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Steelers Draft Needs

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The Steelers followed up their 2014 AFC North title with a Wild Card playoff berth as the No. 6 seed, a playoff win at Cincinnati and a Divisional Round loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos.

A season that started with such promise for Pittsburgh—despite the early-season suspensions of running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Martavis Bryant—ended with a slew of injuries.

A return to health will should provide a huge boost to the 2016 team. However, it wasn’t just injuries that stalled the what-could-have-been success. Lack of production, specifically in the defensive secondary, played a key role as well. The recent suspension of receiver Martavis Bryant adds to the team’s upcoming needs. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top needs for the Steelers as the NFL Draft looks on the horizon.

1. Cornerback: Moves were made in the 2015 draft in an attempt to fill the voids in the secondary left by the retirements of Ike Taylor and future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu. However, draft picks Senquez Golson and Doran Grant were unable to contribute. Golson required shoulder surgery during the summer, and Grant was waived in training camp. Golson’s health is still in question and although Grant eventually earned his way onto the 53-man roster after a stint on the practice squad, he’s hardly a long-term answer.

Brandon Boykin was brought in via a trade with the Eagles, but saw limited time and is a free agent. William Gay, Pittsburgh’s most productive corner, was re-signed, as was Ross Cockrell. But with the uncertainty after Gay, and with Antwon Blake's departure via free agency, expect the Steelers to look to the draft once again to shore up the backfield on defense.

2. Safety: Addressing the safety position will help to rectify some of the concerns at corner as well. Mike Mitchell has proven that he is an asset to the defense, but his counterpart, Will Allen, is pushing his mid-30’s and had age-defining moments last season. Robert Golden made a few starts and has been re-signed, but he is likely better suited as a role player. Fourth-year player Shamarko Thomas simply has not lived up to the hype that surrounded him as a rookie in 2013. A replacement for Allen will be on the radar.

3. Wide Receiver: The Steelers were in great shape at receiver just a few weeks ago. But the year-long suspension of Martavis Bryant has altered the position in a major way. The team isn't exactly desperate for wideouts, given the presence of Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, but they will miss Bryant's speed and off-the-chart skills. Darrius Heyward-Bey is fast and can stretch the field, but doesn't have the leaping abilty, field vision or the hands of Bryant. Second-year man Sammy Coates flashed some promise in the playoffs, but another receiver will be likely added to compliment the position.

4. Defensive Line: Despite the presence of Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, the Steelers need help along the defensive front. The two ends played an unusually high amount of snaps last season and need some compliments. Steve McLendon signed with with the Jets and Cameron Thomas is still unsigned, leaving Daniel McCullers as the top option in the middle. Expect the Steelers to add a lineman early in the draft.
NFL Draft
5. Offensive Tackle: The signing of guard Ramon Foster meant that 26-year old Kelvin Beachum, the starting left tackle for the previous three seasons, was allowed to leave in free agency. Alejandro Villanueva carried the load at left tackle after Beachum was lost for the season with a knee injury, but there are questions as to whether he is a long-term answer. Nine-year veteran Ryan Harris will fill a void and give the team options but while five-year veteran Mike Adams has a year remaining on his contract, but the Steelers haven’t been impressed with his reliability. The fact that he spent the entire 2015 season on the physically unable to perform lost will be taken into consideration as well.

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