By Blake Meek
on Wednesday, November 20th
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that people are used to seeing in the Super Bowl hunt every year. They have been a good team for so long that it seems inconceivable that they have a couple down years, but that is what is happening. The Steelers that we have seen the past couple of years aren’t those same old Steelers that we are used to seeing. The Steelers are sitting in a spot where some of their players are nearing the end of their careers and aren’t able to play as well as they used to, plus some of their young players just aren’t developing like they thought they would.
The Steelers are a team that used to draft extremely well, but over the past few drafts that doesn’t seem to be the case. In 2012 they drafted David DeCastro in the first round and he is looking like a stud, but after that they didn’t get anyone who has made an impact. They took Mike Adams in the second round and he has been a complete bust thus far. In 2011 the Steelers took Cameron Heyward in the first and Marcus Gilbert in the second. Both are solid players, but not top guys like you hope to get out of the first two rounds. In 2013 they took Jarvis Jones who hasn’t created the impact he did in college and Le’Veon Bell who has been solid but unspectacular.
If the Steelers want to get back to what they were, they are going to have to draft better and get some real impact players, especially in the later rounds, where they haven’t seemed to have hit since Antonio Brown in 2010. The Steelers are getting older and don’t have much cap space to add players via free agency, they are going to have to draft well to replace who they need too. Here is eDraft’s initial 2014 mock draft for one of the best teams in the AFC over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1st Round: Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been terrible so far this season. Ben Roethlisberger has been hit all season and the running game has stalled as well. The Steelers took Mike Adams in the second round two drafts ago, but he has been a bust and isn’t their left tackle of the future. Lewan can step in and hopefully help sure up an offensive line that has plagued the Steelers and Roethlisberger for years. Lewan is a powerful run blocker, but still struggles with pass blocking at times. He has the ability to be a left tackle, but some work is still required.
2nd Round: Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt
The Steelers need to give Big Ben some weapons to throw the ball too. Mike Wallace left last year for Miami and Emmanuel Sanders is a free agent after this season. Antonio Brown has been fantastic so far this season and youngster Markus Wheaton showed he could be a deep threat in college and will hopefully help take that role over that Wallace left. The Steelers need a big body at the receiver position that brings sure hands and the ability to pick up a big first down and be a red zone weapon. Jordan Matthews has been fantastic at Vanderbilt so far this season. He can make the tough catches and has the ability to make a catch in traffic. He is a great complement to the two smaller, quicker receivers the Steelers have.
4th Round: Ty Zimmerman, Safety, Kansas State
The Steelers have had great safety play for years with Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, but both are getting older and starting to lose a step. Polamalu has always had trouble staying healthy and that will only get worse with age. Zimmerman isn’t the biggest or the fastest safety, but he does bring great instincts to the safety position to go along with sound tackling. He is a guy who will more often than not be in the right spot to make a play. If nothing else, Zimmerman will provide a great backup and depth player as well as a guy who has the instincts to be a special teams ace.
5th Round: Ricardo Allen, Cornerback, Purdue
Ike Taylor isn’t getting any younger and while he is playing at a high level still now, he won’t for much longer. The Steelers have never had the most talented corners, but they were never needed because of the pressure they always got on the quarterback. Ricardo Allen isn’t a big cornerback, but he is extremely quick and aggressive. Allen has shown good ball skills and knows what to do with the ball after he intercepts it. He can be out muscled by big receivers because of his small size, but he will battle with anyone. He will provide the Steelers depth that they will need because the majority of their cornerbacks are free agents following the 2014 season.
6th Round: Brandon Thomas, Offensive Guard, Clemson
The Steelers issues with their offensive line are well known and they have to get better if this team wants to get better on offense. Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger and the hits he has taken will take their toll on his body. Brandon Thomas is a balanced guard who shows the ability to pass block as well as run block. He isn’t an extremely powerful guard and will need to get more powerful for the NFL, but he has the ability to pull and really excel in a zone-blocking scheme.
7th Round: Bryn Renner, Quarterback, North Carolina
When Bruce Gradkowski is your backup, you might want to consider upgrading there, especially when your quarterback is hit as often as theirs is. The Steelers took Landry Jones last year in the draft, but I’ve never been a fan of Jones and I don’t think he is an NFL quarterback.
Bryn Renner has shown the ability to be a solid, but unspectacular NFL quarterback. He is a former baseball player who has the arm to make the throws asked in the NFL. He needs to get more consistent, but some time in the NFL to sit as a backup behind Roethlisberger and learn will be good for him.