For the first time in years, the Pittsburgh Steelers do not have a glaring need heading into the NFL draft. There are certainly positions where the team could use an upgrade. Safety and inside linebacker have been the “need” positions since the 2017 season ended. Kevin Colbert’s bargain basement free agent shopping has plugged these holes at least temporarily. With the signings of Burnett, Bostic, Ridley, and Hunter the Steelers have set themselves up to take the best player available.
So now the thinking becomes what position can be the most impactful for 2018. It’s a make or break season for this current group of Steelers. Pittsburgh could elect to draft Le’Veon Bell’s replacement at 28. They could also look to draft Martavis Bryant’s replacement, considering neither player is likely to be back in 2019. The conventanal wisdom has them taking one of the previously mentioned linebacker/safety spots. Drafting any of these positions however, almost insures little to no impact in this upcoming season. Any of these potential draft picks will probably sit for most of the year.
This brings us to the one position that could actually impact the team in 2019. Edge rusher is the one spot where a player could come in and make a dramatic impact on the team right away. What would this defense look like with a 10 to 12 sack player at outside linebacker? If you’re having trouble answering that’s because it hasn’t happened in Pittsburgh since 2010. That’s right it has been nearly a decade since the Pittsburgh Steelers had a dominant edge rusher. Now maybe TJ Watt is the guy to break this embarrassing streak, but maybe not. His ability to drop back in coverage so well may actually work against him in this area. Keith Butler used Watt in coverage more than any other linebacker on the team, and that’s not likely to change. The other option is fourth year linebacker Bud Dupree. It’s time to face facts folks, he’s just not that guy. Dupree isn’t a bust on the Jarvis Jones level, but he will never be that double digit pass-rusher this team needs.
There are only three or four players capable of giving the Steelers the kind of impact they are looking for in year one. Bradley Chubb is way out of reach, being an almost certain top 10 pick. Next on the list would be Harold Landry from Boston College. He would also probably be gone well before the Steelers select at 28. As I wrote in an earlier article Harold Landry should be Steelers number one target, a trade up would be a wise move for this player. Then there’s Josh Sweat from Florida St. and Lorenzo Carter out of Georgia. Sweat may not have been used properly in college, and could be a real sleeper in this draft. Carter was a combine phenom, with little actual production on the field. Both these players should be available when the Steelers select in the first round. Any of these edge rushers has the potential to be the kind of player Pittsburgh’s defense needs to get to the next level. Now all the Steelers have to do is draft one.