Steelers 2012 Draft Need Matrix

Unlike other sites, Steel Curtain Rising has no inner Mel Kipper Jr. to channel. Here you’ll find no mock drafts, analysis of hypothetical trade values, or doomsday scenarios.

Those are all great, and to my fellow colleagues in the blogging community, I say have at it!

But I make no pretense of pretending to know or even have an educated guess on who the Steelers should pick and who they should avoid in the draft. College football is not shown here in Buenos Aires, even if you have Direct TV, and even when I lived in the United States, I never followed it. Nothing against it, just never had a rooting interest. (Now, if Loyola Maryland ever gets a football team… Watch out.)

What I can do, however, is give you an analysis of the Steelers needs. If you’ve been following, you’ll know that I’ve broken down the Steelers by position area, evaluating what they need at tight end and quarterback, running back and wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, and secondary.

But how does that all fit together? Well, that’s what Steel Curtain Rising’s annual Steelers draft need matrix is all about. If, in a given situation the Steelers find multiple players of the same grade on their draft board, who do they pick?

Mind you, the Steelers, at least since Kevin Colbert arrived, have rarely allowed their draft decisions to be driven by need. But, for as much as they might protest to the contrary, need does come into their equation, even if its not the prime consideration.

This year’s draft matrix has an odd shape, thin at both ends and fat in the middle.

Steelers First Tier Draft Needs

The Steelers have to urgent needs. They need to continue to rebuild their offensive line, and they need to begin grooming a successor to Casey Hampton.

Fate might complicate that mission in this draft, as we are told there are few quality nose tackles. And that’s where this gets tricky.

Because the Steelers only need one nose tackle, yet they need to field five offensive lineman and could conceivably upgrade any of the the four exterior line positions, with a quality first round pick.

And while the Steelers need at guard is greater than it is at tackle, I lump to two together, because if the Steelers get a good tackle Willie Colon can make the oft-discussed move to his so called natural position of guard (which he has never played.)

So the temptation to reach for a nose tackle, given the dearth of talent in this draft, has got to be great.

But the Steelers First Tier Draft Matrix goes like this:

Offensive line takes priority over nose tackle, by a nose (pun intended)

Second Steelers Draft Needs

The second tier is very fat indeed. For once you can believe Kevin Colbert when he says that everything (or almost everything) is fair game after the first round.

That’s because while the Steelers don’t have many gaping holes to fill, just about every position area either has depth issues, age issues, or injury issues.

Still, it is possible to sort out some information from the noise.

Safety takes priority over inside linebacker, which takes priority over outside linebacker, which takes priority over running back, which takes priority over cornerback, which takes priority over wide receiver, which takes priority over defensive end.

Wow, that is a complicated web to unweave. But here goes. The Steelers are aging at safety, and their only young back up will be a free agent this time next year.

With question marks about both Jason Worilds and Stevenson Sylvester, inside linebacker gets the nod over outside linebacker because of Lawrence Timmons inconsistency.

You could make the argument that running back and outside linebacker should be switched, I will not argue, but I lean that way because the Steelers have bodies at running back and the NFL favors that pass more and more every year.

The need for a good corner is evident as is the need for good wideouts. The corner gets the nod because they have less proven talent that wideout.

Lastly, the Steelers don’t have tons of depth at defensive end, particularly if Ziggy Hood is to move to nose tackle for some portion of the 2012 or 2013 season. But with 2 out of the last three first being defensive ends it is hard to put this higher in the pecking order.

Steelers Third Tier Draft Needs

Tight ends takes priority over quarterback.

This one should be pretty self evident. IT would be great if the Steelers could get a tight end similar to those that New England has. But they have more pressing needs to address.

Ditto quarterback. I’d love nothing more than to draft a guy, bring him along and “develop” him the way coaches used to (at least on paper.)

But the Steelers have spent a couple of three 5th round picks on quarterbacks (Tee Martin, Brian St. Pierre, Omar Jacobs, and Dennis Dixon). With the exception of Dixon, none of them did more than hold a clipboard (which, well, isn’t a bad thing to say about your third string QB). In the case of Dixon, if the Steelers really saw some him as a viable long-term back up, they’d have resigned him instead of Charlie Batch.

Day to Dream

We of course don’t have “draft day” any more, its now “draft days.”

But you know what I mean.

There may be more pomp and circumstance surrounding the NFL draft than there should be. There is certainly too much pontification, and too many definitive day after pronouncements.

So be it.

The NFL draft is something special. It’s a day a that opens the door to hope for fans from every NFL team. It’s the day when some team is going to make a move that changes or cements its future for the next decade.

It’s a day when a select group of young men realize the dream that all of us had the first time we touched a Nerf Football in the back yard and called out some random snap count.

What a day indeed.

Enjoy it.

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