Columnist Court Weston will be breaking down the team needs for all 32 NFL teams this off-season. Next up, the Steelers…
1. Cornerback – If anything could be taken from Pittsburgh’s loss to Denver in the Wild Card playoffs, it was that the Steelers were unable to rely on their corners to shut down receivers one-on-one. Ike Taylor and William Gay have shown glimpses of brilliance, and the team will stick with them for the foreseeable future, but a shutdown cornerback is needed if Pittsburgh is to get back to championship contention. Taking a corner with the No. 24 pick in the draft is not out of the question.
2. Left Tackle – Max Starcks’ best days are behind him. The 30-year old had difficulty containing blind side pass rushers throughout the 2011 season. The Steelers should strongly consider taking a left tackle with one of its first two draft picks. Pittsburgh found a staple at right tackle by selecting Max Gilbert in the second round of last year’s draft, perhaps the Steelers could strike gold again in 2012.
3. Defensive Tackle – Simply put, Casey Hampton, 34, is not the player he once was, and backup Chris Hoke might not return as he is a free agent. Pittsburgh’s dominant defense will take a big hit if the team does not find youth and depth at the defensive tackle position, whether it be through free agency or the draft.
4. Offensive Guard – The traditional ground-and-pound Steelers’ run game disappeared in 2011, when Pittsburgh’s fate was thrust upon Ben Roethlisberger’s right arm. Part of the team’s lacking a run game was due to poor play at both offensive guard spots. With a running back like Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers have no excuse to get away from a running scheme. However, even great backs need blocking to propel them ahead, and that is where the problem lies. Expect Pittsburgh to find at least one upgrade through free agency and another through the draft.
5. Inside Linebacker – James Farrior was released this offseason for salary cap reasons, but even if Farrior remained on the roster, the inside linebacker position would still be a concern. Lawrence Timmons has been stellar, but in the 3-4 scheme that the Steelers run, two stud inside ‘backers are a must. Replacing Farrior will be difficult, both as a run-stopper and a leader, but Farrior’s pass coverage was a major liability, meaning Pittsburgh should be able to find an upgrade in a coverage sense. It is likely the Steelers add at least two capable linebackers to help the position.
Previously: The Detroit Lions
Next: The Denver Broncos