say that if Ben had Tom Brady's offensive line he'd be putting up those types of stats. The Steelers need to protect him. He's tough and resilient, but if he keeps taking all these hits it will wear on him. The injuries he's played with over the years (broken nose, broken foot, sprained AC joint (basically a dislocated shoulder), broken thumb, etc.) will eventually get to the point where he misses significant time.
We were very lucky to go 3-1 without Big Ben during his suspension. The defense played huge against Atlanta. We won the Titans game because of a kick return for a TD and our defense. We dominated the Buccaneers who weren't a bad team this year, but I feel that they overachieved. But we lost to the Ravens because our offense doesn't really go without Ben Roethlisberger.
Other Steelers draft needs: defensive line, inside linebacker.