Pass Offense - 236.7 ypg (14th)
Total Offense - 332.8 ypg (21st)
Scoring Offense - 21.0 ppg (22nd)
Rush Defense - 90.6 ypg (2nd)
Pass Defense - 185.2 ypg (1st)
Total Defense - 275.8 ypg (1st)
Scoring Defense - 19.6 ppg (6th) Offense: TE, RB, and WR (assuming Mike Wallace departs)
Defense: Explosiveness off the edge and secondary depth
Ben Roethlisberger is the unquestioned starter, but who will back him up? Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are unrestricted free agents and both saw playing time in 2012. Drafting a rookie to back up Roethlisberger won't fly, especially with taskmaster Todd Haley as the offensive coordinator. However, re-signing Leftwich or signing a veteran backup and drafting a late-round quarterback makes a whole lot of sense.
The Miami University connection aside, Dysert is similar to Roethlisberger. Nothing he does is all that pretty, but he can make something out of nothing. Dysert isn't the gunslinger Roethlisberger is, but shines when the lights are on. He struggled a bit at the Senior Bowl, but that'll make him great value in the fifth round. Rodgers also has that gamer mentality. He won't blow you away with his physical attributes but he led Vandy to bowl games in consecutive years, improving his play each and every week. Similar to Dysert, he can make plays in key spots and finds a way to move the chains.
With the top three running backs on the roster all seeking new deals (two are restricted free agents and one is unrestricted), this would appear to be a priority. The Steelers haven't drafted a running back earlier than the fifth round in the last four years. Jonathan Dwyer led the team last year with 623 yards and he probably won't command a huge deal as a restricted free agent. In a perfect world, Dwyer would be a complementary back to a solid No. 1. The Steelers had one of the seven-worst rushing attacks so help is still necessary. The offensive line isn't guilt free, but PIttsburgh needs more out of the backfield.
Selecting Chris Rainey last year (since waived) shows they want more versatility and Randle can give that. He is an excellent receiver, runs physically and has the burst to make big plays on the perimeter. Ball has been overshadowed a bit but he's a physical runner who can deliver 18 to 20 carries a game. He's patient and powerful and would be tremendous value in the middle of the third round. Bell is the biggest back in the draft, but he can catch the ball exceptionally well, has surprising athleticism and can fit zone or power schemes. He won't run 4.4 at the combine, so teams may shy away.
The Steelers' draft philosophy could change with one signature. If Mike Wallace leaves, receivers will be a draft priority. Then there's the business of signing restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders. He should return, which would leave the Steelers in the market for one receiver. The good news is there is great value in this draft.
If the sole purpose is to replace Wallace, there are a number of speedsters available – starting with Patterson. The former Tennessee star can take the top off the defense, but he's not the complete receiver Wallace is. Wheaton is a football player who is track fast. He's a much better route-runner than you'd expect for a guy of his speed. He understands selling routes and he gets to top-end speed as fast as anyone in the draft. Goodwin is probably the fastest prospect and improved his stock with a great bowl game and Senior Bowl week.
Heath Miller's Week 16 knee injury made tight end more than a possibility in the draft. There is no guarantee Miller will make it back during the season. He's been productive and one of Roethlisberger's favorites. The good news, as it pertains to the draft, is there are a number of athletic pass-catchers. The bad news is there isn't a huge crop of blocking tight ends that double as receivers.
Eifert is a bit of a better blocker than Ertz. Ertz is a bit more athletic and better after the catch then Eifert. Both will line up all over, even flexed out wide. Neither will conquer the world setting the edge in the run game, but they'll improve. Either one would fit well in the offensive scheme. Kelce has traditional in-line blocking skills and is a consistent threat in the passing game. He is tough, physical and athletic. In his final game at Cincinnati, he scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 83-yard catch, sprinting away from the Duke secondary. Sims has a lot of work to do on his run blocking, but he has soft hands and good quickness for a guy his size.
If there has been a punching bag for the Steelers over the past several years, it's the offensive line. It's still a work-in-progress, but is starting to come together. Mike Adams struggled at left tackle throughout the season. Adams didn't play a full 2011 campaign in college and was thrown right into the fire as a rookie. It should make him better in the long run, especially as he moves to right tackle. David DeCastro's injury was a setback, but he'll have have a chance to prove himself in 2013. Those two 2012 draft picks will pay dividends for years and a third could move into the lineup to start at guard – seventh-rounder Kelvin Beachum. Considering the draft investment the Steelers made the past three years, the offensive line won't be a top priority.
