Sunday was a quiet day for the Pittsburgh Steelers as the majority of decision makers were in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine watching three positions that could make up part of the 2013 draft board: running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers.
With the NFL Combine in full swing, it is a great time to truly attempt to break down the full list of needs for the Steelers. Yes, this list is fluid considering the team has yet to pare down the roster to comply with the salary cap, and depending on those cuts or restructures this list could change quite a bit. At this point, the needs would appear to be many, so much so, it may force the team to start trading for multiple picks early and often on draft weekend.
Offensively, the team will likely look at wide receiver, running back, and tight end at some point of the draft to fill some major holes. The big question will be at what point they pull the trigger on these positions. Looking at the roster, one could argue that they need to pull the trigger early.
If Mike Wallace leaves as expected, the Steelers need a playmaker to compliment Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. More importantly, the need some long-term answers, with only Brown signed past 2013. Sure, they could sign Sanders to a new deal as he is a restricted free agent, but there is also a possibility some other team could do the same thing, as due to salary cap constraints he will likely receive only an original round tender. The idea of a team surrendering a third round selection as compensation is nowhere near the barrier (first round tender) that the Steelers used to retain Wallace in 2012.
Long-term prognosis for tight end may be in better shape than wide receiver, but it is still an issue. As every fan already knows, Heath Miller is recovering from a major knee injury, and there is little to no experienced depth behind him with only David Paulson. This should be another place where the team searches for prospects, with that priority centered on what they decide to do at the wide receiver position. If they decide to look at wide receiver early, they may be able to wait until the middle rounds for some tight end depth.
There is no arguing that the running game was miserable in 2012 and there must be some improvement in 2013. With Rashard Mendenhall likely to leave as an unrestricted free agent, that leaves only exclusive rights free agent Baron Batch and restricted free agents Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman as options for next season. Like at wide receiver, the contractual status of this position is still unclear, as the team cannot afford to tender these players at a level that will definitely keep them in Black and Gold. Fortunately, with running backs, there is no need to take one early in the draft. Year in and year out, running back is one of the positions that good value can be found in the middle to late rounds, which is about the time the Steelers should look to address the position.
While these are the top three need areas on offense for the Steelers, it does not mean that the team will spend the entire draft without looking at the offensive line and quarterback. There are depth issues at both positions and it would not be a surprise to see them address them during the process. However, it is unlikely that it happens anytime early in the draft.
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