By Steve Spooner
The NFL Draft is only about six weeks away, and free agency has certainly stirred the pot as far as how teams will draft this year, but don’t let it fool you, teams are still going to go with their guts on what they feel are their needs.
One team in particular is the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost quite a bit this offseason, not all of it major losses i.e. Ziggy Hood, Al Woods, Jonathan Dwyer, but it leaves the Steelers with serious depth issues. The defensive line is the most glaring, with just Cam Heyward the only player at DE with any real experience.
Running back can be easily addressed in the draft, but the defensive line is going to need work. Here are what I believe to be the Steelers best options when it comes to their first round selection.
1. Timmy Jernigan DT FSU. Jernigan is a monster of a man, and fills the need at defensive tackle that the Steelers have had since Casey Hampton left.
2. Aaron Donald DT/DE Pitt. Donald had an amazing combine which shot him up peoples draft boards; the question is if he will be there when Pittsburgh is on the clock. His size is also a bit of a concern as he only weighs in at 265 lbs.
3. Darqueze Dennard CB Mich. St. While the defensive line needs lots of help, if the top two players aren’t there, then the Steelers go with the best available player. In this case it’s Dennard, who is a physical corner who plays the ball well. Dennard is also very good against the run, something the Steelers look for in CBs.
4. Louis Nix NT Notre Dame. Nix is another guy that the Steelers will look in to on the defensive line, as he has the size and motor they like and has played pure 3-4 nose tackle the past few years in South Bend. I can only see him as an option if everyone above isn’t there.
5. Kelvin Benjamin WR FSU. The Steelers lost Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery to free agency, but were lucky enough to sign Lance Moore, however they cannot ignore what Benjamin brings to the table, a tall, physical receiver who would be a huge help in the red zone. This pick though would only happen if the Steelers feel like he is the best available player.
6. Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State. Gilbert would be a great pick up for the Steelers. He has great ball skills and is the best cover corner in the draft. That being said this is a long shot as I can’t see Gilbert lasting that long.
That is what I believe the Steelers are looking at as far as the draft is concerned this year. I believe the defensive line has to be addressed quickly, as the other needs can be filled in later in the draft.
I can’t really see the Steelers going offense unless they believe Kelvin Benjamin is the top man on the board. As always though we will have to wait and see what happens, this year at least the Steelers seem to be in a good spot with plenty of top notch players to choose from. We will see what happens come May 8th when the NFL Draft gets underway.