This draft is about depth. Willie Colon will likely be released, while Ramon Foster is headed out as an unrestricted free agent. There isn't a center behind Maurkice Pouncey, so finding one in the later rounds is important. Holmes didn't have a tremendous senior season, but is good value in the fourth round. Winters isn't a prospect at center, but has the versatility and the toughness to play tackle or guard. He played left tackle at Kent State, but may be better suited at guard. That versatility will help him, and if the Steelers grab him in the fourth round they will get excellent value.
Casey Hampton likely won't return, but the Steelers can get younger with either Steve McLendon or Alameda Ta'amu playing over the nose. Hampton has been such a fixture in the middle of this defense that the pressure will be on them to excel. At defensive end, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward should start paying dividends, especially if Brett Keisel – in the final year of his contract – is released to free up cap space.
Gholston is an impressive athlete at his size, but it never came together for him at Michigan State. In Pittsburgh, he could learn behind Hood and Heyward, providing depth in the process. Hughes starred at the Senior Bowl with a good week against the best competition in the draft. Steinkuhler is a lot like Keisel and provides depth, also at defensive end. Geathers is a massive man, but was often overshadowed by fellow Bulldogs defensive tackle John Jenkins. The Steelers stay true to their board as well as any team in the league, and if Geathers is there in the sixth round, it may be worth it to bring him in.
The names are all very familiar: Harrison, Woodley, Foote and Timmons. They been together since 2007 but the end of the road is near for the 35-year-old Harrison. He's due to make just more than $6.5 million in 2013 and hasn't produced at that level the past two years. Harrison wants to return and the coaching staff wants him to return, but the front office has to find a way to get under the cap. This may be the time to look for a youthful and explosive pass-rushing threat opposite of Woodley. If Foote moves on or isn't re-signed, then the Steelers will move speedy Sean Spence next to Timmons at inside linebacker. Considering how much faster the game has become, the Steelers are better suited looking at an edge pass-rushing threat, even if Harrison does restructure. The Steelers' offensive needs might precipitate taking a wide receiver in the first round and pass-rusher in the middle of the second round. However, if there are a couple pass rushers still on the board at No. 17, the Steelers may be forced to jump.
There are a number of intriguing prospects scenarios that could develop. The first is Jones. Some feel there's no way he's still available at No. 17 and if he is, there's something scaring teams away. If Jones is available, the Steelers could convince themselves it's worth the risk. Jordan is a blur, but he's also coming off injury. He's the opposite of Harrison. The former Kent State star is a leverage nightmare for tackles and tight ends, but doesn't have the length and overall athleticism of Jordan. Ansah could be long gone, especially if he tears up the combine and his pro day. Ansah is still learning the game, but he can just learn to do everything standing up, instead of from a three-point stance. Ogletree is the most interesting, in large part because he constantly finds ways to derail himself. He could play inside next to Timmons or outside opposite Woodley. He has incredible athleticism, but given the DUI issues Alameda Ta'amu (since released) had last year, the Steelers could pass on Ogletree.
This is an old secondary. CB Ike Taylor will be 33 in May. S Troy Polamalu will be 32 in April. S Ryan Clark will be 34 in October. Complicating matters, CB Keenan Lewis, who isn't aging, had a strong season but he's now an unrestricted free agent who should draw significant interest. The Steelers would be wise to keep the soon-to-be 27-year-old Lewis but may not be able to compete financially. So, if Lewis moves on, Cortez Allen takes over opposite Taylor. That's not bad news, but it does erode the team's depth at a much needed position. At safety, Clark was magnificent in 2012, but Polamalu played only seven games. Drafting a safety in either the first or second round makes sense, if for no other reason than to hedge the risk that either Clark or Polamalu won't play 10 or more games this season.
Vacarro is thought to be the best safety in the draft, but Elam is the most complete safety in the class. Size is what makes Elam a second-rounder. Cyprien had a strong Senior Bowl and will impress at the combine. Most importantly, he has a high football IQ, tackles well in space and can play at the line of scrimmage or in coverage equally well. At cornerback, Amerson would be solid value in the third round. He's a gambling, risk-taking zone corner who has solid football instincts, as evidenced by his 13 interceptions in 2011. He had an up-and-down 2012 campaign, but Pittsburgh typically targets taller corners with length, which Amerson has in abundance.
John Harris hosts The John Harris Show for Yahoo! Sports Radio.
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