´ Steel Curtain Rising: Steelers Draft Needs at Wide Receiver vs. Defensive Back

What position(s) should be the Steelers highest priorities in the draft?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Steelers Draft Needs at Wide Receiver vs. Defensive Back

Having dealt with the offensive and defensive lines earlier this week, Steel Curtain Rising now turns to the Steelers next two need areas. Defensive back and Wide Receiver.

Unlike the lines, the Steelers have some of the best in the game at those positions. At wide out they count on Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

In the secondary they have Tory Polamalu a man who is helping define the concept of playmaker and game changer. If Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark are not in that category, both are proven veterans.

Strictly speaking, neither of these areas are problem areas. But if problems are absent, needs are not. Here’s a look at both areas, and Steel Curtain Rising’s assessment on what, if push comes to shove, the Steelers should do if it becomes an either or situation when they’re on the clock.

Steelers Draft Needs in the Defensive Backfield

In addition to Taylor, Polamalu and Clark, the Steelers have William Gay penciled in as a starter with Desha Townsend slated to become a nickel back.

The Steelers are big on William Gay. Losing Bryant McFadden hurt, but one of the reasons why the Steelers did not bend over backwards to keep him was Gay’s development. Gay started four games while McFadden was hurt, and alternated snaps with him later.

In fact, he played almost as many snaps as McFadden in Super Bowl XLIII.

With Desha Townsend, the Steelers have a proven commodity. Byrant McFadden developed nicely while he was here. The reason why he didn’t play more was because Townsend kept him off of the field. At some point Townsend’s veritable fountain of youth is going to run out, but given his consistency it is unlikely that his play will suffer a dramatic drop off.

But behind him is journeyman Antonio Bryant, who is 32.

At safety the situation is similar. Ryan Clark returned last year with a vengeance. However, the only established back up is Tyrone Carter, who is 33.

Behind those players the Steelers have Ryan Mundy last year’s sixth round pick who spent 2008 on IR, and Roy Lewis an undrafted rookie free agent. Lewis turned heads last year in training camp, and the decision to cut him caught some by surprise. He returned to the practice squad and saw some time on the regular season roster, but the fact that he went back to the practice squad could be a bad sign.

This draft is said to be wanting a shut down corner or dominating safety, but deep with quality defensive backs who are considered to be high value pick. The Steelers need to come out of this draft with one.

Steelers Draft Needs at Wide Receiver

Like Bryant McFadden, losing Nate Washington hurt, but he deserves a shot at starting. The Steelers success at wide receiver in hinges largely on Limas Sweed. Is the player who appeared to be only a step away from making some breakaway plays downfield? Or is he the player whose drops during the regular season only confirmed what the press saw in practice throughout the year?

Even if Sweed does develop like Steelers coaches hope he will (and Steel Curtain Rising thinks he will) the Steelers need to beef up their receiving corps.

Because behind Sweed they have Dallas Baker, Martin Nance, and Brandon Williams.

Dallas Baker spent 2007 on the practice squad during where his efforts won him hearty praise from Mike Tomlin a little over a year ago. He qualified that praise by saying that Baker’s work with pads on would be the true crucible. Baker did well enough in training camp to beat out Willie Reid, although what does that really say?

He only managed one catch before getting cut in late November, after which Dallas Baker landed on the practice squad. Nance played on the practice squad behind him, while Williams has bounced from team to team.

Depth at wide receiver is a real need for the Steelers, which they must address in the 2009 draft.

Building Depth at Wide Receiver and Defensive Back – Which Is More Urgent?

Of the two areas, wide receiver is the greater need. No, if the Steelers get a high value DB, they certainly should not reach for a wide receiver.

But they need help at wide out. At defensive back they have proven (if rapidly aging back ups) and some maturing talent that at least has potential.

Neither can be said about the personnel behind Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, and that assumes that Sweed makes a huge leap.

So if the choice comes down to a wide out and a DB that the Steelers have rated equally, the Steelers should opt to take the receiver.

Thanks for visiting. Click here to follow all of Steelers Curtain Rising’s assessment of the Steeler draft needs. Or just check out the rest of Steel Curtain Rising.

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