Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2012 Steelers Draft Preview: Offense

The last week in April brings many things in Pittsburgh. This year it has brought us some not-so-typical occurrences like snow and the Penguins exiting from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But to find the silver lining on the cloud, there is still the NFL Draft Extravaganza this weekend. What used to be a two-day event has turned into a three-day television hooplah that will inevitably crown the next Super Bowl champion by the end of the day on Saturday.

By now, you've probably had your fill of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay telling you who they think are the best players in the draft. If you're really a draft junkie, here's some of our favorite sites from around the web:

Draft Breakdown - best video gallery out there. If you're looking for tape on a prospect, chances are that they have it.
ScarDraft - best rankings that we've found. Breaks down rankings by scheme (3-4 NT, 4-3 DT, 4-3 DE, 3-4 OLB, etc).
Optimum Scouting - these guys have one of the best scouting staffs on the web. They personally went to all of the collegiate all-star games and combine. You can get a free 120-page scouting report by e-mailing their webmaster.
Mocking the Draft - some of the best scouting reports on the web. Really in-depth work.

We also put together a twitter list of our favorite NFL Draft folks. Some just talk draft, some offer scouting insights. Some throw around rumors. This time of year, rumors are all over the place and you can't put too much stock in them, but we'll leave it up to you as to how much you want to believe. You don't need a twitter account to follow the list, it will automatically update itself.

Today we're going to take a look at the Steelers offensive needs heading into the draft.


Under Contract: Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Troy Smith, Jerrod Johnson
Free Agents: Byron Leftwich (UFA), Dennis Dixon (UFA)

The Steelers offense will have to make an adjustment this year under a new offensive coordinator, but with Ben at the helm you still have to feel pretty good about things. When he's healthy, he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Batch was signed as the back-up for this year but the Steelers still lack a long-term plan for the #2 spot. Kevin Colbert has been known to draft "project" quarterbacks in the 5th round (Omar Jacobs, Dennis Dixon) in the hopes that one could develop into the #2 down the line but none have panned out. Look for the Steelers to pick up a quarterback late in the draft to compete with Troy Smith to be the #3 QB in camp and possibly be the "project QB" of the future.

Likelihood of Drafting a Quarterback: Moderate
Good Fits for What the Steelers Need: Kirk Cousins (Michigan State), Russell Wilson (Wisconsin), Ryan Lindley (San Diego St)

Running Back

Under Contract: Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Baron Batch, Jonathan Dwyer, John Clay, Chad Spann, Will Johnson (FB)
Free Agents: Mewelde Moore (UFA)

With Mendenhall working his way back from a torn ACL, the Steelers will likely look to add another running back to the stable in the draft. Isaac Redman proved last year that he can be a feature back in this league and handle a bigger workload. Baron Batch was a 7th round pick last year who many thought could compete for the 3rd down back job before he tore his ACL in camp. Jonathan Dwyer put up 100 yards against Tennessee then missed most of the rest of the year with a foot injury. John Clay, a former Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, scored a touchdown and made some bruising runs toward the end of the year. Nevertheless, this group lacks superstar talent if Mendenhall can't go, and could use some more depth. Reportedly, the Steelers are very high on Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead.

Likelihood of Drafting a Running Back: High
Good Fits for What the Steelers Need: Lamar Miller (Miami), Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati), Chris Polk (Washington)

Wide Receiver

Under Contract: Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Derrick Williams, Tyler Beller, David Gilraeth, Juamorris Stewart, Jimmy Young
Free Agents: Mike Wallace (RFA)

The fear-mongers would have you believe that the Mike Wallace situation is still up-in-the-air. It's not. The Steelers have his rights and he needs to play at least 6 games for us to accrue a "league year" and be eligible for Free Agency next year. He didn't get any offers from any other teams during the restricted free agency period, so now he can only play for the Steelers unless they trade him. Behind Wallace, Antonio Brown is an emerging star and was the team's MVP last season. Emmanuel Sanders is a solid #3 receiver and Jerricho Cotchery came on strong at the end of last year. The one of the most intriguing of the "extra roster players"the Steelers added during the offseason (when roster limits expand to 85) was WR Derrick Williams who was the nation's top recruit out of high school and had a stellar career at Penn State leading them back from the Dark Days. Williams could compete for the #5 spot, but don't be shocked if the Steelers draft another receiver in the mid-to-late rounds to also compete for the #5 job or to see some time as a kick returner so AB doesn't take as many hits.

