This is part two in a series from steelcityblitz.com arguing the reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers should take a specific position with the 17th pick in the first round. Today is a look at outside linebackers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense in 2012 ranked number one overall and number one against the pass, but the team missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record. While rankings are all fine and good, I would much rather be 10th in defense and still playing in the playoffs. And yes, I know the offense had issues as well…
There are a couple of major factors to point to in terms of why the Steelers need to look at outside linebacker as a potential first round draft selection in April.
First, the team recorded just 37 sacks on the season which ranked them right in the middle of the pack. That’s a place where ‘Blitzburgh’ is not accustomed to being. The Steelers have always depended on the bulk of their sacks and pressure in general to come from the outside backer positions and despite a valiant effort by a less-than-100% James Harrison, the position needs an upgrade in the name of speed and youth.
Sad to say considering LaMarr Woodley ins’t exactly old, but he was far from effective for the second straight year as he totaled just four sacks. His back-up, Jason Worilds actually finished with one more sack than he did.
Whether Woodley needs to drop some weight is debatable, but I certainly lean to the side that says yes. Steelers’ OLBs are required to cover receivers at times and Woodley doesn’t stand a chance right now against even the most average of tight ends.
With Woodley’s regression and the fact that James Harrison’s salary may cost him a roster spot or massive paycut at the very least, this team needs an immediate upgrade so I could hardly argue if the Steelers went in this direction in round one. Is there first round talent available at this position in the 17th slot however?
The answer is yes, but will that talent still be available and what is the drop-off after the top 2-3 guys? There is no way that Jarvis Jones of Georgia falls to 17th. If he does, then that will have meant a horrible pre-draft workout and perhaps an alien invasion because he is easily a top 5 pick.
Two other guys who are very intriguing are Dion Jordan of Oregon and Barkevious Mingo of LSU. At 6’6″, Jordan would be an incredible presence on the edge for any team in a 3-4, but I wonder how he would do against the run from a stand-up position with his height. Mingo seems to be the real deal after dominating most of his career for the Tigers.
The problem is, I just don’t see any of these guys on the board by the time the Steelers pick at 17. We have to keep in mind though that we all though the same about David DeCastro last year too yet he fell to us late in the first round quite unexpectedly.
Two other guys who would look great in the black n’ gold are Bjoern Werner of Florida State and Sam Montgomery from LSU. My guess is that Werner, who was a down defensive end at FSU will be gone, but Montgomery could be an option.
The problem I see for the Steelers in going OLB in the first is that are you really getting first-round talent? While the combine and pre-draft workouts will tell a lot in the coming weeks, are there guys outside of the five I mentioned that you would take in the first round?
Alex Okafor of Texas is coming off a monster Alamo Bowl where he had 4.5 sacks and Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore had a terrific season for the Aggies but are these guys worthy of the 17th pick?
I really believe that if any of the guys I mentioned with the exception of Okafor and Moore are available, then the Steelers should take that individual.
The Steelers need sacks and disruption. They need pressure and guys who cause mistakes and they need play-makers who create turnovers. Any of those top guys, should they fall to 17 might be worth a look.
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 Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.