´ Steel Curtain Rising: Steelers Draft Needs at Running Back and Wide Reciever

Who gets the game ball for the Steelers win over the Texans?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Steelers Draft Needs at Running Back and Wide Reciever

Having hashed out the priority status of tight end and quarterback for the Steelers in the upcoming NFL Draft, we now turn out attention to the other “skill” positions on offense.

Steelers Draft Needs at Running Back

The Steelers current running back roster includes Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and Barron Batch. Mewelde Moore remains unsigned, but presumable the team could bring him back if they so desired.

  • That’s a pretty good crop of running backs, however that truth comes with a few “buts.”
Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL in the regular season finale vs. Cleveland. An ACL is no longer the career ender it once was, but it remains a significant injury for a running back. The possibility of Mendenhall starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list remains real.

But even if Mendenhall is fully recovered by the team strikes camp at St. Vincents, he is also going into the final year of his contract. One way or another, its doubtful he'd sign a long-term lease in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

Isaac Redman has gone from training camp cult sensation to legitimate NFL running back, and remains another feather in the cap of a scouting department that has excelled at signing quality unrestricted rookie free agents. Jonathan Dwyer played well when his number was called in 2011, but his off season work ethic remains a question and his ability to produce results on a consistent basis as never been tested.

Barron Batch was all the rage in training camp last year until tearing his ACL, but excelling in a couple of blocking drills does not an NFL running back make. (Let me credit Rebecca Rollett and Ivan Cole of Behind the Steel Curtain for making that point so eloquently.) Ditto John Clay, who scored a touchdown on his very first NFL carry. Great way to start, but things will get more difficult.

So running back is a need for the Steelers, but not an urgent need, and one best addressed in the middle rounds.

  • Priority of running back for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL Draft: Medium.
Steelers Draft Needs at Wide Receivers

The Steelers are poised to field one of the strongest wide receiving crops in franchise history in 2012, barring any unforeseen injuries or other mishap. The Young Money trio of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders gives the Steelers a dangerous threesome, while Jerricho Cotchery provides veteran depth.
The only problem with Young Money, aside from Emmanuel Sanders injury issues, is that well, they’re young.

So young that they’ll be up for free agency soon. Mike Wallace is an restricted free agent this year, and rumor is that Wallace is already considering trying to play hard ball to force the Steelers into a big payday now. Wallace will play for Pittsburgh in 2012, but very big question mark hovers over his long term future with the Steelers.

Saunders and Brown will be restricted free agents next year, and the Steelers will figure to retain both and, assuming Wallace does not return, sign one or both to long term deals.

The NFL is a passing league and you can never have too many wide outs. The Steelers have four good ones now but will need to add one if that number is to remain stable in the future. But, given the Steelers other needs, like running back, Pittsburgh can address wide beginning in the middle rounds.

  • Priority of wide receiver for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL Draft: Medium.
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