The Steelers primary needs heading into the 2009 draft are defensive line, offensive line, wide receiver and defensive back. There are of course four other positions, plus special teams.
The Steelers are obviously going to take someone who plays at least one of them. As with the primary need positions, the question is the same. Which takes priority?
The Steelers Draft Needs at Tight End
The Steelers are young at this position. Health Miller is growing into one of the top tight ends in the game, and Matt Speath showed that he could be dangerous in the passing game. They also have Sean McHugh, who doubles at fullback.
Steeler’s Digest’s Bob Labriola has labeled drafting a back up tight end a luxury. His logic is sound, but a little short sighted.
Health Miller will be a free agent next year, unless the league goes to an uncapped year, and then he’ll be a restricted free agent. While the Steelers can match any offer in that scenario, are they going pony up when Daniel Snyder or Jerry Jones offers Health Miller a five year 15 million dollar a year deal?
If Spaeth is developing into a nice complement to the passing game, the knock on him is that he adds nothing as a blocker. And the Steelers need help with blockers.
Tight end should not be high on the Steelers list, but if they get a shot at a good one starting in middle rounds, they should feel free to take one. Especially if he's a tight end who can smash people.
Running Back: Shouldn't Have Been a Need But....
If the Steelers once vaunted running game never really got unleashed in 2008, they still enter 2009 when one of the league’s top running back stables. Willie Parker will return, as will 2008’s number one pick Rashaard Mendenhall. The unsung hero of the 2008 season, Mewelde Moore will be backing them up. And Cary Daivs, while no world beater, will also be there both as a runner and to split fullback duties with Sean McHugh.
Why pray tell, would the Steelers draft a running back? Well, they shouldn’t. At least not in the early rounds.
After that drafting a running back makes more sense.
Willie Parker is aging and has been injured for parts of the last two years. Since he played so little in college he’s probably got more left in him than many other NFL backs who’ve logged a similar number of carries. But he’s also in the final year of his contract.
Rasshard Mendenhall showed some flashes before he got hurt in 2008. He really didn’t get enough carries to make an honest evaluation. And that’s the point. Mendenhall is still an unknown talent.
Mewelde Moore was the free agency steal of the 2008 off season. He’s a keeper.
Davis’ production has yet to match his apparent versatility. Its not that he’s done anything wrong, but that he really hasn’t done much. Why the Steelers kept him and let Gary Russell fall to Cincinnati remains a mystery.
Had the Steelers kept Russell and let Davis go, Steel Curtain Rising would be content to say that the Steelers could safely ignore running back in this draft.
Now we will not think them foolish if they draft for depth in mid-rounds. This is especially true if the find a running back who has the skill and speed to return kicks. (Or, heaven forbid, a true fullback....)
The Steelers (Almost) Lack of Need at Linebacker in the 2009 Draft
The Steelers had the NFL's best linebacking corps in 2008 and should very well have the best in again 2009. They had James Harrison, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, two other Pro Bowl caliber starters, plus Larry Foote, plus Pro Bowler in waiting Lawrence Timmons. They also have a good mix of experienced and maturing talent behind them.
What motive could they possibly have for drafting a linebacker?
Because the make up of their linebacking corps. could well change in short order after the draft.
The Steelers have virtually no room to operate under the salary cap. They already had to cut Gary Russell for cap reasons and renegotiate Ike Taylor’s contract. If they need to cut more salary, Larry Foote’s time with the team is likely at an end.
Timmons would more than make up for the loss of Foote, but it would also thin out their depth at inside linebacker quite a bit.
But the potential they have at this position is sufficient, that they should probably relegate any linebacker pick ups until late rounds. If Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin know they can keep Foote, then they can ignore linebacker in this draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Envy of the League at Quarterback
That the Steelers came so close to signing both Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich actually speaks volumes about how much of an asset this team is. During 2008 there were some teams that scrambled to find one man who was competent to stand under center. The Steelers were on the verge opening camp in Latrobe with three of them on their roster.
And while he played little, Dennis Dixon is showing signs that he will develop into the back up that the Steelers envisioned him being when they took him in the 5th round last year.
The Steelers will probably bring a fourth arm to camp, but give the team’s needs else where, it would be foolish to use a draft pick on a quarterback.
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