NHL Steelers

Way Too Early Steelers 2017 Draft Needs

By: Zach Metkler, The Burgh Blog Writer

I already know what most of you are thinking: “The draft just ended… why are you writing another draft article for something that is almost a year away, Zach?”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love the NFL Draft and all of the intricacies that surround it. With the 2016 NFL season being right on the horizon, I felt it would be worth taking a look at the potential 2017 needs that (depending on how everything plays out) the Steelers would need to address.

It doesn’t hurt to think about the future, right?

Note: The discussions in this article are purely speculation based on what I believe could potentially happen during and after the upcoming season.

2017 Free Agents:

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  • ILB Lawrence Timmons
  • OG David DeCastro
  • OLB Jarvis Jones
  • RB DeAngelo Williams
  • WR Markus Wheaton
  • OLB James Harrison
  • C Cody Wallace
  • RB Le’Veon Bell
  • TE Matt Spaeth
  • S Shamarko Thomas
  • QB Landry Jones
  • ILB Vince Williams
  • QB Bruce Gradkowski
  • LS Greg Warren
  • ILB Steven Johnson
  • S Ross Ventrone
  • DT Ricardo Mathews

When looking at this list, there are some notable names that will be priorities for the team to resign, but much of that will depend how the season plays out. The only player that will realistically remain a #1 priority (and might even be given an extension before the season begins) is guard David DeCastro. After that, running back Le’Veon Bell will likely try to work out a deal with the team, but as I discussed in a previous article, that is far from a guarantee.

Many of the players on this list could likely be resigned for a team friendly price, but names like James Harrison, DeAngelo Williams, and Bruce Gradkowski will probably not be seen in a Steelers jersey by the 2017 season. The Steelers have seemingly moved on from the days of overpaying aging veterans on the backside of their careers (look at the William Gay and Ramon Foster deals this offseason) and hopefully that trend will continue with a player like ILB Lawrence Timmons who will make over $15 million this season. Other players like S Shamarko Thomas and Jarvis Jones might also be seeing the end of their Steelers career after failing to make any large strides over their rookie contracts.

Potential 2017 Draft Positions of Need:

  1. Outside Linebacker
  2. Inside Linebacker
  3. Running Back
  4. Offensive Tackle
  5. Quarterback
  6. Offensive Guard

****One thing to note about these needs: this is assuming that the first 3 2016 draft choices pan out like the Steelers are expecting, meaning that safety, cornerback, and defensive line will not be early round needs.

Outside Linebacker:

Regardless of how Steelers free agency plays out next year, one thing is certain: the Steelers will likely be looking to draft ANOTHER linebacker early on, whether that player is inside or outside. Contrary to what many draft pundits believe, I honestly believe that the bigger of two needs is on the outside. With the likely retirement of Steelers great James Harrison and Jarvis Jones’ future with the Steelers being up in the air, don’t be surprised to see the Steelers take another pass-rusher early again next year. The situation is tricky with Jones: if he plays his best season, he could likely play himself out of the amount of money that the Steelers would feel comfortable offering him; if he continues playing the way he has in previous years, the Steelers might not want to pay any money for a player who is only getting older and has likely already reached his ceiling. In other words, don’t expect Jones to come back to the Steelers unless it is for the veteran minimum (which will likely not be accepted by him and his agent). With all of that being said, it only makes sense for the team to take an elite pass-rusher to help the team, especially if Bud Dupree makes a jump like many expect that he will. Here’s what the depth chart would look like: Bud Dupree, Arthur Moats, Anthony Chickillo, Travis Feeney. Athletic. Not very scary.

Best OLB Available:

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Auburn OLB Carl Lawson
  • Carl Lawson, Auburn
  • Myles Garrett, Texes A&M
  • Tim Williams, Alabama
  • Charles Harris, Missouri
  • Devonte Fields, Louisville
  • Derek Barnett, Tennessee

 

Inside Linebacker:

As I previously mentioned, inside linebacker is a big need for the Steelers. Lawrence Timmons has began to show a decline in play and his time with the Steelers is likely numbered. If everything goes the way the Steelers would like it to, Timmons will be resigned for a team friendly deal as he is still a leader on defense and could help a future linebacker develop into a role down the road. With Ryan Shazier being the only bonafide long-term option for the Steelers, they need to find other options that can impact the team. I loved the Tyler Matakevich pick this year, but it is unlikely that he will ever be a feature player on defense. With Vince Williams also entering his contract year, the inside linebacker depth might become very shallow very quickly. Even if the team brings back Timmons, it is imperative to add depth at some point.

