It’s day 28 of Draftmas and the Steelers will now be analyzed.
Pittsburgh went 11-5 last season, before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. It was a successful season, but the Steelers will be looking for more in 2017.
Ben Roethlisberger has decided not to retire and will be back to lead the high-powered Steelers’ offense once again. He led the team to averaging the fifth most passing yards per game in the league. Le’Veon Bell has missed 20 games in his first four seasons due to suspension and injury, but looks to be ready for 2017. He finished with 1,268 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry.
The Steelers have Antonio Brown, one of the NFL’s best players, locked up at wide receiver for years to come. Behind him there are a lot of young and suspension-prone players. Martavis Bryant should be back for next season after sitting out 2016 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Eli Rogers played solidly in his rookie campaign last year, but another young receiver is needed. Roethlisberger wants (although he took a step back from that later) and needs a new tight end as the Steelers haven’t adequately replaced Heath Miller and luckily for him this class is loaded with great tight ends.
The offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and really doesn’t have much of a weak point. If anything Pittsburgh just needs to add depth, as players have gotten injured in the past (Maurkice Pouncey) and left the Steelers in a bind.
Pass defense for the Steelers was average in 2016, as they allowed 3,882 passing yards. The run defense was a little bit better, ranking 13th in the league and allowing 1,600 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh will load up on this side of the ball in the draft.
Starting in the trenches, Javon Hargrave had a solid rookie season at nose tackle. Stephon Tuitt is a good defensive end for the 3-4 scheme and so is Cameron Hayward, but he was injured last year.
Leading the team in sacks was an aging James Harrison, while Bud Dupree played the other outside linebacker when healthy, but was likely still dealing with injury issues when he came back. Dupree did have good showings in the playoffs though. Ryan Shazier has had a rough first few seasons in the NFL, but progressed last year and will need to continue that progression to be a leader for the Steelers’ defense. Vince Williams is projected to start at the other inside linebacker position and may need to be upgraded.
With William Gay, Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns, Pittsburgh has a lot of decent corners, but none that are elite. They need to add depth in this draft class at corner at the very least. Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell played safety last season, but the Steelers could do better.
Picks and Needs
Pittsburgh have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Steelers need to find the key pieces in this draft that can help get them a Super Bowl ring next season.
First round: (1) No. 30
Second round: (1) No. 62
Third round: (2) No. 94. 105
Fourth round: (1) No. 135
Fifth round: (1) No. 173
Sixth round: (1) No. 213
Seventh round: (1) No. 248
These needs are in no particular order.
Inside Linebacker- Shazier started playing well last year, but Williams needs to be upgraded.
Cornerback- They just need a little more depth at corner, but it’s not a huge need.
Safety- Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis may not be the answer to get Pittsburgh’s passing defense where they want it to be.
Targets and Thoughts
The picks here are who the Steelers could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.
Pick #30: Jabrill Peppers, S/LB/CB, Michigan
Pittsburgh reportedly loves Peppers. He would fill one of their needs at safety and looks like a player that could buy into the Steelers’ culture. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense, but will be the safety that Pittsburgh needs. Peppers’ downside his his ball skills. He has all the fundamentals down, but had only one career interception in college.
Pick #62: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Another inside linebacker is needed and McMillan presents good value at the end of the second round. McMillan will help a lot against the run, but needs work on his coverage skills.
Pick #94: Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama
Williams is a first round talent, but has off the field issues. The Steelers’ will like his upside and could see him as the eventual replacement to James Harrison.
Pick #105: Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
If Roethlisberger wants a tight end, he will likely get one. Hodges is a great receiving tight end who can even split out wide as a receiver. He does have to refine his blocking skills.
The Steelers are only a few players and plays away from being able to win a Super BDraftowl. With a solid draft this year, Pittsburgh can win a Lombardi Trophy.
You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!
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