The 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone and in the process the Steelers have potentially given themselves their pass rush and secondary direly needed shots in the arm. Wide receiving and defensive line depth also got a boost, as did tight end.
- But doubling down at cornerback and outside linebacker, forced the Steelers to put other needs on hold.
While these needs were less immediate they nonetheless equal important opportunity costs that the franchise must address and/or pay at some point.
Offensive Line Gets No Love in Steelers Draft
A unicorn graced the presence of Steelers Nation in 2014. For almost the first time during Mike Tomlin’s tenure, the Steelers offensive line experienced stability.
The Steelers lost no starters for the season, and the impact of week-to-week injuries remained limited. No one told stories of Mike Munchak playing musical chairs his lineman during games. Oh yeah, and the Steelers offense broached historic highs…. Coincidence? Not on your life.
- Can such luck endure from season-to-season?
We’ll see as 2015 unfolds. Looking beyond 2015, Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster and Mike Adams are both entering the final years of their contracts. That doesn’t mean they’ll leave Pittsburgh, but the Steelers certainly did not select their replacements in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Health Miller’s Replacement will Have to Wait
To be fair, it’s possible that Jesse James could develop into Heath Miller’s replacement. Late round draft picks can and do blossom into soild starters or even stars (see William Gay, 5th round pick, and Antonio Brown, 6th round pick.) But you don’t project to replace a player like Heath Miller in the 5th round.
Josh Harris Breathes a Sigh of Relief
Steelers reserve running back stood as one of the players with the most to lose heading into the 2015 NFL Draft. Running back might not have been on the Steelers draft need list, but it was on their draft want list. Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams, and presumably Dri Archer have roster spots locked up as does Will Johnson. Barring injury that might be the Steeler final 2015 depth chart. But with Le’Veon Bell looking at a 3 game suspension, the Steelers will certainly start the season with another back on their roster.
- With a year of practice squad experience and a handful of games, Josh Harris now has the inside track on that slot.
Any running back the Steelers drafted, even on drafted late, would have placed a bullseye on Harris’ back. Josh Harris roster sport remains safe, for now.
Defensive Line Depth Still a Potential Issue
But a sixth round pick’s hold on a roster spot is tenuous at best, and as the cases of Josh Mauro and Nik Williams show, stuffing them on the practice squad puts them at risk.
The NFL Draft is All about Opportunity Costs
None of this is to suggest that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin erred in not addressing these positions earlier or more often in the 2015 Draft. Opportunity costs form the fundamental nature of the NFL Draft – choosing Casey Hampton in 2001 also meant passing on Reggie Wayne.
With very few exceptions (see picking Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan or yes, Gabe Rivera over Dan Marino) team’s drafts are defined by who they picked and not who they passed on. And in that light, the Steelers 2015 Draft Class adds players to the Pittsburgh’s roster who have the potential to fill vital needs. But the team still has needs it must fill, some of which it is already attempting to do via its 2015 undrafted rookie free agent class.