Likelihood of Drafting a Wide Receiver: Moderate
Good Fits for What the Steelers Need: Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech), Brian Quick (Appalachian St), TY Hilton (FIU), Derek Moye (Penn St)

Tight End

Under Contract: Heath Miller, Weslye Saunders, Leonard Pope, David Johnson, Wes Lyons, Jamie McCoy

The Steelers seemingly have a solid group of tight ends heading into the season as they brought in Todd Haley-favorite Leonard Pope to add more size and physicality to the group. Weslye Saunders, who showed some flashes as a rookie last year (including a big-time TD against Kansas City), will be suspended for the first 4 games of the season, and might be a long shot to make the roster. David Johnson has been inconsistent - at times he looks like a devastating blocker and at others he totally whiffs on guys and drops passes in the open field. The Steelers may pick a tight end/H-back type late in the draft to compete with Johnson for the 3rd tight end position.

Likelihood of Drafting a Tight End: Low-to-Moderate
Good Fits for What the Steelers Need: Michael Egnew (Missouri), Evan Rodriguez (Temple), Emil Igwenagu (UMass)

Offensive Tackle

Under Contract: Willie Colon, Marcus Gilbert, Jonathan Scott, Trevis Turner
Free Agents: Max Starks (UFA)

With Max Starks still recovering from off-season surgery, the Steelers enter the season with Willie Colon the likely starter at right tackle and Marcus Gilbert the presumed left tackle. Jonathan Scott will be the first backup who can play either tackle position. Depth is very, very thin here and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Steelers pick a tackle towards the front half of the draft. Lots of rumors have swirled around the Steelers potential interest in Ohio St OT Mike Adams, but reports have surfaced that he tested positive for marijuana at the Combine. In all likelihood, the Steelers will be looking for players capable of playing multiple positions (both tackle and guard) given the high turnover they've seen on their line recently.

Likelihood of Drafting an Offensive Tackle: High
Good Fits for What the Steelers Need: Cordy Glenn (Georgia), Bobby Massie (Ole Miss), Mike Adams (Ohio St), Jeff Allen (Illinois)

Offensive Guard

Under Contract: Doug Legursky, Ramon Foster, Trai Essex, Chris Scott, John Malecki

The Steelers finally cut ties with Chris Kemoeatu, who became more of a liability than an asset at LG. Doug Legursky is the presumed starter at LG with Ramon Foster returning at RG. Trai Essex is a swing man along the line, capable of playing all 5 positions. Chris Scott saw some time at RG during camp last year and will likely have one last chance to compete for a roster spot. Nevertheless, guard is the weak spot on the offense right now. We need guards, and we need them badly. The Steelers got crushed on stunts last year when a DE looped behind the tackle and came up the middle. A road-grading LG in the mold of Alan Faneca would help pave the way for the rushing game and not be a revolving door in front of Ben is what the Steelers need. Expect them to target a guard early in the draft (or at least a swing player that could play tackle or guard).

Likelihood of Drafting an Offensive Guard: Very High
Good Fits for What the Steelers Need: David DeCastro (Stanford), Cordy Glenn (Georgia), Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin), Brandon Brooks (Miami-OH), Brandon Washington (Miami)


Under Contract: Maurkice Pouncey

Oddly enough, the Steelers have 3 capable centers on their roster. The problem is, one of them is starting at LG (Legursky) and the other one is capable of backing up other positions as well (Essex). I know what you're thinking, but don't knock Trai Essex. He came in last year and played very well at center when Pouncey and Legursky were injured. Due to this, it seems highly unlikely that the Steelers will draft another center this year. The plan should be to stick with Legursky and Essex as the back-ups if something should happen to Pouncey, who is an All-Pro caliber center in his own right.

Likelihood of Drafting a Center: Low
Good Fits for What the Steelers Need: Quentin Saulsberry (Mississippi St)

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