Best ILB Available:

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Ohio State ILB Raekwon McMillan
  • Jarrad Davis, Florida
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tennessee
  • Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
  • Reuben Foster, Alabama
  • Kendell Beckwith, LSU

 

Running Back:

This is a position that most people will likely overlook, but it has the potential to be a bigger need than most people will give it credit for. Le’Veon Bell is anything but a guaranteed thing to return to the Steelers in 2017. Surely, the Steelers will do everything in their power to ensure that he comes back to the team, as he is one of the best running backs in the league when healthy. But in 3 years, he has missed time each year with a different injury. So who knows what will happen. Furthermore, DeAngelo Williams return to Pittsburgh is anything but guaranteed. Williams showed everyone last year that he can still play at a high level but entering the 2017 season, he will be 34 years old, which is about 100 years old in running back years. The team may be willing to bring him back on a team friendly deal, especially if they cannot retain Bell, but only time will tell. Williams has been a fan favorite and is highly respected throughout the league so if he proves that he can still produce and remain healthy, the Steelers will likely want to bring him back Either way, the team will likely look for running back help in the draft at some point, especially with the overwhelming depth the 2017 draft class possesses.

Best RB Available:

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Oregon RB Royce Freeman
  • Leonard Fournette, LSU
  • Dalvin Cook, Florida State
  • Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
  • Nick Chubb, Georgia
  • Wayne Gallman, Clemson
  • Royce Freeman, Oregon
  • Jalen Hurd, Tennessee
  • James Conner, Pittsburgh

 

Offensive Tackle:

Who knows what will happen with the left tackle spot for the Steelers next season. While I am a huge fan of Alejandro Villanueva, there is no guarantee that he is going to be the left tackle of the future of the Steelers. One thing is for certain, though: Ryan Harris is far from a long-term option at left tackle. In the 2017 season, Harris will be 32 years old and although he will compete with Villanueva for the starting spot, he will not impress very many people and is best served as nice veteran depth. This year, the Steelers also selected LSU OT Jerald Hawkins in the 4th round to compete and are confident that he can develop but if he does not, the Steelers could potentially invest in a left tackle of the future. One negative (or positive, depending on how you look at it) is that the 2017 offensive tackle class is extremely underwhelming and probably will not impress very many draft experts, especially for a team like the Steelers where tackle isn’t a HUGE need.

Best OT Available:

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USC OT Chad Wheeler
  • Cam Robinson, Alabama
  • Roderick Johnson, Florida State
  • Conor McDermott, UCLA
  • David Sharpe, Florida
  • Chad Wheeler, USC
  • Zach Banner, USC
  • Avery Gennesy, Texas A&M

 

Quarterback:

As I mentioned routinely during the 2016 draft process, the Steelers are getting to a point where it would be beneficial for them to look for an upgraded backup that can be a future replacement for Big Ben when the day comes that he decides to hang up the cleats. With Bruce Gradkowski being signed off the street after the draft and Landry Jones entering his contract year, the Steelers might want to invest in another quarterback who could develop behind one of the best in the business. Jones has shown flashes (although few and far between) and the team seems to like what he has to bring to the team, but Jones is nothing more than a career backup at this point. The downside to doing this? The next few quarterback draft classes are very unspectacular. So maybe this could wait. Either way, the only Steeler under contract after 2016 is Big Ben. They need someone else.

Best QB Available:

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Baylor QB Seth Russell
  • Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  • Brad Kaaya, Miami
  • Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
  • Luke Falk, Washington State
  • Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
  • Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
  • Seth Russell, Baylor

 

Offensive Guard:

Guard is one of the least pressing needs for the Steelers. With Ramon Foster under contract for the next 3 seasons and a big, long-term contract coming for David DeCastro, the interior will be set for some time. The one reason this could be a position of need is due to the increasing age of Ramon Foster. While he has been a solid lineman and will finish out his contract, the team could look to get younger inside and have a player that could seamlessly transition to the left guard spot whenever the wheels start to fall off of Foster.

Best OG Available:

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Ohio State OG Pat Elfein
  • Ethan Pocic, G/C, LSU
  • Pat Elfein, Ohio State
  • Dan Feeney, Indiana
  • Kareem Are, Florida State
  • Greg Pyke, Georgia
  • Isaac Asiata, Utah

For future updates, follow me on Twitter at @TheBurghBlog_ZM and follow The Burgh Blog at @TheBurghBlog or on Twitter at @TheBurghBlog

 

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