On The Clock: Pittsburgh Steelers

March, 15, 2009
3/15/09
10:46
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Team needs: Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, cornerback

 
  G Fiume/Getty Images
  The Steelers could use California center Alex Mack if he drops to them at the end of the first round.
Dream scenario: An ideal scenario for the Steelers would be for them to have a smorgasbord of quality offensive linemen available with the final pick in the first round (No. 32 overall). The NFL draft tends to have teams make a run at certain positions in spurts. But if linemen such as Cal center Alex Mack, Oregon center Max Unger or a quality tackle such as Michael Oher of Mississippi somehow make it through the first 31 picks, Pittsburgh would have a happy draft room. To the chagrin of some fans, the Steelers retained their entire O-line front five from their Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Depth is sorely needed on the offensive line as the Steelers let go of veteran linemen Kendall Simmons and Marvel Smith. There is very little competition behind the starters and that position always faces the prospect of injuries.

Plan B: If the dream scenario fails to materialize, Pittsburgh can simply take the best available player. The Steelers have done it many times, drafting players they don't need right away but who will later develop into solid players. Pittsburgh could use help on the defensive line, which is aging but still has quality starters such as Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton. Cornerback also is a position of need after the loss of starter Bryant McFadden to Arizona in free agency. Pittsburgh is confident in William Gay but needs additional corners behind him and the aging Deshea Townsend to serve as backups and play in obvious passing situations.

Scouts Inc.'s take: "If I were a betting man, I would say the Steelers are going to go with an interior offensive lineman. But it certainly wouldn't shock me if they went with a defensive lineman. If you look at their defensive line, they're all 30-plus. And it takes those guys with the 'five technique' time to learn. None of them ever do it in college. So it takes a couple years of grooming. If you look at how successful they've been, Brett Keisel was a seventh-round pick and Aaron Smith was a fourth, and they didn't come in the league right away and handle that job. It's time to get young blood in to learn from the guys, rotate in and take snaps here and there. Two years ago, when Aaron Smith went down, their season completely crumbled. So that position might be their No. 1 need. If they can find a legit D-end to teach, that would be ideal. But those guys don't grow on trees." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

Who has final say: General manager Kevin Colbert makes the final calls on Pittsburgh's 53-man roster and will do so during the draft on April 25-26. But there will be group input from head coach Mike Tomlin and his staff as well.

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