|The NFL draft will be held from Thursday April 25 through Saturday April 27 in Nashville TN. Expect the Steelers to again focus on defense, although free agent signings mean they have the option to consider the best athlete/player available on the first two days. Below is a list of team needs, most desperate first. Players the Steelers talked to at a post season all star game, the combine, their pro day and/or took an official visit to Pittsburgh are listed alphabetically. When there is overlap a prospect is listed only once, official visits and then the pro day/combine taking precedence in that order. These are not necessarily exhaustive lists, someone could have been missed. Some of the visits were likely just the Steelers doing their due diligence on players that have some question-mark, on and/or off the field. Just because someone was not specifically talked to or asked to visit is far from a reason to think they will not be strongly considered in the draft.
ILB:Both Vince Williams and Tyler Matakevich are two down run stuffers at BUCK linebacker. They are adequate at best, yet not the real problem. A versatile, three down MACK linebacker to replace Ryan Shazier is the main need. Finding someone will not be easy. Last year LJ Fort came on as the season progressed out performing free agent signee Jon Bostic. Fort left as a free agent for the Redskins. Aging veteran Mark Barron was signed as a stopgap. Devin White or Devin Bush would be excellent replacements. Neither is expected to be available with the 20th pick after eye popping combine performances. Both should be off the board by the Bengals pick at 11, the Packers pick at 12 on the outside. Could a trade up be possible? The Lions are reportedly interested in trading out of the 8th pick. Would they be willing to move all the way down to the 20th pick?
OLB:Only TJ Watt is adequate on the edge. Bud Dupree has disappointed for four seasons. His fifth year option was picked up seemingly more in desperation than because of actual value. Primary backup Anthony Chickillo was resigned for depth. Last year's seventh rounder Keion Adams spent the season on injured reserve. On the off chance Brian Burns falls to the 20th pick he would have to be considered. Clellin Farrell does not appear to be an option. He is more 4-3 end, lacking the athleticism to play in space which is necessary in the Steelers scheme. The other top edge rushers will be long gone. A day two pick could be used on the position.
CB:The signing of free agent Steven Nelson to pair outside with Joe Haden and Mike Hilton in the slot makes the talent level at corner at least adequate. Cam Sutton is the main backup. Former first rounder Artie Burns just never developed. He'll still probably make the roster for his third season. Haden isn't getting any younger, has been injury prone. Nelson has only one good year under his belt. He was better in the slot earlier in his career. Hilton will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Adding a shutdown corner for the future is of course a good idea for any team. Byron Murphy, Deandre Baker and Greedy Williams if the front office believes his tackling issues were at least in part caused by his shoulder problems could all provide value at 20. Rock Ya-Sin is a possible surprise selection. Mike Tomlin is reportedly high on Ya-Sin. There are also quite a few good second day options at the position.
WR:Trading Antonio Brown obviously leaves a hole at receiver, just not the gaping hole that might be expected. JuJu Smith-Schuster was elected team MVP last season by his teammates. Last year's second rounder James Washington showed some flashes in the final quarter of the season. Donte Moncrief was signed to a two year deal. Having Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball should be a nice change after playing with Scott Tolzien, Jacoby Brissett, Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler the last two seasons. Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers are decent if not particularly explosive slot receivers. They will directly compete with each other for playing time, perhaps a roster spot. Kevin Colbert has a history of hitting on day two and three receivers. Brown was a sixth rounder.
TE:The Lions paid big money for the outlaw, former backup Jesse James. Depth is needed at the least for two tight end sets. Vance McDonald is in the last year of his deal. Xavier Grimble signed his restricted free agent tender. Next year there could legitimately be nothing left on the depth chart.
S:Last year's big ticket free agent Morgan Burnett could not stay healthy, was not happy with his role. He has been released. The Steelers reached in the first round for Terrell Edmunds. He developed adequately. Sean Davis is in the last year of his contract. He lacks top ball skills often leaving corners on an island when he fails to help as a single deep safety. Depth behind both is thin. The hope is last year's fifth rounder Marcus Allen can help. There has been talk of moving third year corner Brian Allen to free safety.
RB:Can James Connor stay healthy? He and Jaylen Samuels provide a decent enough duo. Both can be feature runners and have the ability to contribute in the passing game. Adding a more traditional third down back wouldn't be the worst idea. Waiting until the second pick of the third round or day three to take a flier on a change of pace back is the likeliest scenario.
OL:The decision to trade Marcus Gilbert for a sixth rounder and cap relief made sense especially considering he played only 12 games total in the last two years due to suspension and injury. Matt Feiler was fine on the right side replacing Gilbert last season. Gerald Hawkins returns from injury to join 2018 third rounder Chiki Okorafor as the primary backups behind Alejandro Villenueva and Feiler. The offensive line need is more for depth and the future inside. BJ Finney is the only adequate backup behind Ramon Foster, David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey. Foster and Pouncey aren't getting any younger.
DL:The starters are set with Javon Hargrave, Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. Backups Daniel McCullers and Tyson Alualu were resigned. Neither McCullers nor Alualu are exciting options, possible future starters. Taking a day three developmental prospect is likely.
ST: The special teams fell apart last season. Chris Boswell struggled after signing a big money extension. Jordan Berry continued to be one of the worst punters in the game. How he won the job coming out of camp last preseason over Matt Wile remains a mystery. Wile was signed by the Vikings and performed well. Serious competition for both Boswell and Berry would make sense. Past experience suggests both are more than likely to return. Should the Steelers end up making all ten of their picks then there are worse ideas than using one of the three sixth rounders on a punter. Mitch Wishnowsky of Utah, Jake Bailey of Stanford, John Fox of Rice or Tyler Newsome of Notre Dame in no particular order are all worthy candidates for a late pick. The return game was mediocre at best. Kick returns have been de-emphasized with the new kickoff rules. Switzer is steady yet lacks explosiveness as a punt returner.
QB: Talks to extend Roethlisberger remain active. No whispers of him possibly retiring have come out at all like the last two off seasons. Josh Dobbs and Mason Rudolph have been drafted the last two years. Rudolph remains the presumptive quarterback of the future.