With the 2012 season coming to an end for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the playoffs being out of sight; the Steelers have to be thinking about their future. The next important day for the Steelers will be the draft in April. They will have plenty of time to evaluate and figure out who they want to target. There are not many glaring needs on the team; it is more of a revamping and taking someone to replace a player a few years down the road. The Steelers are set to have a top 20 pick so there should be some good talent left when they pick. Here are some of the positions I could see the Steelers looking to target, and the top players at that position.
With Casey Hampton getting up there in age, and his contract ending soon, it might be time to find his replacement. Star Lotulelei out of Utah is the top defensive tackle in the draft this year and he looks to go in the top 10 so it’s unlikely that he’ll be there when the Steelers pick but you never know. Johnathan Hankins is an underclassman from Ohio State and he quite possibly could still be there when the Steelers selection comes up. It would be nice to see him play alongside his former teammate Cameron Heyward. Next is the junior Sheldon Richardson. Richardson is from Missouri, and he is a very high motor guy and gives his all every play.
Lawrence Timmons has become one of the best middle linebackers in the game, and Larry Foote has played lights out all season, but Foote isn’t getting any younger so it wouldn’t hurt to find someone to take over in a few years. The obvious number one is Manti Te’o from Notre Dame. He was in the running for the Heisman and that explains how much of an impact he’s had on football games. Alec Ogletree is an underclassman out of Georgia; there is some baggage there with him failing a drug test, but if he can prove he can stay clean he could be a solid playmaker. Coming out of LSU is Kevin Minter, and he has been very consistent for one of the nation’s top defenses.
James Harrison is another player who has taken a lot of wear and tear on his body and nobody is sure how long he can keep up his play, and you can never have enough linebackers. Jason Worlids is a solid player but you can always find someone to increase the competition and have someone to push him in practice. Jarvis Jones is a standout at the outside linebacker position for Georgia. Most likely he will be picked in the top 10 so chances are slim he is around for the Steelers. Sam Montgomery from LSU who had seven sacks played pretty well all season. There is a chance he could still be around when the Steelers pick. Dion Jordan switched from tight end to outside linebacker early in his college career at Oregon, and he has been a complete play in 2012.
The Steelers have arguably the best safety tandem in all of football, but both Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are in their 30’s and it would be nice to have someone to learn the system under those guys. Kenny Vaccaro is a safety out of Texas who is projected to go in the first or second round and I could see the Steelers trading down to stockpile draft picks and selecting a guy like this. Matt Elam from Florida is a close second to Vaccaro, and could also be taken in the first or second round.
If Mike Wallace does not return to the Steelers next offseason they are going to have to find his immediate replacement. He was a huge playmaker for this team, and if they don’t keep him they’ll only have 3 receivers under contract going into next season. Justin Hunter is projected as the top receiver in the class. He had a good bounce back season after knee surgery in 2011. Second best in the class of 2013 is Keenan Allen from California. He didn’t have a great season, but that was mostly because he had to deal with poor quarterback play. Coming out of Baylor is Terrance Williams, who has had a stellar season while leading the nation in receiving yards with 1,764.
The running back position is a big question next year for the Steelers if they don’t bring Mendenhall back; which seems more and more likely. Jonathan Dwyer has been a solid option but I don’t feel as though he is the long term solution. The top rated prospect at the position is Giovani Bernard from North Carolina who made a lot of plays for his team in the 2012 season. Joseph Randle from Oregon State is next in line and he is a very good all around back who can run and catch out of the backfield. These are really the only two running backs who are receiving first round grades at this time.
The 2013 draft is the going to be a very important draft for the Steelers. A lot of players on the current roster are getting old and replacements have to be found. These are just some of the players and positions that the Steelers could take. But we all know that predicting the Steelers draft selections are very tough. That is because they go by the best player available, and they don’t draft by need.
Photo Credits: Associated Press