Dont'a Hightower Would Look Good in Black and Gold
The Pittsburgh Steelers are not a team that’d had a very busy off-season, but that’s because they excel at finding good players in the draft. In preparation for the N.F.L. draft I reached out to Nick Pick Cowher’s Craig Gottschalk to discuss the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2012 NFL Draft.
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1). After free agency what are the Steelers biggest needs?
Well considering the Steelers made no free agency moves thus far, the needs remain the same as the did starting at the end of the season. Biggest needs for this team are really solidifying the offensive line and the linebacker position. The o-line was terrible last season, though they seemed to do just enough (but not really enough) to get the job done. Big Ben got beat up and was sacked a ton – not a good thing for your $100 million dollar investment. With the release of James Farrior, the Steelers need to begin getting a young gun to compliment Larry Foote, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodely. The Steelers will focus on these more than likely early in the draft. Defensive line is another big one with the uncertainty of Casey Hampton being fully recovered from his knee injury.
Well, I think Lance is spot on when he discusses the Steelers draft philosophies. HVTP – Highest Value Takes Precedence. But I personally feel that the Steelers take ‘need’ into consideration a bit more than what Lance presumes. What is probably more true about their philosophy is that the Steelers will go for need in Rds 1 and 2 and then start to go with HVTP from there on out. It’s tough to say because no one but Colbert, Tomlin and Rooney really know what’s going on in that draft room.
3). Are there some young players on the roster who might be ready to step up and fill the needs (from question 1)
Short answer – no. The draft will be critical to fill these positions. Jason Worilds is a ‘young and upcoming,’ but he is much better on the outside as a linebacker. With Farrior gone, Stevenson Sylvester is the next in line to fill LILB. Not sure he can fill that role that Farrior had a positional role, but also a big question surfaces as to who will now be the new leader of this defense with Farrior gone?
4). They say the third year is usually the breakout year for players, who’s poised to breakout from the 2010 class?
This class is a crazy class. Probably one of the better ‘all around’ classes since Colbert’s tenure. It would be amazing if Worilds and Sylvester had huge 3rd years, but not so sure about those guys quite yet. Maurkice Pouncey is part of that class. He’s been amazing since his rookie year, but fell off a little as an impact player last year. A couple of injuries in there has really hindered his play. Hopefully, he bounces back and has a stellar 3rd year. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Sanders are also from this class. I think Brown already had his breakout season last year with his 1,000 receiving + 1,000 return yard season. Sanders has improved over both of his seasons and seems to be the most poised to have a ‘breakout’ in 2012. Jonathan Dwyer is also from this class – with the RB battle beginning to brew (with Mendenhall likely to start on the PUP list), Dwyer will be working hard to earn a starting spot on the roster – which is doubtful.
5). What do you think of the Steelers new uniforms?
New? They’ve changed? In all seriousness I think Nike went conservative on this one. The only thing different from last year to this year is that there will be a ‘swoosh’ on the shoulder. I think Nike gave a nod to many of the legacy franchises and kept the uniforms much the same. Personally, I would like to have see the old 1970′s style block numbering and letters. A nice retro look and better than those stupid throwbacks they wear now.
6). any players the Steelers seem to have taken a liking too? Or based on profile might have a liking for
Dont’a Hightower and Cordy Glenn are two names that float around in the blog-o-sphere and pundits for potential draft selections. I think the Steelers really took a liking to Hightower simply because he’s been playing on a 3-4 style defense since he started in college. Nick Saban plays a true 3-4 which is right up the Steelers’ alley. I think they are hot for Glenn as well simply because he turned many heads in the combine AND they are desperate for a lineman to protect Ben.
7). Any players the fans seem to want the most with their first round pick?
I would say most fans want to see one of those guys above wear a black and gold uniform next season. Dontari Poe seems to be another player fans really gravitate towards. Not really sure why they are sweet on him. I think most fans see the writing on the wall with how much that defensive line is in danger should Hampton not play well. After Aaron Smith retired, the D-line needs some love and they love them some ‘Big Snack.’ Poe would fit either the NT or DE position well for the Steelers.
The Steelers dumped a ton of cap weight this year with veterans and other players retiring. 2012 will an exciting but also very interesting year how this team transitions through that. It is a far cry from a Cleveland Browns
‘rebuilding year’ (aren’t they ALWAYS rebuilding???), but this is certainly a team that won’t turn heads early with off-seasonal expectations. They are certainly going to have to work hard and play tight as a team in order to have a chance at the Central Division and make it deep into the playoffs.