Yes, I’m well aware that every draft is a referendum on the current roster for every team but for the Pittsburgh Steelers it takes on special significance when you look at the needs and potential needs of this team heading into 2014.
With cornerback, wide receiver, defensive lineman and inside linebacker being at the top of the list, I’m breaking down why the current players at those positions might not be cutting the mustard.
Cornerback – No one really questions the fact that Ike Taylor is on his last legs and a replacement is needed. At question is whether or not a first round cornerback will take his spot this season (highly unlikely) or will he take over the number two spot currently held by Cortez Allen and/or William Gay.
While many of us assume a first round CB is indeed a replacement for Taylor, can we automatically discount the fact that the team is less than thrilled with Cortez Allen?
Wide Receiver – If there is any position that the Steelers would more than likely take at pick 15 other than a corner, it would be a wide receiver. With Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery both in other uniforms, the experience at receiver amounts to Antonio Brown and Lance Moore and if you really push me to say so, Darrius Heyward-Bey.
The selection of a wideout in the first round could be a clue that the team has little faith in Markus Wheaton, Derek Moye or Justin Brown. With the deep wide receiver class, you could probably apply this thinking to a round two selection as well.
Defensive line – Cam ‘Baby Godzilla’ Thomas has come over from San Diego and all expectations are that he will be a rotational player mostly at one of the end spots. Cameron Heyward and Steve McLendon are still expected to see a good deal of action and Brian Arnfelt and Hebron Fangupo could also push for spots as well.
The problem is both lack of experience and real depth. With much speculation surrounding the future of Brett Keisel, what will the message be if the Steelers draft a defensive lineman in the first or second round?
This depends of course on whether or not the Steelers go with a nose tackle or defensive end, but either way it could signal a concern that the team just doesn’t have faith in anyone on the defensive line other than Heyward.
Inside Linebacker – We know what we get from Lawrence Timmons, but what about the guy next to him? Larry Foote will not be back. Vince Williams, who played way more than anyone expected him to at the season’s opening, is liked, but how much? Could newly signed Arthur Moats be a possibility?
Moats played weak side backer in the Bills’ 4-3 but appears versatile enough to slide inside if necessary. Still, an early selection here will send the clear message that the Steelers aren’t happy with anyone they currently have as a long-term possibility.
As I said in the opening, every draft is a referendum of sorts for all 32 teams, but for a Steelers’ team that has holes like this one does and unproven players to boot, the significance grows rapidly.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.